Europe’s contribution to what has been called the “largest and most ambitious internationally coordinated scientific effort for 50 years” – the International Polar Year (IPY) – has been launched.
|With the extent of arctic sea ice shrinking by about 2.7% per decade since 1978, climate change hits hardest at the poles|
The European launch of the IPY (2007-2008) is one of a series taking place around the world involving more than 50,000 people from more than 60 nations engaged in more than 200 Arctic and Antarctic projects.
The scientists involved will examine a wide range of physical, biological and social research topics. The European Polar Board – the European Science Foundations expert committee on the polar regions – have said that it is also an unprecedented opportunity to demonstrate, follow, and get involved with, cutting edge science in real-time.
The European launch of the IPY comes just a few weeks after the first part of the Fourth Assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) – which reported that climate change as a result of human activity is here now, and is likely to get worse.
Dr David Carlson, director of the IPY International Programme Office said: “IPCC has made a strong and definitive statement about global climate change, a change which hits first and hardest at the poles.”
However, recent observations of the polar regions in 2006 have prompted alarm from experts that ice melting rates could be exceeding even IPCC projections.
The latest measurements show that Arctic sea-ice masses last year nearly matched lows recorded in 2005 and that for the first time re-freezing was delayed until late autumn.
Dr Carlson added: “These and other changes in physical and ecological systems of polar regions, all observed over the past two years indicate a region undergoing rapid change and in need of comprehensive attention.”
IPY, organized through the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), is actually the fourth polar year, following those in 1882-3, 1932-3, and 1957-8.