Initiated by a core group of enthusiasts and agencies with knowledge of previous international polar years, and building on existing international programs and organizational infrastructure, International Polar Year 2007-2008 (IPY1) grew from the ideas and grassroots efforts of polar scientists around the world. The impetus lay in emerging evidence of the importance of the polar regions in the global system; the timing presented an opportunity both to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) in 1957-1958 and to match or exceed the significant and enduring scientific contributions of the IGY. With its scientific focus on an integrative understanding of the polar regions in a time of rapid planetary change, IPY was the right initiative at the right time. At a time when the polar regions, and in particular the Arctic, are undergoing a transformation from an icy wilderness to a new zone for human affairs, the insights afforded by IPY could not be more timely or relevant.
Like its predecessor initiatives, IPY was designed to be an intense, coordinated field campaign of polar observations, research, and analysis. It was planned to facilitate both individual and national involvement and to allow scientists and agencies to focus on their priority issues through national peer review funding processes, ensuring cutting-edge science.
IPY attracted the involvement of more than 60 nations (Krupnik et al., 2011) and brought attention to a broad array of compelling interdisciplinary science. It was championed by ICSU2 and WMO,3 which provided key international nongovernmental and intergovernmental endorsement. An estimated 50,000 researchers, local observers, educators, students, and support personnel were involved in the 228 international IPY projects and numerous related national efforts.
Early indications of the IPY results demonstrate that the functioning of the Earth system cannot be understood without knowledge of the state and dynamics of the polar regions. The focused attention of IPY provided a forum to help people understand that the polar regions matter to all life on Earth. As humanity grapples with the complexities and challenges of changes in the environment and in societies around the world, the lessons and legacies from IPY offer information and inspiration for decision makers and planners now and in the future.
IPY was the largest, most comprehensive campaign ever mounted to explore Earth’s polar domains. Under its auspices, scientists worked together to unlock the secrets of the Arctic and Antarctic: How does life persist in these coldest, darkest corners of the globe? How will changes in glaciers, ice sheets, snow cover, and sea ice affect the Earth system? How are traditional ways
1 Throughout this report, International Polar Year 2007-2008 is referred to as IPY or IPY 2007-2008.
2 ICSU, the International Council for Science, is a nongovernmental organization with a global membership of national scientific bodies (121 members, representing 141 countries) and international scientific unions (30 members).
3 WMO, the World Meteorological Organization, is a specialized agency of the United Nations for meteorology (weather and climate), operational hydrology, and related geophysical sciences with a membership of 189 member states and territories.
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Summary I science. It was championed by ICSU2 and WMO,3 nitiated by a core group of enthusiasts and agen- which provided key international nongovernmental cies with knowledge of previous international and intergovernmental endorsement. An estimated polar years, and building on existing international 50,000 researchers, local observers, educators, students, programs and organizational infrastructure, Interna- and support personnel were involved in the 228 inter- tional Polar Year 2007-2008 (IPY1) grew from the national IPY projects and numerous related national ideas and grassroots efforts of polar scientists around efforts. the world. The impetus lay in emerging evidence of the Early indications of the IPY results demonstrate importance of the polar regions in the global system; that the functioning of the Earth system cannot be the timing presented an opportunity both to celebrate understood without knowledge of the state and dynam- the 50th anniversary of the International Geophysi- ics of the polar regions. The focused attention of IPY cal Year (IGY ) in 1957-1958 and to match or exceed provided a forum to help people understand that the the significant and enduring scientific contributions polar regions matter to all life on Earth. As human- of the IGY. With its scientific focus on an integrative ity grapples with the complexities and challenges of understanding of the polar regions in a time of rapid changes in the environment and in societies around the planetary change, IPY was the right initiative at the world, the lessons and legacies from IPY offer informa- right time. At a time when the polar regions, and in tion and inspiration for decision makers and planners particular the Arctic, are undergoing a transformation now and in the future. from an icy wilderness to a new zone for human affairs, IPY was the largest, most comprehensive campaign the insights afforded by IPY could not be more timely ever mounted to explore Earth’s polar domains. Under or relevant. its auspices, scientists worked together to unlock the Like its predecessor initiatives, IPY was designed secrets of the Arctic and Antarctic: How does life per- to be an intense, coordinated field campaign of polar sist in these coldest, darkest corners of the globe? How observations, research, and analysis. It was planned to will changes in glaciers, ice sheets, snow cover, and sea facilitate both individual and national involvement and ice affect the Earth system? How are traditional ways to allow scientists and agencies to focus on their priority issues through national peer review funding processes, ensuring cutting-edge science. 2 ICSU, the International Council for Science, is a nongovern- IPY attracted the involvement of more than 60 mental organization with a global membership of national scientific nations (Krupnik et al., 2011) and brought atten- bodies (121 members, representing 141 countries) and international scientific unions (30 members). tion to a broad array of compelling interdisciplinary 3 WMO, the World Meteorological Organization, is a special- ized agency of the United Nations for meteorology (weather and 1 Throughout this report, International Polar Year 2007-2008 is climate), operational hydrology, and related geophysical sciences referred to as IPY or IPY 2007-2008. with a membership of 189 member states and territories. 1
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2 LESSONS AND LEGACIES OF INTERNATIONAL POLAR YEAR 2007-2008 of life in the North facing the challenges of a chang- • The U.S. scientific community and agencies should include studies of coupled human-natural ing planet? What will be discovered when 21st century systems critical to societal, economic, and strategic technology examines this unique frontier? interests in the IPY. Given the size and scope of IPY, it is important to • The U.S. IPY effort should explore new scientific ask: Was it a success? What was learned? And what could frontiers from the molecular to the planetary scale. be done better next time? This report is an attempt to • The International Polar Year should be used as answer these questions by considering the accomplish- an opportunity to design and implement multidisci- plinary polar observing networks that will provide a ments and lessons learned through IPY. Because sci- long-term perspective. ence funding for IPY projects in the United States was • The United States should invest in critical infra- awarded from 2006 to 2009, all polar science conducted structure (both physical and human) and technology during this time is recognized under the umbrella of IPY to guarantee that IPY 2007-2008 leaves enduring in this report on U.S. lessons and legacies. benefits for the nation and for the residents of northern Evidence to date shows that IPY accomplished its regions. • The U.S. IPY program should excite and engage goals. Activities at both poles led to scientific discover- the public, with the goal of increasing understanding ies that provided a step change in scientific understand- of the importance of polar regions in the global system ing and yielded insights about the importance of the and, at the same time, advance general science literacy polar regions. IPY facilitated a major expansion of the in the nation. polar science capabilities of people, tools, and systems; • The U.S. scientific community and agencies it inspired the engagement of educators, students, polar should participate as leaders in International Polar Year 2007-2008. residents, and the public at large; and it saw the tran- sitioning of its scientific knowledge to policy-relevant information. THE HUMAN ELEMENT IN IPY People were the engine that powered IPY. The OBJECTIVES OF IPY capability, enthusiasm, and experience of the interna- The International Polar Year of 2007-2008 was tional polar research community grew through partici- built on a foundation laid by International Polar Years pation in IPY and the community grew more connected in 1882-1883 and 1932-1933 and the International as participants collaborated on IPY international proj- Geophysical Year in 1957-1958. In its time, each of ects. Young polar researchers from around the world these campaigns marked a breakthrough in interna- were drawn to polar science and formed an active peer tionally coordinated exploration of Earth and space. network that will help empower the next generation IPY 2007-2008 took place in a different context from of polar scientists. In addition to growing in number, previous such efforts. The years leading up to it saw the polar research community grew more diverse, in a mounting recognition of increasing global tem - particular with more women becoming involved and peratures, rising sea level, and environmental change. taking leadership roles both in planning and in con- Events such as the breakup of the Larsen B ice shelf ducting field programs. in Antarctica and the diminishing sea ice and seasonal IPY also drew polar residents, in particular those opening of the Northwest Passage in the Arctic high- f rom indigenous communities in the Arctic, into lighted the rapid pace of change at the poles. the research community and spurred partnerships in To address these and other polar and planetary polar observations and resource management. Arctic interactions and changes, the following objectives were residents became more aware of the advantages to be articulated for IPY in the 2004 NRC report A Vision gained by using the outputs of scientific investigations for International Polar Year (NRC, 2004): to assist in their daily lives, and the research community enhanced its ability to return meaningful value-added • The U.S. scientific community and agencies products to residents. Furthermore, engagement with should use the IPY to initiate a sustained effort aimed the inhabitants of the Arctic has led to new capacities at assessing large-scale environmental change and vari- for learning about the social processes and health of the ability in the polar regions.
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3 SUMMARY people who live in the polar regions.4 IPY showed that of the polar system includes knowledge of glaciology, their traditional knowledge can enhance understanding a tmospheric sciences, geosciences, space sciences, of the global processes, and that science and scientists oceanography, biology, ecology, and social sciences. can provide effective means of achieving international D uring IPY, understanding of the complexity discourse and penetrating boundaries. and interconnectedness of polar systems grew. The Beyond the polar research community, why should unanticipated activity of subglacial hydrological sys- the vast majority of people, who live in warmer areas of tems and their effect on ice sheet flow was revealed. the planet, care about the polar regions or about IPY? Warm ocean currents were shown to have a greater The answer lies in a host of global connections and the impact on ice sheet behavior than previously realized. siting of information about this planet that is unavail- Researchers improved understanding of how reductions able anywhere else. The polar regions are essential in sea ice and resulting changes in albedo have major links in the global climate system; they are growing in implications for the amplification of polar warming economic and geopolitical importance, and they hold and change, with impacts on the weather and climate unique information about Earth’s climate history that of lower latitudes. The warming and freshening of the can help scientists understand environmental changes water in the Arctic Basin is increasingly affecting both in the context of past changes. This understanding can sea ice reduction and basin stratification. For the living in turn support informed choices for the future of the creatures of the polar oceans, recent work demonstrates planet and its inhabitants. For these and other reasons, that climate change is having a measurable effect at all public interest in the poles is high, even as public trust trophic levels, from microorganisms to top predators. in science has declined. Terrestrial research has shown that warming over the The critical “what happens at the poles affects us land, the decline of sea ice, and the greening of the all” message was delivered to a wide audience dur- Arctic are all linked, and this observation of contem- ing IPY through a broad spectrum of outreach and porary processes is supported by paleoclimate work on education activities. Professionally produced presenta- terrestrial and marine systems. In the Antarctic there tions engaged audiences with big-screen videos, vivid emerged evidence during IPY for a previously unknown images, compelling music, and opportunities for direct link between the springtime ozone hole, stratospheric interaction with dynamic polar researchers and Arctic cooling, and the increased strength of circulation in the residents with personal stories to tell. A key element Southern Hemisphere. was direct involvement of the scientists—while polar Scientific understanding of the connection of the research is inherently appealing, the enthusiasm and polar regions to the rest of the planet also increased. A dedication of individual researchers are the best hook community compilation of lake sediment sequences, for communicating polar research. ice cores, and tree ring records from the Arctic bor- U.S. outreach activities took place at museums, sci- derlands demonstrated that the natural cooling trend ence centers, and schools across the country. The polar of the last 2,000 years has been reversed by contempo- research community reached teachers with new ways rary warming: the last five decades are the warmest on of communication, and teachers proved receptive to record, showing the influence of the rest of the planet increased availability of polar science materials. on the Arctic. In recent winters, changing weather patterns in the eastern United States and Europe have been influenced by changing conditions in the Arctic. SCIENTIFIC ADVANCES In both Antarctica and Greenland the contributions AND DISCOVERIES of individual ice sheets to global ocean volume were The poles are complicated, interlinked systems that refined to more effectively account for the measured are integrally connected to the rest of the planet. Study rate of sea level rise. IPY-related research confirmed that the poles are changing faster than the rest of the planet. This was 4 Unless otherwise indicated, this report focuses particularly on discovered by Arrhenius and verified 37 years ago by the Indigenous Alaskan and other Arctic inhabitants. There are no first climate model of Manabe and Wetherald (1975), permanent Antarctic residents.
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4 LESSONS AND LEGACIES OF INTERNATIONAL POLAR YEAR 2007-2008 and it emphasizes the importance of monitoring how the also continued to use Antarctica’s unique platform from poles continue to change. IPY helped to not only illumi- which to peer out into the solar system to observe space nate the pace of change but also benchmark the status weather, as well as into the cosmos beyond to probe of the poles. Researchers observed, for example, that the the composition and workings of the universe. Asym- Greenland ice sheet, parts of the Antarctic ice sheet, and metrical auroras were observed simultaneously for the Arctic sea ice show clear signs of change unprecedented first time at both poles, altering previous notions of in the Holocene era, although the situation is complex. processes that influence solar wind and Earth’s mag- Multiple studies of the ice flux, ice surface elevation, netic field. and ice mass changes all show clear and coherent sig- nals of changes in Greenland and West Antarctica. SCIENTIFIC TOOLS AND Multiple independent satellite data sets show that the INFRASTRUCTURE ice sheets are losing significant mass at increasing rates in some locations, while elsewhere—as predicted for a The polar regions have always presented great warmer and hence moister atmosphere—snowfall has logistical challenges because the terrain is vast, access increased. Arctic sea ice loss in recent years has been can be complicated and expensive, working conditions dramatic, with record minima in areal extent for 2007 are difficult, and the areas of interest frequently cross and in volume for 2011, far exceeding the pace pre- national boundaries. Efforts to adequately observe dicted by many recent models. interaction among the large-scale systems frequently There has also been a new realization that the total require international cooperation and significant belowground carbon pool in Arctic permafrost is more planning. than double the atmospheric carbon pool and three An important outcome of IPY was the develop- times larger than the total global forest biomass, pro- ment of new collaborations that enhanced scien - viding an additional potential positive feedback in the tists’ observational capability in many areas of the global system with both the release of carbon dioxide poles, including remote areas such as East Antarctica. and methane from once frozen reservoirs. Paleoclimate Observation networks such as the Sustaining Arctic data now show that earlier interglacial periods over the Observing Networks (SAON), the integrated Arctic last 3.5 million years, which were warmer than today, Ocean Observing System (iAOOS), and the Southern included the repeated collapse of the West Antarctic ice Ocean Observing System (SOOS) developed and/or sheet and likely included large reductions in the size of expanded during IPY. the Greenland ice sheet. This finding emphasizes that In addition to these collaborations, IPY saw not continued warming of the planet will cause contin- only the use of existing tools in new ways and in new ued ice loss and rising oceans, making coastal regions places, but also first-time deployments of novel tools for increasingly vulnerable to flooding. observing the polar climate, ecosystems, and beyond. The poles have long been at the frontier of explora- Increasing use of a system science approach neces- tion, and they are still places of discovery of the funda- sitated new observing systems to better understand mentally new. Observation systems have a supporting variability and change, and new tools—including sea role in discovery science—scientists often learn new gliders, unmanned aerial systems, and animal-borne things simply by looking. An entire mountain range ocean sensors—allowed for more comprehensive obser- under the Antarctic ice sheet, the Gambertsev Moun- vations of the poles than ever before. The cost and tains, discovered during the IGY, was mapped during complexity of these systems often made multiagency IPY with new, sophisticated radar methods revealing and/or international cooperation necessary, and the use its surprisingly rugged alpine character. The Landsat of remotely controlled autonomous observing systems Image Mosaic of Antarctica (LIMA) IPY project pro- became increasingly common. duced a high-resolution mosaic image with a detailed Satellite systems were a particularly effective exam- true-color view of Antarctica: penguin rookeries were ple of collaboration among countries and agencies. IPY mapped almost immediately and revealed new and cannot claim credit for the generation of any new satel- abandoned sites, indicating substantial changes. IPY lite missions, but it did succeed in an unprecedented set
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5 SUMMARY of coordinated observations from spaceborne sensors used in Alaska to develop new management strategies operated by multiple national space agencies. The IPY and balance native versus commercial resource needs Space Task Group coordination of the Polar Snapshot as marine ecosystems migrate north in search of cooler was so successful that the group continues to cooper- waters. Arctic residents also depend on knowledge of ate with national space agencies for the acquisition of sea ice conditions for the success of traditional hunting observations that will support sustained space-based practices. Through community-based interactions, par- monitoring of the polar regions and offset decreasing ticipants in the IPY Sea Ice for Walrus Outlook activity observational capability as many satellite systems age were able to develop and deliver meaningful informa- and fail. tion to local communities that merged measurements Observations are of little value if they are not avail- of atmospheric and oceanic conditions with indigenous able to researchers. But the challenges to availability and local observations. multiply as data volumes increase and the needs of Research during IPY led to the identification of interdisciplinary research extend to data of unfamiliar new marine and terrestrial species, habitats, and ranges form and content. A number of data centers in the and greatly expanded the understanding and aware- United States stepped up to this challenge, made data ness of polar biodiversity (and invasive species). For management expertise available to IPY projects, and example, the Southern Ocean Global Ocean Ecosys- followed through with mechanisms to receive, organize, tems Dynamics (SO GLOBEC) Program, an interna- store, and make available metadata of all types to assist tional multidisciplinary effort designed to examine the researchers in locating data relevant to a wide range of growth, reproduction, recruitment, and overwintering scientific pursuits. survival of Antarctic krill, has yielded key insights into The U.S. federal agencies that funded most of the the working of the Southern Ocean food web. Bet- U.S. participation in IPY have specific data archive ter understanding of Antarctic and Arctic ecosystem requirements stated in their initial grant awards, result- dynamics has in turn spurred new initiatives aimed at ing in large national data archives. IPY could have been managing human activities in the oceans, with an eye an opportunity to encourage funding agencies in other toward protecting biodiversity and maintaining ecosys- countries to adopt similar policies, but this was not an tem functions as these ecosystems undergo profound avenue pursued by the IPY Joint Committee. transformations due to climate change. L ooking to the future, IPY-related predictive modeling will continue to play a crucial role in helping KNOWLEDGE TO ACTION commercial enterprises, individuals, and governments IPY activities sought to convert knowledge gained assess the regional and global risks associated with t hrough scientific inquiry into societally relevant melting ice, sea level rise, permafrost degradation, and information. Extensive IPY research, particularly in other effects of high-latitude changes in a warming human health, community vulnerability, food security, world. Such assessments can help inform a wide variety and local observations of change, was aimed at practi- of decisions about the management, siting, and sustain- cal applications to be shared with polar communities, able insurance of coastal property and infrastructure, as local agencies, and grassroots organizations in Alaska well as community planning and zoning, construction and across the Arctic. of ice roads, emergency preparedness, disaster response, As an example of such knowledge application, and long-term planning for moving military, industrial, the record sea ice minimum in 2007, the first year of and public infrastructure (and in some cases whole vil- IPY, stimulated concerted efforts to understand its lages) to higher ground. cause, project plausible future trajectories, and consider systemwide implications for the coming decades. Sea LESSONS AND LEGACIES ice conditions have a direct impact on quality of life in Arctic communities, and the systems perspective IPY embraced existing, enhanced, and new pro- advanced understanding of impacts on fishing, hunting, grams. To examine the breadth of work in IPY, this shipping, and coastal erosion. The information is being report is based on the committee’s evaluation of polar
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6 LESSONS AND LEGACIES OF INTERNATIONAL POLAR YEAR 2007-2008 research reports, published articles, books, formal and did so by exploiting new technical and logistical tools informal research networks, workshops, and public out- and capabilities. reach events that resulted during the 2 years of intensive An objective assessment must also take stock activity at both poles. After reviewing many examples of problems and remaining challenges. To that end of IPY research, hosting a workshop to talk directly the committee notes that despite valiant attempts by with IPY researchers, and listening to the polar science the IPY Data Committee and several coordinating community (e.g., in conversations with colleagues), workshops, the development and accessibility of IPY this committee concludes that IPY was an outstanding data products were hampered by a shortage of time success. It fulfilled all its primary objectives and more. and resources. More effective interagency coordina- Coming at a time of rapid polar and global change, tion within and across nations, particularly in funding IPY investments were both pertinent and timely, approval and logistics, would have been beneficial, as enabling the science community to observe and record not all scientific research priorities received adequate a reference state of the polar system. The international s upport and delays in national funding processes polar science community, with the United States as a a ffected abilities to coordinate field research and key player, was sufficiently mature and ready to under- infrastructure sharing. The impact of IPY was very take and execute this large endeavor. uneven across polar communities; some communities Comments from participants indicate that IPY was were actively engaged and informed, whereas many seen as a rare and special opportunity, and intensive more had sporadic or ad hoc access to IPY informa- bursts of exciting and sometimes high-risk activity tion and resources. Furthermore, the sustained impact contributed to its success. Deadlines and the need for and momentum of the IPY legacy will require ongoing international collaboration helped to focus the efforts support from funding agencies for both the observing and decision making of the science community. The networks and the scientists. intensive nature of the effort built on and integrated In future years, scientists may look back at this existing national and international programs, making IPY as they wonder whether there is merit in planning the “sum greater than the parts.” another International Polar Year. This IPY benefited IPY was broadly inclusive and collaborative, and from a number of important ingredients that proved the active participation of polar residents, educators, fundamental to its success: and young researchers helped further expand its reach. Ultimately, though, its success was due to the persever- • The involvement of a well-connected and ance and hard work of a core group of researchers with well-organized group of core proponents promoting a passion for polar science and the desire to communi- IPY was essential. The early planning group and then cate the centrality of the high latitudes in affecting the the official planning committee both provided a clear behavior of the Earth system. vision and compelling science to justify the necessary IPY leaves a priceless legacy. The polar research investments. community grew in numbers, skills, and knowledge • A small amount of early seed funding was neces- during the 2 years. Researchers recognized that the sary to get things going and to add legitimacy in the required observations of the polar regions are beyond world scientific community; U.S. funds were provided the capability of any single nation and were thus by the National Academy of Sciences and international motivated to forge new relationships among many funds by ICSU and WMO. nations and to engage with Arctic residents as part- • Acceptance was needed from stakeholders— ners in research. New international partnerships also funding agencies and scientists—without which IPY supported new tools and observational networks that could not have occurred. Active involvement grew from increased the ability to detect and document the polar a small core group to a large and diverse range of people environment. IPY changed perceptions with new scien- over the IPY planning period. For example, dozens of tific insights, in particular the enhanced recognition of program managers from virtually every part of NSF, not the connectivity of the poles to the Earth system, and just the Office of Polar Programs, evaluated and funded proposals for IPY-related research.
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7 SUMMARY • IPY ultimately needed significant interna - research that would otherwise have taken longer to tional monetary commitments from funders. Future reach fruition. I PY activities could benefit from the assertive • Coordination—both within the United States engagement of funding agencies, as early as possible, and across nations—was essential to establish structures perhaps through their own international planning and services to support all participants and ensure that g roup. During this IPY, extensive international they shared a common vision of IPY and understood commitment, participation, and support provided that they were part of a bigger whole. The International Programme Office (IPO5) was key in this regard. the stimulus for new and creative collaborations in 5 The IPO was located in Cambridge, UK, and was supported by funding from the UK and eight other nations to keep the IPY network running throughout 2005-2010.
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