International Polar Year (IPY)

The International Polar Year (IPY) extended over two years from March 2007 to March 2009 and was the largest ever international research programme in the Polar Regions.

The IPY emphasized interdisciplinary approaches and international participation. Much of the IPY research was related to climate change and interactions of climate, oceans, ice, land, ecosystems and human society in the Arctic and Antarctic. Education and outreach activities aimed to engage the public and inspire and involve the next generation of engineers, scientists, and world leaders.

This International Polar Year was the 125th anniversary of the first IPY, the 75th anniversary of the second IPY and the 50th anniversary of the International UNEP Strategy for International Polar Year 2007-2008 – September 2006 Geophysical Year. All of these were major initiatives that brought new insights into polar and global processes, developed new methods and advanced international cooperation in polar research. Aside from the huge technological advances over the past 50 years, the trend in science towards more multidisciplinary and ecosystem approaches means that this latest IPYis the first to include research on biota and on human societies.

IPY was sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the International Council for Science (ICSU), with international governance through the IPY International Joint Committee, which appointed several subcommittees, including Data Policy and Management, and Education and Outreach. The work of these committees was supported by the International Programme Office, located at the British Antarctic Survey headquarters in Cambridge, UK.

The UNEP Polar Centre worked with the UNEP Division of Communications and Public Information (DCPI) in communicating the messages and results of the International Polar Year to the global community and to make the research accessible for international policy making.

UNEP Polar Centre Activities

  • International Polar Year Project Mapping tool - launched on occasion of the IPY Oslo Science Conference, 8 - 12 June 2010
  • Educational posters for IPY - the UNEP Key Polar Centre developed five posters for use in classrooms for the IPY - funded by the Norwegian Research Council
  • World Environment Day 2007 - Celebrated on June 5th annualy, at the anniversary of the opening of the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. The 2007 event took place in Tromsø, Norway and the theme was Melting Ice - A Hot Topic?.
  • The report Global Outlook for Ice & Snow was launched in June 2007. This report, prepared by an editorial team at the UNEP Key Polar Centre, together with a network of more than 70 contributing scientists, presented an extensive assessment of the state and outlook for the polar regions, and on the role of the polar regions for the world.
  • The UNEP Key Polar Centre was represented on the IPY International Data Policy and Management Subcommittee, and  helped to develop the IPY data policy, focusing particularly on timely sharing of IPY research findings, applicability of the policy to traditional knowledge, and linkages and consistency with international data initiatives. 
  • The Centre also worked closely with the IPY International Programme Office in developing outreach initiatives, with a focus on articulating and highlighting the significance of the polar regions in the global context.
  • The International Polar Year  featured in the editions of the annual UNEP GEO Yearbook.
  • The UNEP Key Polar Centre also participated as a partner in several projects under development for the International Polar Year, primarily the Many Strong Voices (MSV) Programme, the Circumpolar Biodiversity Programme, Arctic Portal and the University of the Arctic.

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