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Polar Times

Awaiting the 2007 International Polar Year

Science topics and outreach workshops are some of the many preparations that need to be in place in four years to mark the Third International Polar Year. By Hanne Petersen

2007 might sound like a long way ahead, however, it is already a challenge to get all plans developed and inhabitants and participants engaged for the coming International Polar Year.

In spite of the substantial investment of effort in polar exploration and research over the years, both by individual nations and through internationally coordinated programmes, the relative inaccessibil - ity and challenging environment of these zones have left the poles less well explored and studied than other key regions of the planet.

A new polar year opens to further understand the polar regions and polar processes and highlight the crucial role that the polar regions play in global systems. The poles are a key part of the global system, and drive changes globally. The changes in the poles are occurring rapidly and changes are amplified here, too.
The 2007 International Polar Year is multidisciplinary in scope, and envisioned to be an intense, international campaign of co-ordinated polar observations and analysis. It is planned to be bipolar in focus, and with broad international participation. Nations are expected to work together to gain holistic insights into planetary processes, targeted at exploring and increasing our understanding of the poles and their roles in the global system.

Two times before

2007 is the 125th anniversary of the First International Polar Year (IPY 1882), the 75th anniversary of the Second Polar Year (IPY 1932), and the 50th anniversary of the International Geophysical Year (IGY 1957). These years resulted in significant new insights into global processes, and ed to decades of invaluable polar research.

The International Council for Science (ICSU) formed an International Polar Year planning group. The task of the group is to identify the objectives and activities of a new polar year, and to propose a mechanism for the design, development and implementation of the activities. One mechanism is to encourage countries to establish National Committees or contact points. Another mechanism is to create initiatives focusing on polar issues among international organisations.

The planning group will develop a Science Plan for the polar year, that will initiate scientific programs that would not otherwise occur and at the same time attract the next generation of polar scientists. Themes of such programs will include: exploring the earth’s icy domains; decoding the role of the poles in global change; understanding polar processes; and others.
The first draft Science Plan will be reviewed at the ICSU meeting in February2004.

Telling the world about the poles
Another goal of the Polar Year is to educate and create public interest and awareness about the polar regions. An education outreach workshop will take place in 2004 and will bring together experienced people from polar communications offices in existing science organisations, a variety of educators (museums, schools, etc), high profile media people, and UNESCO’s education program representative.

HANNE PETERSEN is the Managing Director of the Danish Polar Center and a member of the International Scientific Union. Previously she held the position of Chairman of AMAP and Manager of the Department for Arctic Environment under Denmark’s Environmental Surveys. She was also a member of the GRID-Arendal Board.