These Are the Polar Years
The poles are on the front lines of climate change—melting ice, thawing permafrost, warming temperatures—but they are also at the forefront of weather patterns, global oceanic circulation and the marine food chain. For example, the current that circles Antarctica distributes cold water throughout the globe, influencing regional currents and regional weather, while the krill that thrive under Antarctic ice shelves feed animals as large as the blue whale.
The IPY will expand scientific knowledge of the poles as well as leave a legacy of ongoing projects to continue our understanding into the indefinite future. It will also have human impacts, from improving weather prediction to helping assess the health of those living in the Arctic. And, it will provide a snapshot of a region facing unprecedented transformation. As IPY's Carlson says: "We seem to be looking at a system of urgent change."