Arctic sea ice has shrunk to record low levels, and an ice shelf larger than Manhattan, which abruptly broke away from Canada's northernmost shore, could endanger ships and oil platforms this spring. To investigate these and other unprecedented changes occurring around the poles, more than 30 nations are initiating a global campaign to study the Arctic and Antarctic: an International Polar Year (IPY).

"Climate change is predicted to occur earliest and most dramatically at the polar regions, and that's what the observations seem to be showing," says Karl A. Erb, director of the National Science Foundation's office of polar programs. "Some places are warming faster than others, and some are cooling. The IPY research will help tease out what is driving those changes and differences."