International Polar Year 2007-2008 (IPY1) was an intense, coordinated field campaign of polar observations, research, and analysis that ran from March 1, 2007, to March 9, 2009. Following the efforts of a core group of enthusiasts and agencies, and building on existing international programs and networks, IPY grew from the grassroots efforts of polar scientists around the world. With the active involvement of more than 50,000 participants from numerous science disciplines, institutions, and more than 60 nations (Krupnik et al., 2011), IPY represented the most comprehensive and sophisticated effort ever undertaken to understand the secrets of Earth’s polar domains.
IPY 2007-2008 was built on a foundation laid by the International Polar Years of 1882-1883 and 1932-1933, and the International Geophysical Year of 1957-1958 (see Box 1.1). In its day, each of these represented major internationally coordinated efforts to advance exploration of Earth and increase human understanding of the Earth system.
The planning process for the 2007-2008 IPY began with conversations and first actions around 2000-2002, initially among small groups of scientists and encouraged by organizations responsible for the coordination of polar science, such as the U.S. Polar Research Board (PRB), the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, the European Polar Board, and the International Arctic Science Committee. A modest investment by the International Council for Science (ICSU) in early 2003, followed by the endorsement by
History of International Polar Years
International Polar Year 2007-2008 was an ambitious program following in the footsteps of three similar programs over the last 125 years (also see time line in Figure 1.1). The first International Polar Year in 1882-1883 comprised 12 countries and 15 expeditions (13 in the Arctic and 2 in the Antarctic). The U.S. contribution included establishment of the longest-serving U.S. scientific station in the Arctic, at Point Barrow, Alaska.
The second International Polar Year in 1932-1933 had participation from 40 nations and led to advances in meteorology, atmospheric sciences, geomagnetism, and the “mapping” of ionospheric phenomena that advanced radioscience and technology. The United States established the first year-round research station inland from the Antarctic coast.
The International Geophysical Year (IGY) in 1957-1958, with the participation of 67 nations, saw many “firsts,” such as the launch of the world’s first satellites. IGY had a strong polar component, especially in the Antarctic where the United States established research stations at the South Pole and McMurdo. The experience in international collaboration, even during the intense political climate of the Cold War, led to ratification of the Antarctic Treaty in 1961.
the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), drew international interest to the project and legitimized the process by which it was defined and organized. ICSU established a Planning Group of 14 members, who worked from July 2003 through October 2004 to produce an overarching IPY plan, a set of objectives, and a framework for action (Rapley and Bell, 2004).
1 Throughout this report, the terms “IPY 2007-2008” and “IPY” are used interchangeably.
Additional investments by ICSU and the WMO in 2005 established support for an IPY Joint Committee of 20 members, who steered the scientific preparation, implementation, and completion of IPY from 2005 to 2010. The daily tasks of managing the international IPY activities were coordinated by the International Programme Office (IPO) in Cambridge, UK, which was funded by the United Kingdom and eight other nations, and provided the means to establish and maintain IPY networks throughout 2005-2010. Dr. David Carlson served as Director of the IPO. Other nations established national IPY coordinating offices, many of which (e.g., the Canadian IPY office) made invaluable contributions to the international coordination of IPY.
In 2003, the PRB formed the U.S. National Committee for the International Polar Year 2007-2008. This committee conducted a study to outline the U.S. vision for IPY: What questions should it address? How should it be planned? The group, chaired by Dr. Mary Albert, sought input from across the polar science community and in 2004 published an outline of the U.S. rationale and focus for IPY, A Vision for International Polar Year (the Vision Report; NRC, 2004). The Vision Report was instrumental in defining the potential for IPY and sparking participation by the U.S. science community and a number of agencies. The recommendations from this report are listed in Box 1.2.
The committee also worked with senior leaders in U.S. science agencies—the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and U.S. Geological Survey, among others—to encourage agency participation in the U.S. components of the IPY program. In July 2004, PRB convened a workshop to promote discussions among the federal agencies, provide a forum for their representatives to identify possible scientific activities of interest, and serve as a springboard for collaborative IPY activities. Upon completion of the workshop report (NRC, 2005), U.S. National Committee responsibilities transitioned to the PRB, at the time chaired by Dr. Robin Bell. Some members of the U.S. National Committee also participated in the IPY Planning Group (2003-2004) and Joint Committee (2005-2010).
Recommendations from 2004 NRC Report on A Vision for the International Polar Year 2007-2008
• The U.S. scientific community and agencies should use the IPY to initiate a sustained effort aimed at assessing large-scale environmental change and variability in the polar regions.
• The U.S. scientific community and agencies should include studies of coupled human-natural systems critical to societal, economic, and strategic interests in the IPY.
• The U.S. IPY effort should explore new scientific frontiers from the molecular to the planetary scale.
• The International Polar Year should be used as an opportunity to design and implement multidisciplinary polar observing networks that will provide a long-term perspective.
• The United States should invest in critical infrastructure (both physical and human) and technology to guarantee that IPY 2007-2008 leaves enduring benefits for the nation and for the residents of northern regions.
• The U.S. IPY program should excite and engage the public, with the goal of increasing understanding of the importance of polar regions in the global system and, at the same time, advance general science literacy in the nation.
• The U.S. scientific community and agencies should participate as leaders in International Polar Year 2007-2008.
SOURCE: NRC, 2004.
The White House designated NSF the lead federal agency for organizing U.S. IPY activities.2 In this role the NSF Office of Polar Programs (OPP) interacted with the leadership of other U.S. agencies to promote IPY and plan collaborative activities. NSF funded or cofunded the planning and execution of a wide array of science and education activities in support of IPY. For example, the NSF-funded workshop on “Bridging the Poles” in 2004 brought together scientists, educators, and media specialists to define IPY goals for integrating research, education, and outreach at the national and international levels and to build a coherent and exciting public presence during IPY (Pfirman et al., 2004). In 2005, NOAA and NSF jointly funded a workshop, “Poles Together: Coordinating International Polar Year
(IPY) Outreach and Education” held at the University of Colorado, to develop a plan for achieving IPY goals for education, outreach, and communication (CIRES and NOAA, 2005).
CONTEXT IN WHICH IPY TOOK PLACE
Polar research scientists who saw the potential in organizing another “international year” at a time of great planetary change were likely the biggest driver behind IPY. They realized that as global temperatures have risen (Figure 1.1), the poles are changing first and fastest and there was the need for a major campaign to increase the capacity to assess and understand the changes (Albert, 2004).
The authors of the Arctic Climate Impacts Assessment: Scientific Report (ACIA, 2005) also laid out a multifaceted perspective, projecting changes in every sector from sea ice and glaciers to reindeer foraging. The projected summer opening of the Arctic Ocean raised awareness of increased access to resources and potential economic and boundary disputes. The science community knew, too, that technology had changed dramatically in the 50 years since the IGY and offered rich opportunities such as satellite and airborne remote sensing and genetic sequencing (Carlson, 2011).
During the IPY planning stages, the greater scientific community began to view the poles as both a harbinger of change and a key component in the global system. In addition, as IPY was ramping up from 2004 to 2006, many members of the public, hearing of changes in the poles and other regions, began to take the issue of climate change more seriously. As an example, in 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize for raising concern about climate change. This increase in awareness of climate change was not sustained, however. Around 2006, public opinion began to shift and concern about global warming waned. In the next several years, more than 40 percent of the American public grew to feel that the seriousness of global warming was exaggerated (Figure 1.2). Also during this period before IPY, the U.S. government signed but did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol. IPY thus came at a time in the United States of growing political tension regarding climate change.
WHAT DID IPY ACCOMPLISH?
IPY took place at a crucial time for polar and global climate change and helped to deliver the message that what happens at the poles affects all life on Earth. Many activities involved international contributors, and many emphasized societal implications, a new focus that included educational facets and ways to inform policy decisions. IPY garnered substantial support from science educators and enhanced interest from the public. From outreach activities that engaged the general
FIGURE 1.1 Global surface temperature from historical records, including dates of previous International Polar Years (IPYs) and the International Geophysical Year (IGY) SOURCE: Adapted from NASA Earth Observatory/ Robert Simmon.
FIGURE 1.2 Shifting public opinion on global warming. Opinion polling in America suggests how people became more sure that climate scientists believed in global warming over the period 1998-2006, but more recently that level has declined for a variety of reasons, including the state of the economy, shifting media attention, and other factors (Leiserowitz et al., in press). The question asked which one of the following statements do you think is most accurate—most scientists believe that global warming is occurring, most scientists believe that global warming is not occurring, or most scientists are unsure about whether global warming is occurring or not? SOURCE: Gallup.
public to collaborative studies with indigenous people and projects that brought together researchers from multiple disciplines and many nations, the legacies of IPY are larger than its scientific results.
During IPY a major transformation occurred in the perception of the poles—from the 20th century image of them as icy, white, pristine, and uninhabited landscapes to a recognition that the poles are key, interconnected components of the Earth system and bellwethers of change, and they are thus of direct relevance to the entire globe. Among other views shared with the committee, scientific researcher Ted Scambos (University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center) offered his perceptions of the impacts of IPY:
International Polar Year 2007-2008 represents the culmination of a transition in the way humanity views the polar regions of Earth. What was once remote and inaccessible, romantic, and challenging, is now seen as an integral part of a changing planet. This change in perception extended beyond scientists to policymakers and the public, and in large part is attributable to IPY. The previous IPYs were about exploration, and pushing fledging aspects of science (geography, geology, geophysics, space physics) further than they had gone before. While IPY 2007-2008 retained that spirit, at a fundamental level its aim was toward integrating the poles and polar systems to the rest of a changing world.
IPY planning and implementation comprised existing and enhanced scientific projects and programs as well as new initiatives, all of which fed into each other. This analysis of U.S. IPY lessons and legacies therefore encompasses the period from 2006 to 2009 because all related activities, whether ongoing or newly launched, were directly or indirectly affected by the fact that IPY was under way. Research and education activities that began before IPY and continued during it provided a foundation of established research. They also benefited from IPY because they were integrated into research meetings and education and outreach activities, often with media attention.
Other U.S. gains from IPY included significant advances in the ways U.S. science is carried out in the polar regions. Scientists in the United States already had many international connections, and the U.S. IPY program clearly benefited from and built on these collaborations.
In addition, Congress appropriated $60 million specifically for IPY, and many existing programs and resources were placed under the umbrella of IPY. This had the national benefit of facilitating their enhancement and leveraging funding through increased national and international collaboration and coordination. Similarly, sources of private funding were mobilized during IPY, in some cases independently and fortuitously. Such was the case with the establishment in 2009, by the Tinker Foundation and with support from the Sloan Foundation for the Census of Marine Life, of the Martha Muse Prize for early to mid-career investigators in Antarctic science (NRC, 2008).
In terms of scientific knowledge and understanding, IPY revealed how dynamic the Arctic and Antarctic are. Although once considered slow to change, it became clear that the poles are transforming quickly, often faster than predicted by the best models. Notwithstanding some marked contrasts between the Arctic and the Antarctic, the interconnectedness of the polar lands, oceans, ice, and human systems is evident from the data. The connections of polar systems to the global physical and human environments are increasingly obvious—for example, melting glacier ice raises sea level worldwide. Polar ecosystems may exert strong controls on global concentrations of greenhouse gases, for example, from the release of carbon dioxide and methane from thawing permafrost and subseabed methane hydrates. More discoveries are sure to follow as researchers continue to analyze data recorded during the IPY time frame.
THE SCOPE OF THIS REPORT
In 2010, at the request of NSF OPP, under the auspices of the National Research Council, the Committee on Lessons and Legacies of the International Polar Year 2007-2008 was asked to highlight the outcomes of IPY from a U.S. perspective, integrate the lessons from different activities, and record U.S. IPY efforts so they are available to a broad audience including researchers, decision makers, and stakeholders. (The committee’s Statement of Task is in Appendix A.) This report by the committee describes U.S. contributions to IPY in the context of the international breadth of IPY activities, with the goal of illustrating what has been achieved through this international-year approach and the importance of IPY to polar science and beyond.3
In gathering information for this report, the committee held a workshop in June 2011 at which more than 70 leading researchers, predominantly from the United States, were invited to share their findings from and perspectives on IPY. The committee also devised an online questionnaire, announced on various distribution lists used by polar researchers and IPY participants, to reach out to the polar scientists and educators. Several dozen responses to the questionnaire were received, which the committee considered as input for this report rather than as a systematic community survey. The committee sought quantitative data where possible for evaluating IPY projects and programs, but in many instances those data do not exist, so the committee relied on its own knowledge and judgment as well as its extensive informationgathering efforts. Finally, while the committee strove to maintain balance between the Arctic and Antarctic throughout the report, the United States has territory and vested interests in the Arctic, and there is therefore a natural tendency to emphasize the Arctic in certain subject areas.
Based on the feedback received, the committee judges that IPY achieved its goals of new scientific knowledge and insights. The committee members observed that, as in many other nations, U.S. IPY activities did not always strictly hew to the ICSU-WMO goals, but they nonetheless contributed significantly to priority national goals for polar science. Overall, the committee concluded that IPY expanded polar science capabilities in terms of the size and capability of the polar research community (including new research partners from nations not previously active in polar research), research tools, and systems, and it inspired educators, students, polar residents, and the public at large.
This report is structured to reflect the important facets of IPY. Because science is never accomplished without people, Chapter 2 concentrates on the human
3 The committee was asked to address these high-level questions rather than to create a catalog of all IPY projects. The committee had to make many choices and emphasizes that the examples in this report are illustrative only and that nothing is implied by omission.
element in IPY. At its core, IPY was about polar research, so Chapter 3 describes significant scientific advances and discoveries during this period. Chapter 4 addresses the impact of IPY on tools used for polar research, and Chapter 5 focuses on the all-important need to translate scientific knowledge into actionable information. These chapters largely focus on the successes of IPY. The committee hopes that the final chapter, with reflections on the entire IPY process and experience, will prove useful to those interested in extending the series of international polar years in the future.