14 March, 2006

One year from now the biggest internationally coordinated research effort for 50 years will begin as thousands of scientists from 60 countries focus their attention on the Polar Regions.  The initiative, known as the International Polar Year 2007-2008, will provide the most thorough and comprehensive record of the changing state of the Polar Regions ever obtained. It is urgent to do so, since change in these areas affects us all, through their impact on global weather patterns and sea level. Rapid climate change is already impacting local peoples and ecosystems as temperatures warm and ice and snow melt and it is only a question of time before the wider consequences become apparent. Today (Tuesday 14 March) at the IPY 2007-2008 launch – at the Wellcome Trust, leading scientists outline plans.

British Antarctic Survey Director, Professor Chris Rapley and IPY Programme Director, Dave Carlson unveil IPY and explain how it aims to advance our knowledge of the Polar Regions and take us into a new realm for understanding the Earth. Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury gives a broadcast speech at the launch.

IPY will address and solve global scale problems through an enormous range of science. From the ecology of the polar oceans, the dynamics of massive ice sheets and their effect on global sea level to the impact of space weather on global communications.

The three fastest warming regions on the planet over the last 50 years have been Alaska, Siberia and parts of the Antarctic Peninsula with average temperature increases of 2-3°C. Fifty years ago International Geophysical Year, produced some of the greatest scientific breakthroughs. The first earth satellites were launched (notably Sputnik), ice sheet thickness discovery changed the way we viewed our world, global cooperation led to today’s world weather observation system and the Antarctic Treaty designated the continent for peace and science.

International Polar Year will build on the success of IGY and push the frontiers of our understanding of Earth. The results will provide the crucial information that international governments need to make informed decisions about how society needs to adapt to our changing world.

Public engagement, education and outreach are a major component of IPY. Films, television series, blogs, podcasts, art projects and education initiatives will make IPY perhaps the largest scientific effort in public view since the moon landings.


Issued by British Antarctic Survey Press Office on behalf of the IPY Programme Office.

Contact: Athena Dinar – tel: (01223) 221414, mob: 07740 822229, email: a.dinar@bas.ac.uk

Linda Capper – tel: (01223) 221448, mob: 07714 233744, email: l.capper@bas.ac.uk 

Picture Editors: Photographs and video footage of Antarctica are available from the BAS Press Office as above.


Format of Media Briefing:

09.30  Arrive and coffee/tea

10.00  Welcome by Director of British Antarctic Survey, Professor Chris Rapley

10.10  Speech broadcast by Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury

10.20  Presentation by IPY Programme Director, Dave Carlson on IPY

10.40  Presentation by Director of BAS, Professor Chris Rapley on UK’s plans including education and public engagement

11.00  Open floor for questions/interviews

11.30  Coffee/tea and time for interviews

12.00  Ends



For interviews at the Media Briefing contact Athena Dinar or Linda Capper as above.

UK scientists from 20 research organisations and 40 universities with over 120 projects are participating in IPY. Worldwide there are over 400 projects. Some are still being reviewed and a full list will be available by the summer.

The International Council of Science and the World Meteorological Organisation sponsor International Polar Year. The Royal Society has formed a committee, chaired by Sir John Houghton, to help co-ordinate IPY activities.

Led by Dave Carlson, the IPY Programme Office is based at British Antarctic Survey. BAS’ parent body, the Natural Environment Research Council, has invested £5M in an Arctic-IPY Funding Initiative to support several large-scale international consortium projects. Many Arctic science projects include dialogue with the native people to understand how their lives are being affected by the impact of rapid climate change.

International Geophysical year saw the launch of the first earth satellites, established global cooperation that led to today’s world weather observation system and stimulated a remarkable public enthusiasm for science. It’s success led to the ratification of the Antarctic Treaty in 1961 which designates Antarctica as a continent for peace and science.

British Antarctic Survey is a world leader in research into global issues in an Antarctic context. It is the UK’s national operator and is a component of the Natural Environment Research Council.  It has an annual budget of around £40 million, runs nine research programmes and operates five research stations, two Royal Research Ships and five aircraft in and around Antarctica.