Polar survey reshapes understanding of climate change

Friday 01st Apr 2011 by theWeatherclub

The largest co-ordinated research project ever undertaken into the Arctic and Antarctic regions has yielded a treasure trove of information which will inform our understanding of the polar regions, global oceans, climate processes and climate change for decades to come.

Understanding Earth's Polar Challenges, was presented to the Arctic Science Summit Week in Seoul, Republic of Korea. The summary prepared by the International Council for Science (ICSU) and World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Joint Committee presents the findings from International Polar Year – a massive research effort involving some 50,000 participants from more than 60 nations between March 2007 and March 2009. The research provided convincing evidence of the widespread effects of climate change in the polar regions. According to the summary, snow and ice levels are declining, affecting human livelihoods, plant and animal life, atmospheric and ocean circulation.

"International Polar Year invigorated polar science, led to an unprecedented level of action, and attracted global attention to the polar regions at a critical moment in the changing relation between humanity and the environment," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud and ICSU President Catherine Bréchignac in their joint preface to the 720-page summary.

Parts of the Arctic and the Antarctic Peninsula were seen to be warming twice as fast as the global average, and warming in the Antarctic is much more widespread than was thought. Studies during the year documented key connections between the polar regions and global oceanic and atmospheric processes. Changes in the Arctic Ocean were transmitted through the sub-arctic seas affecting ocean circulation in the North Atlantic. Studies also revealed unprecedented large-scale interactions leading to a warmer Arctic and colder conditions in mid-latitudes which contain many heavily populated areas.

Compiled by some 300 authors and reviewers, the summary reveals how the research generated huge amounts of data which will be used to assess and predict future changes in climatic and biological systems for many years to come.