The polar regions are integral components of the Earth system. As the heat sinks of the climate system they both respond
to and drive changes elsewhere on the planet. Within them lie frontiers of knowledge as well as unique vantage points for science.
Yet because of their remoteness and harsh nature, the poles remain insufficiently studied. With recent technological advances
providing new scientific possibilities, and humankind’s need for environmental knowledge and understanding ever increasing, the
time is ripe for a coordinated international initiative to achieve a major advance in polar science.
For this reason, the International Council for Science (ICSU) decided to take the lead in organizing an International Polar Year (IPY)
in 2007-2008. They did so by establishing an IPY Planning Group (PG) charged with developing the IPY 2007-2008 science plan and
This report is the outcome of the PG’s work. It is based on input from individuals, from over 40 governmental and nongovernmental
organizations that have endorsed or expressed support for IPY 2007-2008, and from the 32 IPY National Committees
or National Points of Contact established so far. It is also results from discussions and debate at over a dozen international
meetings covering the gamut of science disciplines, from a series of “town” meetings, and from two Discussion Forums hosted
by ICSU and attended by representatives of the IPY National Committees and a variety of interested polar organizations.
In all, more than 490 “ideas” for the scientific content of IPY 2007-2008 have been received. These have been made available to
the community worldwide via the IPY 2007-2008 website (www.ipy.org). The site currently receives an average of 2000 hits per
day. Over 12,000 copies of earlier versions of this document have been downloaded, as have over 3000 copies of a PowerPoint
presentation describing the planning of IPY 2007-2008.
The fundamental concept of the IPY 2007-2008 is of an intensive burst of internationally coordinated, interdisciplinary, scientific
research and observations focused on the Earth’s polar regions. The official observing period of the IPY will be from 1 March 2007
until 1 March 2009. The main geographic focus will be the Earth’s high latitudes, but studies in any region relevant to the
understanding of polar processes or phenomena will be encouraged.
The IPY aims to exploit the intellectual resources and science assets of nations worldwide to make major advances in polar
knowledge and understanding, while leaving a legacy of new or enhanced observational systems, facilities and infrastructure.
Arguably the most important legacies will be a new generation of polar scientists and engineers, as well as an exceptional level of
interest and participation from polar residents, schoolchildren, the general public, and decision-makers, worldwide.