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24 April 2012


International Polar Year Conference 2012 seeks to translate knowledge to action

The International Polar Year 2012 conference has opened with calls to increase scientific knowledge and translate it into action.

World Meteorological Organization President David Grimes was one of the guest speakers at the conference in Montreal, Canada, which groups more than 2,000 Arctic and Antarctic researchers and policy makers.

“The cryosphere is under stress … at a time when there is increasing human presence and activities in Polar Regions including the “third Pole” (Himalaya and Tibetan Plateau) Region,” said Mr Grimes. The cryosphere means water in its frozen state. 

“There are real concerns about the amplification of climate variability and change at higher latitudes,” Mr Grimes said. “Studies suggest that as the Arctic warms, the changing temperature balance between the Arctic and mid-latitudes may be altering the course of the jet stream which steers weather systems in the northern hemisphere. It is recognized that the consequent changes at the poles are influencing the Earth System with global consequences.”  

“Our stakeholders require new or enhanced services related to weather, climate, water and related environmental matters.  Reliance on existing ‘climatologies’ or extrapolation of recent trends clearly will not provide sufficient guidance,” said the WMO President, who is Assistant Deputy Minister and head of Environment Canada's Meteorological Service. He said WMO is undertaking a number of initiatives to strengthen these services, including through observations and research in polar regions.

The Montreal conference seeks to build on the momentum of International Polar Year (2007-2008) which resulted in a massive research effort founded on the ideas and energy of thousands of scientists, educators, technicians and many more disciplines.  It involved some 50,000 participants from more than 60 nations.

It was the largest coordinated research project ever undertaken into the Arctic and Antarctic regions and will shape our understanding of the Polar Regions, global oceans, climate and climate change for decades ahead.

The International Polar Year increased understanding of how indigenous knowledge could be combined with instrumented data in monitoring the changes in polar ice, snow and vegetation cover, marine and terrestrial animal migrations, and behavioural patterns of polar animals, birds, fish and cetacean species, Mr Grimes recalled.

It helped consolidate a new trans-disciplinary approach that includes biology, human health, social sciences and the humanities in addition to meteorology, glaciology, oceanography, geophysics, geology, and other traditional polar research fields.

Mr Grimes urged the collaboration and momentum of International Polar Year to close remaining gaps in our knowledge, including on polar processes such as sea ice drift, carbon fluxes from degrading permafrost and the impact of dust and soot on snow albedo.











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