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International Polar Year Wraps Up

Today from the $1.2 billion International Polar Year (IPY) project is a report on results from the last 2 years. From the press release:

IPY has provided a critical boost to polar research during a time in which the global environment is changing faster than ever in human history. It now appears clear that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass contributing to sea level rise.  Warming in the Antarctic is much more widespread than it was thought prior to the IPY, and it now appears that the rate of ice loss from Greenland is increasing.

Researchers also found that in the Arctic, during the summers of 2007 and 2008, the minimum extent of year-round sea ice decreased to its lowest level since satellite records began 30 years ago. IPY expeditions recorded an unprecedented rate of sea-ice drift in the Arctic as well. Due to global warming, the types and extent of vegetation in the Arctic shifted, affecting grazing animals and hunting.

Noting the rapidly shifting climate and the changes seen recently in the poles, the report's authors say much more polar research is needed to address crucial questions regarding ice sheets, oceans circulation, and Arctic peoples. The next 10 years "could well be designated the International Polar Decade," they write.