International Polar Year


IPY logoThe International Polar Year (IPY) was a large scientific programme that focused on the Arctic and the Antarctic from March 2007 to March 2009.


IPY, organized through the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), was actually the fourth polar year, following those in 1882-1883, 1932-1933, and 1957-1958. In order to have full and equal coverage of both the Arctic and the Antarctic, IPY 2007-2008 covered two full annual cycles from March 2007 to March 2009 and involved over 200 projects, with thousands of scientists from over 60 nations examining a wide range of physical, biological and social research topics. It was also an unprecedented opportunity to demonstrate, follow, and get involved with, cutting edge science in real-time.


British Antarctic Territory - IPY souvenir sheetIPY occured amidst abundant evidence of changes in snow and ice: reductions in extent and mass of glaciers and ice sheets, reductions in area, timing, and duration of snow cover, and reductions in extent and thickness of sea ice. Changes in snow cover and sea ice have immediate local consequences for terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Permafrost, an additional form of ice that influences nearly 25% of the northern hemisphere landmass, also shows substantial decomposition due to warming climate. Permafrost degradation affects local ecology and hydrology as well as coastal and soil stability.


IPY logo for the NetherlandsChanges in the large ice sheets will impact global sea level, affecting coastal cities and low-lying areas. Changes in snowfall and shrinkage of glaciers will influence millions of people whose daily use of water for personal consumption or for agriculture depends on snowpack and glacial sources. Thermal degradation of permafrost will mobilize vast reserves of frozen carbon, some of which, as methane, will increase the global greenhouse effect. Changes in sea ice combined with enhanced river inputs of freshwater will lead to substantial changes in ocean circulation. Warming of polar oceans, coupled with changes in ice coverage and river run-off, will alter marine ecosystems with consequences for globally-significant fisheries.


Polar changes occur not on a remote planet, but in the daily living environment of more than 4 million people, fellow citizens and neighbours of this planet. Northern communities face changes in their natural environment and in their natural resources and food systems, changes of rapidity and magnitude beyond recent experience or traditional knowledge. Northern people also face unique health challenges related in part to pollutants transported to polar regions, and accelerating pressures of development and commercialism.


PenguinsFor a majority of participants, IPY stimulated a sense of urgency and discovery. What secrets, what clues to the planetís past, lie under the ice? How does life survive extreme cold and long dark? What structural and physiological adaptations evolved in cold waters and propagated throughout the oceans? What marvels of photochemistry occur when springís first light strikes winter snow? How do microbial communities in the upper ocean influence cloudiness in the atmosphere above? What subtle richness of behaviour, language and knowledge has allowed human communities to survive in the Arctic for thousands of years? Can ancient solid silent ice hold so much history and yet change so fast? IPY represented a unique opportunity to push collectively at these intellectual frontiers, to explore unseen places, to develop new concepts and theories, and to set the stage for predictions, assessments, recommendations, and future discovery through international collaboration and partnership.






The official website of the IPY.

The Netherlands contribution to IPY.

All the International Years proclaimed by the General Assembly.




Stamp catalogue


Australian Antarctic Territory††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 16 September 2008

Australian Antarctic Territory††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 4 March 2009

British Antarctic Territory†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 14 November 2007

Falkland Islands††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 7 April 2008

Ross Dependency††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 7 November 2007

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands††††††††††††††††††††††††† 25 January 2008









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last revised: 3 December 2009