International Polar Year – national priorities of Russia

In 2007/2008 the work of all states conducting research in Polar Regions of our planet will be carried out in the framework of International Polar Year (IPY). A.I. Bedritsky, the Head of the Federal Department of Hydrometeorology and Environment Monitoring, Co-Chairperson of the Steering Committee on the participation of Russian Federation in the preparation and conducting events in the framework of International Polar Year, was asked about the preparation of IPY national programme.

– Alexandr Ivanovich, IPY 2007/2008 is going to be a significant scientific event of the beginning of the 21st century. How were “polar years” conducted in the past, when theywere started?

– International Polar Year was conducted for the first time in the history of polar science in 1882/83 г. The scientists from twenty countries, including Russia, carried out field work in Arctic and Antarctic. The major researches of the first polar year were geophysical, meteorological and some biological observations in 13 points of the Northern Polar Region, and also in the Southern Polar Region – on Cape Horn and on the island of Southern Georgia. IPY observations were very important for the study of magnetic variations, polar light, Arctic climate, its air currents, ice coverage, etc. That was a period of geographic discoveries and the start of the first regular physical measurements in the history of polar science.

In the second IPY in 1932/33 the observations were carried out in the USSR on meteorological stations of the Soviet sector of Arctic, covering the major part of Arctic Ocean. In that period there was a growth of hydro meteorological network in polar regions. The measurements taken gave new information on the behaviour of polar atmosphere. Besides, Arctic seas expeditions studied ice and ice regimes.

The founding of the first drifting station in the North Pole in May 1937 successfully continued Arctic research. Unique transpolar flights of Soviet pilots from the USSR to America in 1937 gave valuable information on polar regions atmosphere structure. The second IPY played an important part in the development of methods of hydro meteorological and ice forecasts, in determination of Arctic hydro meteorological features, in the studies of ice glaciers, geomagnetic field, radio waves propagation, etc.

International Year of Geophysics held in 1957/58 further developed the ideas of Polar Years, when researches were conducted on the global scale. Annual Soviet Antarctic expeditions started regular Antarctic research. In those years principally new data were obtained on atmosphere, ocean and glacierization, a number of big international projects were initiated with the objective to study various components of polar regions environment, the era of space research commenced.

– Which ideas were fundamental in the previous Polar Years?

– In the 30‘s the North for the USSR was seen as a strategically important region with vast natural resources, which could be developed with the low labour cost.

Northern sea route was the major transport artery of the North and needed all-round securance. Besides, the participation in the first IPY raised the international reputation of the USSR in polar researches.

Historically International Year of Geophysics in 1957/58 largely coincided with the commencement of a new stage in the North exploration in new political and economical environment, the growth of economic activity in Arctic and the building of a new state strategical defense system – nuclear missile-carrying submarine fleet. These conditions again called for wider scientific researches aiming at the obtaining of new information on Arctic natural processes and Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas relief.

In 2006 it was 50 years since the commencement of Antarctic research, which allowed Russia to rebuild its historical priority in the discovery of this continent and to become a counter force to the sates, which were negotiating on the territorial division of Antarctica. The USSR active participation in IYG on the surge of “cold war” resulted in successful foundation of international political and scientific cooperation “Agreement on Antarctica” and “International Scientific Committee on Antarctic research”.

– How did the idea of IPY 2007/08 come?

– For the past years the idea of having another International Polar Year in 2007/08 had been widely discussed in scientific circles of many countries. The modern concept of IPY is a form of cooperation, which for some period of time combines the activities of international and national programmes and projects, aiming at intensive polar researches. First of all the event should combine and coordinate the observations, which are already under way in Arctic and Antarctic.

At the beginning of the 21st century the world scientific community raised an issue of the importance of growing researches of the processes, determining climatic and environmental change in Polar Regions, as well as of the development of those changes monitoring and forecast system taking into account high sensitivity of our planet high latitude zones to global natural and anthropogenic effects. Global climatic change in the 21st century can greatly manifest itself in polar regions natural environment and affect the economic activity and way of life of the native poeple of the North. These changes can have influence on the interests of many countries, carrying out active work in Northern and Southern Polar Regions.

Anthropogenic factors exercise their influence on polar ecosystems, and ultimately, on people‘s health and quality of life. The pollution of atmosphere, soil, inland and sea waters can have negative effects on native peoples of Arctic, whose way of life is connected with the natural resources of their areas. The increased anthropogenic effect in local regions of current and prospective economic activities dictate the need to conduct a proper research on their manifestation and the development of measures to reduce its negative influence. These conclusions, drawn by the scientists of many countries, led to the recognition of the need of another IPY to be held in 2007/2008, which coincides with two jubilees – the 125th anniversary of the First International Polar Year and the 50th anniversary of International Year of Geophysics. The 14th All-World Meteorological Congress of International Meteorological Organization (IMO) supported Russia‘s initiative to have IPY in 2007/08. The activities in the framework of IPY 2007/08 initiative should combine the objectives of all programmes of IMO, aiming at the study of current and expected changes of polar regions environment, and if possible, to take into account the goals of Arctic and Antarctic programmes, which are being conducted under the umbrella of other international organizations.

– How is IPY planned and coordinated on international level?

–At present the Steering Committee on the participation of Russian Federation in the preparation and conducting events in the framework of International Polar Year 2007/2008 manages the preparation and conducting IPY. F.N Chilingarov, the Head of Roshydromet, a renowned polar researcher, Chairman Deputy of the State Duma, is a Co-Chairman of the Committee.

At present Russian scientific programme of conducting International Polar Year has been developed. It has defined the goals and objectives of research and activities in eight different areas. Officially IPY 2007/2008 will start in March 2007. However, scientific organizations of federal and executive administration and Russian Academy of Science started research and activities on conducting events of Activity Plan of the participation of Russian Federation in the preparation and conducting of International Polar Year 2007/2008, approved by Maritime Board of the Government of Russian Federation.

– How beneficial will this programme be for Russia and what new does it have compared to the previous programmes?

– Unlike in previous “polar year”, this porgramme scientific targets are focused on large-scale practical tasks.

Social-specific areas appeared, which did not exist in the past. Undoubtedly, the results of work in the areas of social and economic issues and Russian North ecological issues can exert significant influence on the state policy in Polar Regions.

Close scientific cooperation with foreign participants of IPY in carrying out joint porgrammes and information exchange will allow to considerably replenish national data bank of the Earth Polar Regions and to raise international reputation of Russia in polar research. The results of Russian research will be certainly in demand of the world scientific community.

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# 4(18), 2006
Topical Interview