Half time in the International Polar Year 2007-2008

March 04, 2008

A record minimum of Arctic sea ice, new species in the Antarctic deep sea and unexpected insights into past climate - these are only some of the results of the first expeditions during the International Polar Year 2007/08. From March 10 - 14, 2008 the most important projects will be presented in Münster in the frame of the 23rd International Polar Meeting of the German Society of Polar Research. In addition to scientific highlights, also student and school projects will be highlighted. Reporters are cordially invited to visit the Polar Meeting. There will be a press conference at Fürstenberghaus in Münster on March 10 at 01:00 p.m. Besides the organisers, the chairman of the German Commission for the International Polar Year as well as some of the most important project managers will be present and available for interviews.

Expeditions during the International Polar Year

More than 25 expeditions by land, by sea and by air have already taken place, and at least as many will follow in the second half of the International Polar Year. They all provide components for understanding the Earth's climate, biological diversity and history. „It is impressive how much knowledge was gained through our projects, and we are glad that at the Polar Meeting we can deliver a summary of the first half of the Polar Year," says Prof. Dr Reinhard Dietrich, Chairman of the German Commission for the International Polar Year.

Last summer, the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice were the smallest ever measured. For the first time marine biologists systematically examined the Antarctic biodiversity from the surface to the seafloor, and they found, among others, species so far unknown. Geologists and geophysicists reconstruct the topography of the Polar Regions from former times until now. Knowing the depth of sea and the topographic barriers makes it possible to calculate sea currents and thus also the climatic conditions in the respective geologic eras. Sediment cores from the seafloor under the Antarctic ice shelf give insights into 20 million years of climatic history. „These data are essential for predicting how the Antarctic ice will react to further climate warming," says Dr Gerhard Kuhn, project manager and geologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research.

The significance of the International Polar Year 2007/08

The Polar Regions are not only extremely affected by warming. They also represent a unique climate archive. Complex and expensive expeditions to the most remote regions of the Earth are necessary in order to explore them. „In the International Polar Year, the strengths of many countries are pooled, and common research interests are more important than national interests. All projects of the Polar Year promised to file their data and place them at the disposal of international science," Prof. Dr. Reinhard Dietrich said. Many PR representatives and teachers are involved in the activities in order to enable everyone to visualise and experience polar and climate research.

Bremerhaven, March 4, 2008

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Notes for editors:

Your contact person in the public relations department of the Alfred Wegener Institute is Dr Susanne Diederich (Tel: ++49-471-4831-1376, email: medien@awi.de. Your contact persons at the German Commission of the International Polar Year are Prof. Dr Reinhard Dietrich (Tel: ++49-351-463-34652, email: Reinhard.Dietrich@tu-dresden.de) and Dr Karsten Gohl (Tel: ++49-471-4831-1361, email: Karsten.Gohl@awi.de). The organisers of of the Polar Meeting are Prof. Dr Manfred Lange, Universität Münster, Institut für Geophysik (email: polartagung@uni-muenster.de) and Prof. Dr Georg Kleinschmidt, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Polarforschung (email: kleinschmidt@em.uni-frankfurt.de).

You will find the program of the Polar Meeting at http://www.uni-muenster.de/Polartagung/en/index.html.

More information on the International Polar Year can be found at www.polarjahr.de and www.ipy.org.

Press conference: Press representatives are cordially invited to a press conference on March 10, 2008 at 01:00 p.m. at the Fürstenberghaus in Münster, Domplatz 20-22. Please register with Dr Susanne Diederich: Tel: 0471-4831-1376, E-Mail: Susanne.Diederich@awi.de.

The Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) conducts research in the Arctic, Antarctic and in oceans of mid and high latitudes. The AWI coordinates polar research in Germany, and provides important infrastructure, such as the research icebreaker Polarstern and stations in the Arctic and Antarctic, for international science organisations. The AWI is one of 15 research centres of the 'Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft' (Helmholtz Association), the largest scientific organisation in Germany.

In the International Polar Year more than 50,000 scientists from over 60 countries investigate the polar regions. It is their aim to investigate the role of the Arctic and the Antarctic with regard to the Earth's climate and ecosystems. Germany has very good preconditions for research in the Arctic and in the Antarctic, having the worldwide most efficient research icebreaker Polarstern, several polar stations and two polar planes. In particular, Germany can contribute to the key issues: polar regions and climate change, shifting continents, venture into unknown regions, and development of innovative technologies.

Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research

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