International Polar Year returns, focuses on climate-change research

Happy International Polar Year! If you didn’t get us a gift yet, don’t sweat it — the fourth-ever IPY doesn’t officially kick off until March, and researchers from some 60 countries will actually poke around in the icy Arctic and Antarctic for two years. The last IPY occurred in the late 1950s, meaning that “close to 60 percent of what is known about the polar regions, particularly the Arctic, comes from research carried out in 1958,” says Louis Fortier of Canadian research network ArcticNet. While past IPYs focused on biological and physical sciences, researchers will pay special mind to the effects of climate change on humans this time ’round. To ensure relevance, Arctic-dwelling Inuit will even be partners in the research, rather than mere subjects! How times change! When all is said and done, IPY should inject nearly $500 million into polar research, with new findings published in 2009. By that time, the world’s most powerful country might have an administration that gives a puck.