Less than one percent of the world’s population lives in the polar regions. Yet the Arctic and Antarctic regions make international news quite often, as researchers find growing evidence of the effects of a warming world on these sensitive areas. The plight of the natural systems at the poles, and the effects that spread far beyond them, are the impetus for the recent launch of the Year of Polar Prediction.
What is happening in the Arctic and Antarctic, and how does it affect other regions of the world?
The polar regions experience the effects of rising global temperature more intensely and more rapidly; scientists have found that the Arctic and parts of Antarctica are warming twice as quickly as the rest of the world. This is leading to:
These and other consequences of rising temperatures at the poles are impacting not only local residents (specifically people living in the Arctic, as Antarctica has no permanent, year-round inhabitants), but also those living thousands of miles away. WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas stated that “…the poles influence weather and climate conditions in lower latitudes where hundreds of millions of people live. Warming Arctic air masses and declining sea ice are believed to affect ocean circulation and the jet stream, and are potentially linked to extreme phenomena such as cold spells, heat waves and droughts in the northern hemisphere”.
What is the Year of Polar Prediction (YOPP)?
The initiative, which will actually span two years from mid-2017 through mid-2019, aims to improve predictions of weather, climate and ice conditions in the Arctic and Antarctic through intensive observation and modeling. As a result, better forecasts of weather and sea-ice conditions will reduce future risks and enable safety management in the polar regions, and also lead to improved forecasts in lower latitudes where most people live.
Additional Information and educational resources:
This is a perfect way to bring real-life science into the classroom; students can explore issues such as sea-level rise, loss of ice sheets, and global weather patterns. Use the interactive YOPP Explorer site to find details on all the partner agencies and activities related to YOPP in both the Arctic and Antarctic. Follow the links below for ideas and resources for teaching these topics.
Video - The Year of Polar Prediction from WMO
Polar Prediction Project website
FAQs on Arctic sea ice from U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center
Video: Ice, Oceans and Climate – Understanding our Earth through Polar and Marine Research, from Alfred Wegener Institute
Video: Arctic Sea Ice: The New Normal, from American Museum of Nautral History
Infographic: A Warming Arctic – Launching a Weather Balloon
Arctic climate facts, from WWF
Lesson plan: Climate change and the arctic, from Canadian Geographic
Lesson plans/labs from NASA Global Precipitation Measurement Mission:
Resources and information for educators and university students from the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists