Explore polar science in the Year of Polar Prediction

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:

  • Shrinking sea ice, glaciers and ice caps: as temperatures rise, more melting occurs. In early 2017 both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extent  were at record lows.
  • Sea-level rise fed by melting ice caps and warming ocean temperatures
  • Changes in global weather systems

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)?

YOPP is a collaborative effort involving WMO, the Alfred Wegener Institute and numerous partners around the world. It is one of the key elements of the Polar Prediction Project.

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

YOPP brochure

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:

Sea ice and temperature

Melting ice and sea level rise

Resources and information for educators and university students from the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists