CU-Boulder Scientists To Discuss Polar Research At March 22 Event

March 13, 2006

A group of University of Colorado at Boulder researchers will share their experiences in the arctic, Greenland and Antarctic at a March 22 campus event in a prelude to the next International Polar Year, or IPY, in 2007.

Titled "Countdown to IPY," the free, public event will focus on past and current research efforts at Earth's polar regions by CU-Boulder faculty and graduate students. The event also will include a brief history of IPY, an international, interdisciplinary research campaign last held in 1957, which will involve the efforts of more than 60 nations beginning next year.

The CU-Boulder event will be held at 2 p.m. in the CIRES Auditorium and is free and open to the public. The auditorium is located in the Ekeley Sciences Building north of the University Memorial Center. Parking for the event is available at the Euclid Autopark east of the UMC. Seating is limited.

Participants include Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences Director Konrad Steffen and National Snow and Ice Data Center Director Roger Barry. It also includes Professors John Behrendt and Jim White and doctoral student Karen Cozzetto of the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research.

CIRES is a joint institute of CU-Boulder and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

IPY will officially run from March 2007 to March 2009 to allow for two full seasons of field work in the arctic and Antarctic. Participating scientists will use high-tech tools ranging from satellites, autonomous vehicles and remotely operated climate stations to GPS, laser altimeters and supercomputers to better understand the roles the polar regions play in a variety of global processes.

Researchers involved in IPY will address such issues as dwindling sea ice, shrinking ice sheets and glaciers, thawing permafrost and creatures ranging from polar bears and penguins to marine life and microbes.

Steffen has been directing a climate project in Greenland known as Swiss Camp since 1990 that involves CU-Boulder students, researchers and dozens of climate monitoring stations. Funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation, the effort includes automated, hourly data collection of temperatures, winds, and changes in snow pack on the massive ice sheet.

Barry, a Distinguished Professor at CU-Boulder in geography, also is director of the World Data Center for Glaciology headquartered on campus and is considered one of the world's top arctic climate researchers. He has pioneered research in weather pattern analysis, global climate modeling, ice age estimates and changes in mountain climates and arctic environments.

Cozzetto has spent several recent field seasons working with INSTAAR Professor Diane McKnight in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. The researchers have been studying the resilience of microbes there that can remain dormant for years at a stretch in the harsh polar environment.

Behrendt, a senior research associate at INSTAAR, is the author of the 2005 book, "The Ninth Circle: A Memoir of Life and Death in Antarctica 1960-62." He has conducted geophysical research in Antarctica since 1956.

White, one of the world's leading ice core researchers, was a principal investigator on the Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2 and was the U.S. principal investigator on the North Greenland Ice Core Project, an international effort completed in 2004. White also has analyzed ice cores from the Taylor Dome ice core in Antarctica that show climate can change abruptly in just a few decades.

The program also will include remarks by NSIDC's Terry Haran and Stephanie Renfrow. Haran is a member of an international team that is in the process of deploying weather instruments and cameras on several icebergs adrift in the Antarctic Peninsula. The team is using satellites to collect data and track the icebergs as they drift northward toward the warmer South Atlantic.

Renfrow, an outreach specialist, maintains a Web site called Icetrek that updates the teams progress daily with text and images at: nsidc.org/icetrek/.

IPY is expected to involve more than 10,000 scientists from around the world.

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