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The Arctic and the Antarctic are key regions for the climate. Man-made global warming has a particularly strong impact on the polar regions, with far-reaching consequences:

  • The Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets bind most of the fresh water on earth. Their melting is crucial for global sea level rise.
  • The decreasing sea ice cover in the Arctic is causing altered air pressure structures. As a consequence, the probability of cold air masses from the north and east extending to central Europe increases.
  • The polar oceans are key regions for the storage of carbon dioxide and drive the climate modulating global ocean circulation. As a result, they are crucial to how the world’s climate will develop over the coming decades to centuries.
  • The thawing of permafrost can lead to an increased release of greenhouse gases and endanger the stability of the ground. It affects buildings, roads, railroads, power, oil and gas pipelines, industrial plants and communication links, with estimated damages of about $150 billion per year from 2030 onwards. 
  • The fast warming threatens the biodiversity and functionality of polar ecosystems. This has feedback effects on the climate, as some polar organisms bind carbon dioxide. Endangered organisms are also a food source for whales, seals, penguins and other seabirds as well as for most fish, which is why fisheries are also affected.

To be able to make reliable statements about the effects of climate change, extensive measurements over a long period of time and realistic model simulations are necessary.

The insights of the German polar research are important for understanding global and regional climate change. They have been incorporated into the Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and will continue to make a significant contribution in the future.

The National Committee SCAR/IASC coordinates the German university research in the field of polar research together with the Alfred Wegener Institute and the relevant federal institutions.

Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR)
International Arctic Science Committee (IASC)


After more than three years of work under the auspices of the German National Committee SCAR/IASC, the new agenda for German polar research was published on September 15, 2017, as Status Report of the German Research Foundation (DFG).
Details in the press release of the DFG