By the Numbers: Pole Position

Sources: British Antarctic Survey; U.N.E.P.; U.S.G.S.;; Greenland-Guide.GL;;;;

Happy International Polar Year! This spring marks the start of the holiday-cum-research effort devoted to our planet’s icy nether regions. The project involves thousands of scientists and actually spans two years, wrapping up in March 2009. In the meantime, here’s a crash course in what’s going on far above and far below the equator.

3.6 Mean temperature increase, in degrees Fahrenheit, projected for the Arctic region over the next 50 years.

10 Percentage of the earth’s ice bound in Greenland’s ice cap.

23 Level, in feet, that the world’s oceans would rise if Greenland’s ice cap melted, drowning the southern half of Florida.

4 Population of the Arctic, in millions.

4.5 Mean temperature increase, in degrees Fahrenheit, measured on the Antarctic Peninsula in the last 50 years.

90 Percentage of the earth’s ice bound in the Antarctic ice sheet.

197 The level the world’s oceans would rise, in feet, if the Antarctic ice sheet melted, threatening cities like New York, London, and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

14,000 Number of tourists who take cruises to the Antarctic each year.

10,000 Number of scientists and support staff researching Antarctica during the summer.

0 Number of native people living in Antarctica.

1862 Year Santa Claus got his North Pole home, according to the poetry and artwork of illustrator Thomas Nast.

1911 Year the geographic South Pole was first reached by explorer Roald Amundsen.

1985 Year the springtime depletion of the ozone layer was discovered above the Antarctic by British scientists.

2050 Year the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free according to a report from Cambridge University.

529 Cast and crew members involved in making Happy Feet, an animated film about emperor penguins that find their soulmates via singing and tap dancing.

40,000 Number of emperor penguins using Antarctica as a breeding ground.

17 Total number of penguin species.

279 Total number of species of plants and animals that have already responded to global warming by migrating closer to the poles.

Issue 25

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