In 2008, Polish studies of land cryosphere (permafrost and glaciers) were carried out in the polar regions of the Arctic on Spitsbergen and of the Western Antarctic (King George Island, Southern Shetlands) at the Polish polar stations and in the mountains areas of central and northern Europe (High Tatra Mountains and Scandinavian Mountains in the Abisko region).

The investigations in the polar regions were carried out under the fourth International Polar Year 2007/2009 in which Poland participated. On Spitsbergen, the project:” The dynamic response of Arctic glaciers to global warming ” (GLACIODYN) focused on the dynamics of evolution of Arctic glaciers moving towards the sea under the conditions of climate change and sea level rise. The Polish team included the scientists representing: University of Silesia, Faculty of Earth Science, Sosnowiec; Nicholas Copernicus University, Torun; Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan; Maria Curie-Sklodowska University, Lublin; Institute of Geophysics, Polish Academy of Science, Warsaw; and AGH University of Science and Technology, Cracow. The project was supervised by J. Jania ( University of Silesia). Field investigations as well as remote sensing and geophysical techniques were used to obtain information on glacier characteristics. A large number of data were obtained in the field to identify the mechanisms responsible for dynamic response of glaciers to climate change and to create processbased quantitative physical models as well as numerical ones for glacier response. These results will help to refi ne estimates on the contribution of Arctic glaciers to sea level rise.

Within the international program “Change and variability of the Arctic Systems, Nordaustlandet, Svalbard” (KINNVIKA), geophysical investigations of the structure of permafrost and the thickness of its active layer as well as deposits of late sedimentation basins in the Murchinson Fiord region began. Th ey were supervised by P. Glowacki and carried out by an interdisciplinary team from the Institute of Geophysics and the Institute of Geological Science, Polish Academy of Science, as well as the University of Silesia.

The interdisciplinary team headed by K. Migala from Wroclaw University carried out investigations within the international program “Fundamental causes of local climates as the basis of ecosystems diff erentiations and dynamics in the area of West Spitsbergen, Svalbard” (TOPOCLIM). Its aim was to determine the spatial structure of air temperature field as the identification of the driving mechanisms of periglacial ecosystems in western Spitsbergen.

Several investigations were carried out at the Polish Academy of Science stations which operates year-round in both the Arctic on Spitsbergen at the Polish Polar Station, Hornsund and in the Antarctic at the Polish Station Henryk Arctowski on King George Island, South Shetlands). During the summer season, interdisciplinary investigations of periglacial phenomena took place in the areas surrounding the stations/bases located on Spitsbergen and belonging to Polish universities.

Measurements of active permafrost layer thickness and thermal fl uxes (CALM project) were also performed near Polish stations and university expedition bases: Hornsund Polish Polar Station, Calypsostranda base of Maria Curie- Sklodowska University expeditions, Kaffi oyra station of Nicholas Copernicus University, and Petuniabukta base of Adam Mickiewicz University expeditions).

Grants from the Ministry of Education (No N306052 32/3405) and the EU ATANS (Fp 6506004) permitted the initiation of comparative studies on permafrost occurrence in the mountainous region of the High Tatra, in the mountains of northern Sweden in the vicinity of Abisko, as well as in the Hornsund Fiord region on Spitsbergen. The leaders of this project are: W.Dobinski and B.Gadek from the Faculty of Earth Science, University of Silesia and S.Kedzia from the Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization, Geomorphology and Hydrology of Mountains and Uplands, Polish Academy of Science, Cracow. Th e results of these investigations were presented at conferences (Wroclaw, Madrid, Moscow and Fairbanks).

Following a suggestion from the Institute of Geophysics, Polish Academy of Science, Warsaw, a system of common investigations called “Multidisciplinary studies of polar region geoecosystem” was created to bring together ten units belonging to the Polish Academy of Science and universities carrying out investigations in the Arctic. Its aim is to create the conditions for the active participation of Polish researchers in international investigations of polar regions, collaboration in scientifi c staff training, coordination of investigations, rational use of apparatus, help with application of new methods and control of information flow. The investigations undertaken under this framework in 2008 dealt with:

  • monitoring of the environment in the European Marine Biodiversity Research, Svalbard sites;
  • palaeo and contemporary marine and lake deposits as a source of information about changing climate;
  • understanding of glacial and periglacial geosystems under changing climate conditions;
  • effects of research stations in polar regions on the environment in their vicinity.

Financial means for coordination, accomplishment of common investigations were provided by the Ministry of Education (Resolution No 35/E-41/BWSN-0081/2008).

Of significant importance for Polish explorers of the north and the south polar zones was the XXXII International Polar Symposium of the Polar Club of Polish Geographical Society held in Wroclaw on May 23-24, 2008, under the subject ”Natural Environment of Polar Regions”. It was organized by the Faculty of Earth Science and Environment Formation, Wroclaw University under the chairmanship of J.Pereym; a meteorologist and Spitsbergen explorer. It should be stressed that Professor A. Jahn (1915-1999), the initiator and first president of the Polar Club, the famous explorer of periglacial zone, organizer of research expeditions to Spitsbergen and Greenland, a researcher that contributed largely to the history of International Permafrost Association, was closely connected with this University. The XXXII Symposium was attended by over 150 participants from all Polish scientific centers carrying out investigations in polar regions as well as foreign scientists. One of the participants was Prof. Jon Ove Hagen from Norway who was awarded the title “Doctor Honoris Causa” at the University of Silesia in May 2008. Papers and posters were presented at the Symposium. Most of them were published in a special monograph “Natural Environment of Polar Regions”. It consists of 28 papers (summaries in English) from various fields of science about the earth system (geomorphology, geology, glaciology, geodesy, hydrology, climatology) as well as biotic environment of the Arctic and the Antarctic. It should be also emphasised that the polar symposia have been held since 1974 and play an essential role as far as presentation of the latest investigations, exchange of experiences and integration of investigations in polar regions are concerned.

Kazimierz Pekala (