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The International Geophysical Year Program

THE INTERNATIONAL GEOPHYSICAL YEAR PROGRAM

An International Geophysical Year has been designated for 1957-1958 to carry on and expand to global proportions the concept of the two Polar Years of 1882-1883 and 1932-1933. By the end of 1954, 38 nations had indicated their intention of participating in this world-wide program of simultaneous observations in the principal fields of geophysics. Intensive studies are being planned in the following fields: solar activity, longitude and latitude, glaciology, oceanography, meteorology, seismology and gravity, geomagnetism, aurora and airglow, ionospheric physics, cosmic rays, and rocket exploration of the upper atmosphere.

Glaciological observations will be carried out in many parts of the world to determine the status of existing glaciers and the prevailing factors which determine their nourishment and wastage. The United States program includes observations in the western states, Alaska, and parts of the Arctic and Antarctic.

This country’s scientific program is being directed by the United States National Committee for the International Geophysical Year, which has been appointed by the National Academy of Sciences – National Research Council, acting on behalf of the International Council of Scientific Unions. In turn the National Committee has appointed an Antarctic Committee and a number of Technical Panels to work out the details of the various aspects of the scientific program. Funds for the scientific work have been requested from Congress through the National Science Foundation, while much of the necessary logistical support is to be provided by the military and civilian branches of the government.

A major effort will be made in Antarctica because it is relatively so little known. Eight nations, including three members of the British Commonwealth, have already indicated their intention of establishing bases at widely dispersed points along the coast and in the interior for this first concentrated effort to uncover the geophysical secrets of the least known continent and the largest remaining unexplored area on Earth. An expedition to construct the United States coastal and inland station will be sent to Antarctica by the Navy in the fall of 1955, to be followed by expeditions of scientific personnel in succeeding years for the program of observations during 1957 and 1958. The U.S. Antarctic glaciological program will include studies of the nourishment, wastage, physical character, and extent of the inland ice and coastal shelf ice, as well as measurements of ice thickness by seismologists. These activities will be coordinated with observations to be made by American meteorologists and oceanographers, as well as by scientists of other countries. Ambitious plans have also been announced by different countries for traverses of the unknown sections of the continental ice sheet.

The International Geophysical Year program promises to be an enlightened and comprehensive effort to study important features of our Earth and its atmosphere. It marks a significant step forward in international scientific cooperation.

William O. Field