World interest in and awareness of the polar regions has developed at an accelerated pace over the past decade. This interest has stemmed from a variety of factors, including increased resource utilization, increased use of polar seas as shipping corridors, and a growing realization that sea ice must be incorporated into any viable global climate prediction scheme. In the 1970s this interest led to implementation of such programs as the Arctic Ice Dynamics Joint Experiment (AIDJEX) and the Arctic Data Buoy Programs, all of which addressed oceanographic and sea ice problems in the central Arctic Basin.
The more difficult, and possibly more significant, problems remain, however, those concerning the variable extents of the sea ice fields in both hemispheres. These variations occur with the greatest intensity in the marginal ice zones, where the floating ice, oceans, and atmospheres are in continual physical contact and dynamic interaction. This realization led the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 1974 to recommend commencement of theoretical and field programs that would address marginal ice zone problems by the late 1970s. Similar recommendations were adopted by the Global Atmospheric Research Program (GARP) a few years following the NAS statement. Most recently, the World Meteorological Organization has reiterated the significance of the marginal ice zones in influencing climate and has recommended implementation of a study program.