Towards the end of the 19th century some researchers put forward the hypothesis that the Polar regions may play the key role in the shaping of the global climate. This supposition found its full confirmation in empirical and model research conducted in the 20th century, particularly in recent decades. The intensification of the global warming after about 1975 brought into focus the physical causes of this phenomenon. The first climatic models created at that time, and the analyses of long observation series consistently showed that the Polar regions are the most sensitive to climatic changes. This aroused the interest of numerous researchers, who thought that the examination of the processes taking place in these regions might help to determine the mechanisms responsible for the „working" of the global climatic system. To date, a great number of publications on this issue have been published. However, as a review of the literature shows, there is not a single monograph which comprises the basic information concerning the current state of the Arctic climate. The last study to discuss the climate of the Arctic in any depth was published in 1970 (<Climates of the Polar Regions, vol. 14, ed. S. Orvig) by the World Survey of Climatology, edited by H. E. Landsberg. This publication, however, does not provide the full climatic picture of many meteorological elements. The issue of climatic changes is raised only cursorily and the information provided is now long outdated. As far as the Antarctic is concerned, the situation is far better for there are numerous synthetic works on Antarctic climatology in many languages.
It was the rather astonishing paucity of academic studies concerning the climate of the Arctic that prompted my decision to embark on a work which aimed at filling this gap. This sort of compilation work, which sums up the present state of knowledge on the subject, can only be successfully accomplished if it is done in a well-equipped library. This is why most of the present book was written in the Scott Polar Research Institute library, Cambridge, UK, which, in all likelihood, contains the most comprehensive collection of Polar literature.
The primary aim of the publication is to present the current state of knowledge concerning the Arctic climate using, whenever possible, the latest meteorological data. In view of the importance of climatic changes, this issue has been given more attention than is customary in similar studies.
It is now commonly accepted that the mean physical state of the atmosphere is one of the key elements of the Arctic climatic system. Consequently, a variety of climatic data is indispensable not only for climatologists, but also for other researchers of the Arctic environment (glaciologists, oceanographers, botanists, etc.). Up-to-date and reliable climatic data are also requisite to validate climatic models. The author hopes that the book will be of particular interest to all researchers who represent the above scientific disciplines in their research.
The present work should also be helpful to students of geography and related disciplines, both in the didactic process and in research. It may also be of use to all those who are interested in this part of the world.
Finally, I would like to express my hope that the reader will find the book gratifying in terms of readability and the usefulness of the information it contains. I would also like to apologize for any mistakes in the text that went unnoticed in the publication process.
Rajmund Przybylak Torun, June 2002
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