The present day Polar Science Center (PSC) can be traced back to an enthusiastic, but random group of researchers that came together as part of a multi year Arctic Ice Dynamics Joint Experiment (AIDJEX) primarily funded by the National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, and the Polar Continental Shelf Project of Canada (PCSP) from 1970-1978. The primary goal of AIDJEX was to develop a comprehensive model of sea ice cover under the combined influences of the atmosphere and the ocean. Norbert Untersteiner at the University of Washington led the AIDJEX Project Office. Along with conducting research experiments, AIDJEX was given sufficient funding to acquire logistical capabilities previously not available at ice camps. On-station aircraft provided an essential service of tying the camps together by moving supplies, equipment and personnel between the shore and the main station with small aircraft helping with distribution. In addition, the on station helicopters and small fixed-wing aircraft were used to deploy data buoys. Access to satellite phone communications via the applied technology satellite (ATS) system was a first for ice stations that greatly enhanced reliable communications. An on-going legacy of AIDJEX is PSC’s arctic logistics expertise led back then and to this day by Andreas Heiberg.
According to Untersteiner, “it was made very clear from the beginning that AIDJEX was a finite-duration study, and that we could not expect to see it ‘institutionalized.’” Although many post AIDJEX proposals for continued work were declined, researchers persevered and after several years, the Polar Science Center at the University of Washington officially emerged as a ‘Son-of-AIDJEX’ with several principal investigators receiving independent funding for individual topics of interest and continuing the tradition of conducting groundbreaking Arctic field experiments. In addition, AIDJEX’s convincing success in obtaining data on ice deformation and air stress by means of buoys secured on going funding for this portion of the program, which today continues as the International Arctic Buoy Program (IABP). PSC serves as the IABP data coordinating center under the direction of Ignatius Rigor.
In 1982 PSC was incorporated into the Applied Physics Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research facility that is a unit of the University of Washington Office of Research.