WASHINGTON • It's the fastest- warming part of the planet - and the impacts will be felt far, far afield.
Among many other assorted impacts, the rapidly melting Arctic is expected to flood shorelines as Greenland loses ice more and more rapidly, further pumps greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as permafrost thaws, and becomes a global heat sink as a once ice-covered ocean exposes more and more dark water.
No wonder, perhaps, that on Wednesday, the outgoing Obama administration convened top science policymakers from 25 other Arctic and non-Arctic nations, including Singapore, as well as representatives of Arctic indigenous peoples, in a first-ever Arctic Science Ministerial to coordinate study of what the consequences will be as the Arctic heats up much more rapidly than the more temperate latitudes or the Equator.
During the meeting, a number of research efforts undertaken by the participating countries were reviewed. These include Singapore's efforts to identify "sensitivities and feedback between Arctic change and vulnerable regions of South- east Asia", including an assessment of the viability of trans-Arctic shipping routes and an analysis of their impact on maritime transportation.
The ministerial also took stock of Singapore's efforts to increase awareness in the tropics of the changes in the Arctic by convening seminars and conferences.
In conjunction with the ministerial, the White House announced the release of a new satellite-based data set that maps elevations across the Arctic at a resolution of 8m, with an expected further improvement to 2m next year.
Also on Wednesday, global ministers announced a number of science projects, including an Integrated Arctic Observing System to be put in place by the European Union and a US National Science Foundation project called "Eyes North".
The US Office of Naval Research, meanwhile, is starting a project next year called the Arctic Mobile Observing System to deploy measuring devices atop floating sea ice, or autonomous submersibles below it, to gather better ice and ocean measurements.
Representatives at the meeting came not only from all the nations with Arctic territory - the United States, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Russia are all members of the Arctic Council - but also from countries in warmer latitudes, including China, Japan and many European Union states.
In a statement from all these nations' science ministers and Arctic indigenous leaders released by the White House, they said: "We resolve that all nations conducting research in this region must work together to enhance and deepen scientific knowledge and understanding of the Arctic."
Scientific observers say the show of unity is very important.
"The White House (Arctic Science Ministerial) is an important opportunity to focus attention on and mobilise resources for the critical issue of the global consequences of climate change in the Arctic," said Dr Phillip Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Centre.
"These global consequences are potentially calamitous, yet are little known to the public, and the scale of resources being used to address them is nowhere near commensurate to the threat."