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  • A high tide energized by storm surges washes across Ejit Island in the Marshall Islands on March 3, causing widespread flooding and damaging a number of homes.

    A high tide energized by storm surges washes across Ejit Island in the Marshall Islands on March 3, causing widespread flooding and damaging a number of homes. | Photo: AFP

Published 8 June 2016

According to a new report, extreme weather patterns are likely impacted by the encroaching effects of global warming in the Arctic — and it's going to get worse.

The changing face of the Arctic due to climate change, including melting ice sheets and rising sea levels, will likely spur more extreme weather events in other parts of the world, including heat waves, storms, and other climatic phenomena, according to a new report released Tuesday by Greenpeace.

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The report, titled “What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic,” argues that although the science is preliminary, researchers are uncovering possible links between the effects of global warming in the Arctic and various changing weather patterns throughout the northern hemisphere.

“The Arctic environment is integral to global climate systems, and this higher heat flux not only results in profound changes within local Arctic ecosystems, but also impacts climate systems throughout the world,” the report explains.

According to Greenpeace, the Arctic is heating up about twice as fast as any other part of the planet, meaning that the domino effect starting from the North Pole could be significant.

“There seems no doubt that warming of the Arctic region is a major contributory factor to mid-latitude weather patterns,” said Greenpeace Spain Arctic campaigner Sara del Rio in a statement on Tuesday. “Although scientists are trying now to understand better the influence of the complex atmospheric processes of the poles, under a precautionary approach, it is extremely urgent to take action to combat climate change and to protect the Arctic.”

The impacts of changing Arctic conditions could include colder and stormier conditions in some areas and hotter and drier weather in others, with climatic impacts likely to be “geographically patchy,” according to the report.

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Greenpeace argues that the findings further underline the urgency of taking action to protect the Arctic from imminent threats to its already compromised ecosystem, including offshore oil exploration and drilling.

Diminishing Arctic ice will also worsen global climate change through the release of stored greenhouse gases from the permafrost.

South of the Arctic Circle, the impacts of climate change are also expected to ramp up in the coming years with extreme weather events like tropical storms, heat waves, and droughts increasing in frequency and intensity.

“A series of unprecedented weather extremes have been recorded throughout the last decade – ‘Super-storms’, droughts, heat waves, floods and record breaking snowy winters,” Rio said. “Climate modelling suggests that these extreme weather events will become even more common in the future, causing heavy human and economic losses.”

Among measures to protect precious Arctic ecosystems, Greenpeace calls for the creation of a protected area around the North Pole to ban all extractive industries and set up an Arctic Sanctuary.

The organization also argues that any agreement for protecting the Arctic Ocean would need to be legally binding to ensure effective and urgent action.

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