No one knows when the last time it rained in this remote area of Earth.
Being located at an altitude of 3,216 meters in the Arctic region, with temperatures below freezing almost all the time, the peak of Greenland does not normally present atmospheric conditions to generate precipitation.
For this reason, what happened on August 14 surprised researchers at the Summit station, from the American agency National Science Foundation, which monitors the climate in this part of the planet.
It rained “for several hours,” according to the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Nothing similar had been observed since the records began to be made in 1987, according to information shared by scientist Martin Stendel on his social networks.
According to the report, “the air temperature stayed above zero for about nine hours”. The increase in thermometers created defrost conditions that were only seen previously on three occasions: 1995, 2012 and 2019.
Yet another example of how global warming is affecting places as remote as the peak of Greenland, according to experts.
“This is not a healthy sign for an ice sheet,” said Reuters news agency Indrani Das, a glaciologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
“Bad ice water… Makes the mantle more likely to melt on the surface.”
‘It rained all day’
Although it often rains on the frozen surface of Greenland, the phenomenon had never been observed at its highest point.
At the research station, scientists were surprised to see drops of water running down the windows of the lodge — and they even shared images on social networks.
We don’t have direct observations from the Summit, but this map shows precipitation types in the weather model HARMONIE, the joint venture of @dmidk and @Vedurstofan. Green: rain, pink: snow, blue: freezing drizzle (frosti in Icelandic). So there may have been rain at or near Summit. https://t.co/v0Mj1qz1Bh pic.twitter.com/PzoTAcFFLc
— Martin Stendel (@MartinStendel) August 19, 2021
“On Saturday, it basically rained all day, every hour the team made observations of the weather,” engineer Zoe Courville told The Washington Post.
“It’s the first time you’ve seen it at the station.”
The temperature reached 0.48°C — the fourth time in the last 25 years that it has exceeded zero in that area.
The thermometers stayed above 0°C for several hours, which, combined with the rain, created conditions for thaw on the peak’s surface and surroundings, according to NSIDC data.
In total, the melt reached 872,000 square kilometers on the 14th.
“In 2012 and 2021 alone, there was more than one 800,000 square kilometer melting event,” highlights the NSIDC report.
The Arctic region is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the planet due to climate change, explains Steve Turton, an environmental geography researcher at Queensland Central University in Australia, in an article on The Conversation website.
While in the rest of the planet the temperature increased by an average of 1°C, in the region this rate reached almost 2°C.
“This worrying rain on the top of Greenland is not an isolated event,” said Twila Moon, an NSIDC scientist.
Along with the increase in floods, fires and other extreme events, it is one of the many “red flags” pointing to the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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