Is Greenland set to turn green? In a rare occurrence, the highest point on the ice sheet on the island experienced hard rain for several hours even as the temperature remained above the freezing point for close to nine hours. It has happened for the 3rd time within a decade, though there has been no previous record at this particular location which is 10,551 feet (3,216 meters) above sea level.
The rains were recorded at the Summit Station, a research facility right on top of the Greenland ice sheet. The facility is operated by the National Science Foundation all through the year.
This unusual weather phenomenon caused substantial melting at the summit. The National Snow and Ice Data Center estimated that around 7 billion tons of rain fell in 3 days over the ice sheet.
The Unusual Weather At Greenland
Researchers said that unusual warm conditions and the late-season timing of the melt-off and the rain led to high runoff volumes into the ocean.
The rains and above freezing temperatures in Greenland were due to a trough of low pressures that paused over Baffin Island. This combined with a high-pressure ridge over the southeastern part of Greenland and pushed warm moisture and air in from the south.
Jennifer Mercer of the National Science Foundation said that operation would not be affected at the Summit Station. The program officer said that they would instead need to study weather conditions that weren’t part of their past operational considerations.
Changing weather patterns that are showing an upward trend include high winds, significant melting, and extreme rain. These changing patterns observed over the past 10 years could become the new normal. And the frequency and intensity of such events appear to be increasing, she said.
Climate Changes Affecting Greenland Significantly
Greenland has been the most affected as climate changes are beginning to directly affect climate patterns around the planet. As the earth warms up, the region has rapidly lost its ice cover, and it hasn’t been replenished in the winter months.
The United Nations climate report has determined that the unrestrained reliance on fossil fuels has contributed significantly to the ice loss in Greenland in the last 20 years. And this loss is irreversible.
An article published in Cyrosphere revealed that a stunning 28T tons of ice were lost in the past quarter of a century. And most of it has been in the Arctic region which includes the Greenland ice sheet.
The single most melting took place in July when over 8.5B tons of ice on the surface was lost in one day, releasing enough water to drown Florida under a couple of inches of water. This is the third time that extreme loss of ice was recorded in the region. The melting has reached further inland with each passing year ever since satellite records were kept after the 1970s.
Just In 2019, around 532B tons of surface ice was lost to the sea in Greenland alone. It was compounded by a heatwave in July that year, and an unexpected hot spring. The melting of the total ice sheet had an adverse effect on the planet’s sea level which rose by a significant 1.5 millimeters.
Every year, new thresholds are being crossed, and most of the conditions could be irreversible. For the first time, polar bears are being sighted high on the ice shelf of Greenland, though they generally confine themselves to the coastal regions.
Mercer feels that the quality of the cover-snow will also be compromised by the unusual rains. It will leave behind ice that could absorb energy from the sun, further accelerating the healing process. Moreover, this crusty coating of ice will also act as a barrier to the flow of rainwater to the sea which will initiate runoff at even higher elevations. The significant ice layer that was created this year will show up in future records.