Climate change Environment

Rain falls for the first time in recorded history on the Summit of Greenland ice sheet

Rain fell for the first time in recorded history on the summit of Greenland ice sheet intensifying concerns about the already precarious condition of the Greenland ice sheet.

Precipitation at the summit of Greenland, which lies three kilometers above the sea level, fell as rain and not as snow for the first time since record-keeping began in 1950. 

Seven billion tons of water pelted the ice sheet for several hours, fueled by warm air. This was the third time temperatures at the summit rose above freezing in less than a decade. This is according to recordings taken by the National Science Foundation’s Summit Station

The rain occurred for two days from Aug. 14 to Aug. 15. It was also accompanied by the melting of up to 337,000 square miles (872,000 square kilometers) of ice.

“There is no previous report of rainfall at this location,” NSIDC researchers said in a statement.

Most of Greenland is currently covered by the Greenland Ice Sheet, which spans 656,000 square miles (1.7 million square kilometers). It’s the second-largest in the world after the Antarctic. They contain 99% of the freshwater ice on Earth. 

It was the heaviest rainfall on the ice sheet since 1950, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The researchers added that the amount of ice lost in one day was the same as the average ice lost across a typical week for the same time of year.

Ted Scambos said that the rain was a sure indication that Greenland is warming at a rapid pace

“What is going on is not simply a warm decade or two in a wandering climate pattern. This is unprecedented. We are crossing thresholds not seen in millennia, and frankly, this is not going to change until we adjust what we’re doing to the air,” Scambos said.

Researchers had earlier warned that the Greenland ice sheet was bolting towards a tipping point beyond which large parts of it could melt even without further increases to global temperatures. 

In July, the ice sheet lost 9.37 billion tons (8.5 billion metric tons) of ice from its surface per day.

Scientists attribute the cause of the rainfall to an atmospheric event- an anticyclone, above the island. Anticyclones (regions high pressure) cause air to sink, warming as it falls. The anticyclone conditions enable hot weather to persist in one area for long periods, creating heat waves.

This comes after a landmark IPCC Climate report released this month warning that the Earth is expected to reach the critical threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius due to climate change within the next two decades.

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