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The Earth is Melting: Global Warming Brings Rain to Greenland Ice Sheets

Global Warming
Polar bears in northeast Greenland. Greenland’s summit has experienced rain for the first time in its history. Credit:Andreas Preusser, CC BY-ND 3.0

It rained on the summit of Greenland for the first time in the ice sheet’s history. The rainfall is a shocking harbinger of global warming and the devastating melting occurring at the Arctic Ocean’s ice sheets.

Climate scientist and Brown University professor Laurence C. Smith told Business insider that “it portends a future of greater meltwater runoff” that can “amplify Greenland’s melting and contribution to global sea level rise.”

Greenland is home to the biggest ice mass in the northern hemisphere, and experienced a loss of over 530 billion tons of ice in 2019 alone. Last month, enough ice had melted in the span of two days to flood the entire surface area of the state of Florida with four inches of water.

The National Snow & Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder said that the rain occurred at the summit for hours last Saturday, and that the ice sheet was also above freezing temperature for nine hours. The summit is two miles above sea level.

Greenland’s historic rainfall a dire harbinger of global warming

The NSIDC estimates that 7 billion tons of rainfall took place on Greenland’s ice sheet. This is the third time in less than a decade that temperatures have reached above freezing in the area. The rain was observed by the Summit Station, a research center established by the National Science Foundation that monitors the ice sheet year-round.

This cluster of high temperatures and rainfall has severely worsened the ice sheets melt-off, said NSIDC researchers in a statement: “Warm conditions and the late-season timing of the three-day melt event coupled with the rainfall led to both high melting and high runoff volumes to the ocean.”

The weather event was triggered by a patch of low air pressure that crept over Baffin Island, a Canadian Island slightly south of Greenland. The ridge of high pressure moved onwards to Greenland and pushed warm air and moisture up to the ice sheet.

Melting caused by the rainfall was immediate, impacting 337,000 miles of ice, the NSIDC said. The ice sheet had stabilized by Monday, but the loss builds on an already dire climate catastrophe. Some climate scientists have speculated that the ice sheets will be entirely melted by 2050 if melting continues at the rate it has for the past decade.

This frightening event comes only a week after the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a harrowing report on the current state of the environment, stating that climate change is accelerating intensely and that no corner of the planet is unaffected by its impact. The report also said that many changes occurring are “irreversible for centuries to millennia,” such as warming oceans and rising sea levels.

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