It’s raining for the first time on Greenland’s summit: why it’s a problem

Rain fell on the highest peak of the ice sheet for 9 consecutive hours: this hasn't happened since 1950. This is another clear sign of global warming.

Rain fell on Greenland's highest peak for the first time since climate surveys began in the region in 1950. An exceptional occurrence recorded by the National snow and ice data center (NSIDC), which observed the unusual weather phenomenon. The precipitation lasted for three days, between August 14 and 16, and was reported by several distant weather stations located in the south and west of Greenland. Rain fell for 9 consecutive hours with temperatures above 0°C. It is a clear sign of global warming.

Rain in Greenland: why it's a problem

At an altitude of 3,200 meters, instead of snow, water fell. At this altitude, for the third time in less than 10 years, the thermometer exceeded the 0°C threshold, but it had never yet happened to rain. The persistent and repeated rise in temperatures on the island, an autonomous Danish territory situated between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic Ocean, has also caused a massive melting of the glaciers. According to data from the National snow and ice data center, an estimated 23.1 million cubic meters of ice melted from Jan. 1, 2021, to Aug. 16.

According to The Guardian, rain fell in Greenland during three exceptionally warm days, with temperatures in some areas 18 degrees higher than average. Ice melt was observed across most of the island, over an area about four times the size of the United Kingdom, and an estimated 7 billion tons of water fell across Greenland.

The rain on the ice sheet, in addition to being a never-before-seen phenomenon, further promotes surface melting. Although considered an exceptional event caused by the intense rise of warm air from the south coupled with low pressure over northern Canada, it is yet another sign of the effects of climate change whose acceleration is leading to frequent extreme events around the world.

The rate at which the Arctic region is warming due to global warming appears to be twice that of the rest of the planet. Since the mid 1800s, average temperatures across the world have risen by about one degree, while the Arctic region would have experienced a rise of nearly two degrees. If the Earth were to warm by more than 2°C, the Greenland ice sheet could collapse, melting and releasing large amounts of water into the seas and oceans.

Just the heatwave between late July and early August has led to the melting of more than 8.5 tons of ice in Greenland, an amount that could cover the entire Florida, in the United States, with 5 centimeters of water.

Stefania Bernardini