This is the greatest amount of water that has fallen on Greenland’s ice sheets since records began in 1950, making this event unprecedented.
What makes this incident even more shocking is that the precipitation was not in the form of snow. For the first time in recorded history, it was rain that fell on Greenland’s summit!
Unfortunately, the heavy rainfall proves that Greenland is warming rapidly. Greenland’s ice sheet is one of the largest in the world一 second only to Antarctica. Researchers have found that Greenland’s ice sheet is melting more quickly than it ever has in the past 12,000 years.
Let’s explore the cause of rain in Greenland and its impact on the planet.
What Led To The Rain?
The cause was an atmospheric event known as an anticyclone. Anticyclone refers to a wind pattern that rotates around a center that has high air pressure. This high pressure causes the air to sink and warm up. This heats up the atmosphere and results in warmer weather. In the case of Greenland, the temperatures reached above freezing.
There are multiple feedback loops that accelerate how quickly Greenland’s ice sheet melts.
- The heat of rain melts the surface layer of snow and reveals the darker ice underneath. Dark ice absorbs more sunlight and raises surface temperatures, which in turn, leads to more melting.
- As ice sheets melt, their heights consequently decrease, and this results in more melting because warmer temperatures occur at lower altitudes.
What Is The Impact?
The extreme weather events that cause rapid melt are pushing Greenland to a critical point. Large amounts of ice would melt even without further global temperature increases. If Greenland reaches its tipping point, the impact would be profound for the entire world due to cascading effects.
For example, researchers estimate that global sea levels would rise by 7 meters (22 feet) if the entire Greenland ice sheet were to melt. The melting of ice sheets would lead to an influx of freshwater into the sea. Increased amounts of freshwater in the sea result in ocean currents slowing down, which affects weather patterns and causes extreme weather events in other parts of the world.
The unprecedented rainfall on Greenland’s summit reinforces the fact that climate change is already here. We need to act soon so that we don't destabilize our planet and the future of humanity.
Sources: LiveScience, Guardian, SciTech Daily, NASA