For the first time in recorded history, it rained at the summit of Greenland’s ice sheet.
The summit, which rises 2 miles above sea level and is about 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle, was pelted by streams of rain last Saturday and Sunday, The New York Times reported.
According to recordings taken by the National Science Foundation’s Summit Station, it was the third time in a decade that temperatures at the summit had risen above freezing. The meltings — in 2012, 2019 and last weekend — caused the melting of up to 337,00 square miles of ice, according to the U.S. National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
“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,” NSIDC researchers said in a statement.
Before this century, ice cores showed that meltings had only occurred six times in the past 2,000 years, Martin Stendel, a senior researcher at the Danish Meteorological Institute, told the Times in an email message.
“There is no previous report of rainfall at this location, which reaches 3,216 meters (10,551 feet) in elevation,” NSIDC researchers said in a statement.
The station, which is occupied year-round, has never had a record of rain since observations began in the 1980s, the Times reported. Computer simulations show no evidence going back even further, Thomas Mote, a climate scientist at the University of Georgia, told the newspaper.
“It’s incredible, because it does write a new chapter in the book of Greenland,” Marco Tedesco, a researcher at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, told the newspaper. “This is really new.”
Ted Scambos, a scientist at NSIDC, told CNN that the rainfall is a sure indicator 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,” Scambos told the news network. “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.”
Mote told the Times that the three melting episodes over the past decade were “one-off” events, but were still some cause for concern.
“But these events seem to be happening more and more frequently,” Mote told the newspaper. “And that tells the story that we are seeing real evidence of climate change in Greenland.”
The Arctic region is warming twice as quickly as the rest of the planet, NPR reported. Average global temperatures have risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the growth of industrialization and fossil fuel use in the mid-19th century.
Greenland and Antarctica lost enough ice over the last 16 years to fill all of Lake Michigan, according to a 2020 study.
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