It’s raining on Greenland’s peaks!

On August 14, a most surprising event occurred. The highest point in Greenland, the top of its ice cap which stands at 10,551 feet, received rainfall. It was such a rare event that there weren’t even rain gauges to measure the volume of rain that fell. Temperatures at the peak are usually well below freezing point (0°Celcius) all the time, so rain never falls there.

But mid-August bought hot weather to Greenland with temperatures staying 18°C higher than usual across the island. At the peak, temperatures went above 0°C for only the third time in 10 years. This resulted in both the rainfall and ice melting. When temperatures rise it creates an area of low air pressure. Low pressure areas attract winds, which is this case were warm and moist (full of water). This led to rain. It has never rained before on Greenland’s peak.

High temperatures also caused ice to melt. Ice melt in fact happened in an area four times the size of the United Kingdom.  There was a large melt in July as well, making 2021 just one of the four years in the last 100 to see such large scale melting.

Greenland’s ice crisis

Melting of ice on Greenland may soon reach a level where even a slowdown in global warming will no longer make a difference. Why is that so? As temperatures rise, ice melts. This reduces the height of the ice sheet. Air is warmer at lower levels, which causes more melting. Thus, the cycle never stops.

If all of Greenland’s ice were to melt, it would cause sea levels to rise by six metres. But this will take centuries. But since 1994, trillions of tonnes of ice have already melted and sea levels have risen 20 centimetres. Sea levels could go up by another 100 cm by 2100 scientists have warned, if the ice melt is not arrested (stopped). As a result low lying areas near the coast and even large cities like Mumbai could get flooded.

Global warming

It all comes back to global warming. Human activities linked to the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil are causing temperatures to rise. This is heating up previously cold regions like the Arctic, Greenland and Siberia. And as the Greenland example shows, it may no longer be possible to stop the change.

 

About Greenland

Greenland is the world’s largest island located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. Most of the people who live here are the Inuit, the native people of the Arctic, Greenland and Alaska who crossed over from Alaska. With a population (number of people who live in an area) of 50,000, it is the region with the fewest people on Earth. Three fourth of Greenland is always covered by ice through the year. It is an independent region that belongs to the European nation of Denmark.

 


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