The highest point of the Greenland ice sheet saw rain last week for the first time on record, in yet another indication of warming for the ice sheet which is already melting at an alarming rate, scientists say. This was also the heaviest rainfall that the ice sheet has seen since 1950, when the records began.
Rain on the ice sheet is extremely concerning for scientists studying changes in climate due to global warming. This is because water is not only warmer than water, but also darker. As a result, it absorbs more sunlight, causing further melting of the ice sheet. “This is not a healthy sign for an ice sheet,” Indrani Das, a glaciologist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University told The Hindu.
Why is this important?
Greenland’s ice sheet is the world’s second largest after Antarctica’s. The melting of the ice sheet has caused nearly 25% of the total rise in sea levels reported over the last decade. As global temperatures rise, this share is expected to grow further.
On August 14, the summit of Greenland’s ice sheet saw rain for several hours. Between August 14 and August 16, nearly 7 billion tonnes of rain fail on Greenland. Rain and high temperatures led to extensive melting across the island. The island saw a massive loss of ice on August 15, nearly seven times more than usual.
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Temperatures at the ice cap would never really rise above freezing points. But now, that has happened thrice in less than a decade. According to scientists at the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, temperatures at Greenland’s ice sheet remained above freezing for nine hours.
Scientists saw this coming
Climate scientists say that the record-breaking rains are the latest in a series of warning signs. Greenland saw a massive melting event in late July when ice melted in such quantities that could cover the state of Florida in the United States in two inches of water. The melting event as well as last week’s rain were caused by air circulation patters which meant warm, moist air temporarily covered the island.