Rain comes to the Arctic, with a cascade of troubling changes: Yale Environment 360 

By Andrew Blackman - February 23, 2024
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A rainstorm in the distance, as viewed from Disko Bay, Greenland.
A rainstorm in the distance, as viewed from Disko Bay, Greenland. MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES

Rain used to be rare in the Arctic, but global warming is changing that. As Ed Struzik writes in Yale Environment 360, the consequences could be devastating.

  • An increase in so-called rain-snow events is creating a range of  problems for wildlife and the Indigenous people who depend on them. These include ice loss, flooding, landslides, avalanches and major changes to water quality.
  • According to glaciologist Joel Harper, each time a rain-on-snow event happens, the structure of the firm layer is altered and it becomes more likely to be affected by the next melting event. This, he says, suggests that only a small increase in such occurrences will have a profound impact.
  • Changes can already be seen. Thunderstorms are now occurring in places where they have historically been rare, and surface crevassing — which allows water to enter into the interior of the Arctic icecap — is accelerating.
  • The changes are not just happening in the warmer months. Rain is also starting to replace snow in inter, according to one Alaska-based climate scientist. That’s a problem for local drivers because, with little solar heating, ice that forms on roads from November rains typically remains until spring.