Science

The Arctic could become predominantly rainy by 2060

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For most people, Arctic rainfall mostly involves snow, and it’s not a bad thing to think about, at least for the moment … However, according to a new study, accelerating climate change could change this evidence soon, long before the expected. .

According to previous studies, the Arctic is expected to change, by 2080, from a world where most of the snow falls to one where it rains. But a new study published in the journal Nature Communications shows that accelerating climate change will precipitate this transition in at least two decades. The region is warming faster than the rest of the world and is expected to be predominantly rainy throughout the century.

In fact, the international team of researchers behind the new study has found that the transition from snow to rain in the Arctic could occur in 2060. According to their results, at the beginning of the transition, it is the season. major changes.

Possible global repercussions

The consequences are worrying: acceleration of global warming and devastation of local fauna. Furthermore, the first signs of this change are already appearing: this year, for the first time that we know of, rain fell on the highest peak in Greenland.

According to the researchers, this will be primarily the consequence of the entire climate crisis, which is contributing to a much larger increase in rainfall. This has huge ramifications for all Arctic wildlife, especially since a 2017 study already warned of the far-reaching, long-lasting, and perhaps even irreversible consequences of this transition.

Arctic reindeer and caribou herders face a drastic shock, as rain falling on snow can cover vegetation with ice, leading to massive starvation of herbivores.

The shift to a predominantly rainy Arctic would also have global implications. It should accelerate the thaw of frozen soils, releasing the greenhouse gases trapped there, and accelerate the already rapid loss of Arctic sea ice … Such positive feedbacks would further accelerate climate change, driving the transition from sea, snow to The rain.

An inevitable passage into the rain

The impact of a rainier Arctic on Greenland could be mixed, say McCrystall and his colleagues. As rain will accelerate melting at the edges of the ice sheet and cause sea level rise (a significant threat to coastal communities around the world), more snowfall is expected in parts of Greenland, which could offset part loss of mass. on the ice sheet.

Evolution of mean annual precipitation in the Arctic from 1980 to 2005. As shown in the upper graph, rainfall has increased considerably since 1990. The lower graph shows a gradual decrease in snow precipitation. © Michelle R. McCrystall et al.

The first change to a rain-dominated Arctic came after the team used a new generation of more sophisticated climate models, known as CMIP6, that project the future based on historical observations of precipitation, surface air temperatures, and other. data.

One of the troubling findings of this new study is that the transition to rain in many parts of the Arctic will occur even if global warming remains at its 1.5 ° C target, and not 2 ° C as we previously thought. However, the Arctic regions of Western Europe and Russia will only rain with a warming of 2 ° C, showing that the changes can be avoided if countries reduce their emissions, highlighting the importance of limiting global warming to 1.5 ° C instead of 3 ° C.

Nature Communications

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