Thursday, December 1 2022

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YELLOWKNIFE — While the Arctic is better known for its snow covers than its rain clouds, new research suggests the number of rainy days in the region will roughly double by the end of this century .

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The study, published in the American Geophysical Union’s journal Earth’s Future, used climate modeling to predict changes in precipitation under high greenhouse gas emissions from 2015 to 2100. It found that not only will there be more precipitation in the Arctic by 2100, it will occur earlier in the spring and extend further into the central Arctic Ocean and interior Greenland.

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Lead author Tingfeng Dou, a climatologist at the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said it would mean “the arrival of a new Arctic”.

“Precipitation in the past was mainly confined to the edges of the Greenland Ice Sheet,” he said in a press release.

The study authors, Chinese and Dutch researchers, said more frequent and intense rainfall in the Arctic is expected to increase the melting of permafrost, releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases, as well as reducing land cover. of snow and accelerate the loss of sea ice.

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They said it should also lead to more rain-on-snow events, where rain falls on the existing snowpack and freezes, resulting in an ice crust on top of or inside the snow. This can have serious consequences for foraging animals like reindeer, as their food is trapped under the ice, and socio-economic impacts for people who depend on them for food, clothing, transport and practices. cultural.

“Even ordinary rainfall can be considered an extreme event in polar regions,” Dou said.

Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who was not involved in the recent study, studies rain-on-snow events and their impact on human environmental systems like the reindeer herding. He said there have been instances where tens of thousands of reindeer and musk oxen have died because they could not feed following rains.

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“The impacts can span generations,” he said, noting this can lead to increased calf mortality. “These are quite large effects and the real concern is that we will see more of them as climate change happens.”

Serreze said that in a warmer environment, the atmosphere can carry more water vapor, leading to more precipitation. A warmer climate also brings more rain than snow.

The study found that the predicted precipitation changes are largely due to the rapid warming of the Arctic, which is warming three times faster than the global average. The increase in total precipitation was also a contributing factor.

Other scientists agree that the Arctic will become wetter in the 21st century.

Michelle McCrystall is a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Earth Observation Science at the University of Manitoba. She was the lead author of a study published last November, which predicted the Arctic could see more rain than snow as early as 2050, decades earlier than previously thought.

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McCrystall said weather station data indicates the region is already seeing the transition to less snow and more rain.

“What really amazed us was kind of how fast the change is happening,” she said.

McCrystall said other potential impacts of the shift to a rainier Arctic include changes in ocean circulation and sea levels due to an influx of fresh water and an increase in phytoplankton as sea ice thickens. warms up. She said changes in the Arctic could also affect the climate at lower latitudes, pointing to a 2018 snowstorm across much of Europe, dubbed the “Beast from the East”, which was caused by loss of ice in the Barents Sea.

“There are a lot of changes on a local scale, but it can also affect the climate in the northern hemisphere.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on October 8, 2022.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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