Rain falls at the summit of Greenland Ice Sheet for first time on record

August 19, 2021
Kasha Patel | Capital Weather Gang, The Washington Post

It occurred as Greenland experienced a major melting event again.

Greenland just experienced another massive melt event this year. But this time, something unusual happened. It also rained at the summit of the ice sheet, nearly two miles above sea level.

Around 6 a.m. Saturday, staff at the National Science Foundation’s Summit Station woke up to raindrops and water beads condensed on the station’s windows. Rain occasionally falls on the ice sheet, but no staff member recalls rain — even a light drizzle — ever occurring at the summit before.

“Basically, the entire day of Saturday, it was raining every hour that [staff] was making weather observations,” said Zoe Courville, a research engineer at the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory. “And that’s the first time that’s been observed happening at the station.”

The rain coincided with warmer temperatures that caused extensive melting across the ice sheet. Some areas were more than 18 degrees Celsius warmer than the average temperature. At the summit, temperatures peaked at 33 degrees Fahrenheit — within a degree above freezing.