More Rain Than Snow in Arctic as Early as 2060

More Rain Than Snow in Arctic as Early as 2060

The Arctic has been warming nearly three times faster than the rest of the world. And according to a new study, a dramatic tipping point is coming sooner than projected: if there aren't serious carbon emission cuts, there will be more rain than snow in the Arctic as early as 2060 -- 30 years sooner than past estimates. The most noticeable shift in precipitation would happen during the autumn. Researchers also note that these changes could happen even under 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, the Paris Agreement target that the world is currently not on track to meet.

Why This Matters

Changes in the Arctic have local and global implications. Increased rainfall would upend traditions for local Indigenous communities and devastate wildlife like wild caribou. And rain instead of snow means the region's ice cap will melt more quickly, hastening sea level rise. Further, changing ocean currents disrupt marine ecosystems and thawing tundra -- the Arcitc's frozen soil -- releases additional carbon and methane emissions. "What happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic," Michelle McCrystall, a lead author of the study and University of Manitoba researcher, told CNN.

Precipitation Loops

Ice, snow, and rainfall are all directly tied to why the Arctic is heating up so much faster than the rest of the planet. The white polar ice caps are more reflective and absorb less sunlight than land or water. But when the ice melts and reveals a darker surface below, the ground absorbs more sunlight and speeds warming. The melting reflective polar ice is connected to as much as 50% of global warming, Steve Turton, former President of the Institute of Australian Geographers, writes for The Conversation.

Now This: How Melting Arctic Ice Affects the Earth, August 22, 2021.

NASA: Arctic Sea Ice Reaches 2021 Minimum Extent, September 22, 2021.