North Pole rainfall íbizarreí: climatologist
2010-04-30 0:00


Spring showers are next to non-existent in the High Arctic, so Environment Canadaís senior climatologist says heís baffled to hear that it rained near the North Pole this week.

A group of British scientists working off Ellef Ringnes Island, near the North Pole, reported being hit with a three-minute rain shower over the weekend. The group reported the rain on Tuesday.

Rain in the High Arctic in April is nothing short of bizarre, said David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada.

"My business is weird, wild and wacky weather, and this is up there among fish falling from the sky or Niagara Falls running dry," Phillips told CBC News in an interview that aired Thursday.

"I mean, it really is strange. You just donít expect it to rain in the High Arctic in April; maybe in July and August. And certainly for these scientists from Europe coming over, they must have been also mystified."

Phillips said 50 to 60 years of historical weather data show no signs of rainfall ever occurring in April in the High Arctic.

The earliest account of measurable rainfall at Canadian Forces Station Alert took place on May 21, 1988, he said.

At a weather station on Ellef Ringnes Island, where the scientists were conducting their experiments, Phillips said the earliest measured rainfall was on June 7, 1975.

"For the end of April, it is really bizarre," he said.

Climate change research

The scientific group was on Ellef Ringnes Island as part of the Catlin Arctic Survey, which is gathering data on the effects of climate change on the Arctic Ocean.

The researchers have been working on determining the amount of carbon dioxide thatís trapped in the ocean.

"Itís definitely a shocker Ö the general feeling within the polar community is that rainfall in the high Canadian Arctic in April is a freak event," Pen Hadow, the teamís expedition director, told Reuters in an interview from London this week.

"Scientists would tell us that we can expect increasingly to experience these sorts of outcomes as the climate warms."

Tyler Fish, a polar guide at the base, said the rain fell after temperatures had been rising for a couple of days.

"I think we were disappointed. Rain isnít something you expect in the Arctic and a lot of us came up here to be away from that kind of weather," he told Reuters.

"We worry that if itís too warm maybe some of the scientific samples will start to thaw ... or the food will get too warm and spoil."

Phillips said it would be difficult to tell how much rain had fallen, as the scientists probably did not bring rain gauges with them.

Environment Canada meteorologists will examine weather patterns to try to understand the unusual rainfall, he said.

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[Interesting comment: "Is it possible that due to the ash from the Iceland volcano, an oddity occurred in the normal weather?" ~NearlyGenius]

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