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Why does it rain in Antarctica?


The Antarctic sea, January 20, 2024. /CFP
The Antarctic sea, January 20, 2024. /CFP

The Antarctic sea, January 20, 2024. /CFP

The Antarctica is surrounded by oceans and covered with ice and snow, but it is one of the driest places in the world. In January, there was rainfall in Antarctica. Why did this happen?

The rain lasted for less than two hours. The Zhongshan station has only recorded seven rainfalls since it was founded in 1989.

"The Antarctic rainfall event is related to the warming of the Antarctic." says Zhu Dingzhen, a member of Cast Expert Team For Science Communication.  The temperature at the poles is rising rapidly, even faster than the global average temperature rise, Zhu says. Updrafts may appear in the polar regions, which may also cause ice and snow to melt and water vapor, which may lead to rainfall under certain conditions.

"Affected by global warming, it is very likely that following this trend, rainfall events at the edge of the Antarctic ice sheet will increase in the future," Zhu said.

According to Zhu, changes in sea ice also affect Antarctic rainfall. Since 2023, Antarctic sea ice has remained at a low level. When the warm and moist air from the Indian Ocean enters the Antarctic, it cannot be sufficiently cooled in the sea ice area, resulting in rainfall on the Antarctic edge.

What impact will rainfall have on the Antarctic region? Zhu said the freezing rain was also seen at Australia's Davis research station. The ground temperature in Antarctica is low, so when the rain falls on the ground, it will become ice. As the baby penguins' feathers are not waterproof, if the rain falls on them, it may lead to frostbite to baby penguins.

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