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Arctic ‘April showers’

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By the Catlin Arctic Survey Explorer Team

The scientists and staff at the Catlin Arctic Survey Ice Base in the high Arctic off Ellef Ringnes island in the Canadian high Arctic have reported an abnormal occurrence at the weekend: it rained.

Paul Ramsden, the Catlin Arctic Survey ice base manager, reported big raindrops fell during the shower. “I had to look twice. Snow flurries we expect, not rain. It is obviously quite worrying when you are camped out on ice! I felt distinctly nervous for a while because the consequences of getting wet here can be serious – but eventually it stopped and we are all safe,” he said.

April rain in more southerly climes may be common, but according to the metrological services at Environment Canada – rain in the high Arctic around 79 degrees north in April is extremely rare. Experienced arctic explorer Pen Hadow, who is expedition director of the project said: “Rain that far north is not at all normal at this time of year. According to the Canadian met services there was also some rain at Borden Camp a hundred miles away. We’re told that southerly winds to the west of a strong high pressure that’s been sitting south of Resolute Bay have been pumping very warm air from way down south up over Borden and Ellef Ringnes Islands for the past week. It is pretty unusual for such a strong southerly to push warm air over this area in April.”

The Canadian weather office website quotes the following ‘normals’ at Isachsen which is just some 20miles to the east of the Ice Base:

Canadian Climate Normals 1951-1980: Isachsen: April Rainfall: Nil

Pen Hadow added: “We have been told there will be more unpredicted events like this as the climate of the region warms. Our team up there have already reported many locals people at Resolute have also been commenting on the unusual warmth of the winter this year.

“Expeditions don’t expect to be confronted by rain and arctic gear – clothing and tents – are certainly not made for rain. Polar clothing is made to be breathable not waterproof and if it gets wet it just freezes, making it less effective in keeping body heat inside. The Arctic is normally very dry, but of course very cold, so I’m really pleased for the team that it didn’t rain for too long.”

The Ice Base is part of a scientific expedition which is sponsored by Catlin Group Limited, an international specialty insurer and reinsurer. It is located in the high Arctic where its international team of scientists is studying the impact of rising carbon dioxide levels on the Arctic Ocean.

The Catlin Arctic Survey 2010 is focused on what is widely considered to be the ‘other’ carbon problem beyond climate change – that of ocean change, researching how greenhouse gases could affect the marine life of the Arctic ocean. Laura Edwards, a researcher from Bangor University in Wales, and Rod Macrae, Head of Communications at Geo Mission, are blogging for WWF throughout the Survey from the Catlin Arctic Survey Ice Base in Nunavut, northern Canada – please come back regularly for their updates.

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