After six weeks of darkness unbroken by so much as a single ray of golden sunlight, global warming threw a monkey into the wrench of tradition in Ilulissat, Greenland.
Beginning December 22 (the day after the date of winter solstice) Greenlanders look forward with steadily building anticipation to January 13 when the first rays of sunshine have historically come to spend a few minutes in their company.
Imagine their astonishment this year when, at approximately noon January 11, a full two days early, a few feeble photons illuminated the unsuspecting denizens of daytime darkness. Never mind that celebrations of the return of the big guy in the golden chariot were now going to be two days lateÂ… ignore the humiliation of politicians welcoming the first light two days after it arrivedÂ… forget that building excitement short-circuited is the let-down of the agesÂ… the true issue is: how did this happen?
Has axial precession taken a sudden lurch eastward? Was the EarthÂ’s crust swollen by the heat of global warming, raising the Greenlanders above the horizon? Did the earthÂ’s magnetic field wander afield and move the planetÂ’s axis center-ward? Did the peripatetic wanderings of the EarthÂ’s continents reach a tipping point, and suddenly leave too much mass on one side of the planet, causing irregularity in its rotation? No, none of those things happened.
However, in a different way global warming does appear to be the culprit (but it didnÂ’t expand the EarthÂ’s crust; itÂ’s the oceans that expand in the presence of heat, not the crust). What it did do was to raise GreenlandÂ’s mean temperature by three degrees centigrade (aka Celsius).
The upshot has been a melting of its glaciers severe enough that sunlight generally blocked from the western half of Greenland until January 13 can now reach those previously darkened climes two days earlier.
A useful graphic can be found in the linked Gizmodo article.