Air temperatures at high latitudes are expected to rise significantly as anthropogenic carbon builds up in the atmosphere. There is concern that warming of the ground in permafrost regions will result in additional release of carbon to the atmosphere. Recent emphasis has thus been on predicting the magnitude and spatial distribution of future warming at high latitudes. Modeling results show that changes in below ground temperatures can be influenced as much by temporal variations of snow cover as by changes in the near-surface air temperature. The recent (1983-1998) changes in permafrost temperatures on the North Slope of Alaska are consistent with decadal scale variability in snow cover. The implication of these results is that a better understanding of how winter precipitation patterns at high latitudes will change over the coming decades is needed to comprehend evolving permafrost temperatures.
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