Climate Science

Snowy Blanket

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Science  08 Aug 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5634, pp. 735
DOI: 10.1126/science.301.5634.735b

One characteristic of the global warming that is currently under way—and which is expected to continue as the atmospheric burden of anthropogenic greenhouse gases increases—is that the magnitude of warming at high latitudes is greater than that at low latitudes. Areas of permafrost, therefore, are particularly susceptible to melting, with the potential consequence that they will become large sources of carbon dioxide, intensifying the buildup of greenhouse gases. Stieglitz et al. discuss a rarely considered aspect of predicting the amount of warming that will occur in these areas: the role of snow cover. Their models indicate that the sharp rise of borehole temperatures over the past decade in these regions may have been as much a function of snow cover and depth as of air temperature. They suggest that a better understanding of this effect and of changes in winter precipitation and snow are needed to understand how permafrost regions will be affected in a warmer world. — HJS

Geophys. Res. Lett. 10.1029/2003GL017337 (2003).

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