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Role of Land-Surface Changes in Arctic Summer Warming

Science  28 Oct 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5748, pp. 657-660
DOI: 10.1126/science.1117368

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Abstract

A major challenge in predicting Earth's future climate state is to understand feedbacks that alter greenhouse-gas forcing. Here we synthesize field data from arctic Alaska, showing that terrestrial changes in summer albedo contribute substantially to recent high-latitude warming trends. Pronounced terrestrial summer warming in arctic Alaska correlates with a lengthening of the snow-free season that has increased atmospheric heating locally by about 3 watts per square meter per decade (similar in magnitude to the regional heating expected over multiple decades from a doubling of atmospheric CO2). The continuation of current trends in shrub and tree expansion could further amplify this atmospheric heating by two to seven times.

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