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Arctic's wintry blanket can be warming

Forest snows keep northern soils relatively toasty, diminishing how much climate-warming carbon they can sequester

Arctic winters may be snowy and cold, but a deep blanket of snow can actually keep the soil surface fairly warm, a new study finds — at least in taiga, the conifer forests that may constitute almost half of the Arctic’s land cover.

Temperature plays a major role in determining not only plants’ uptake of climate-warming carbon, but also the soil’s potential for storing the element.

Scientists who develop computer programs to evaluate climate under changing conditions know this. Yet for convenience, their simulations have largely treated Arctic snows as if they blanket forest-free tundra, notes climate modeler Isabelle Gouttevin of the CNRS/University Joseph Fourier-Grenoble in France.

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