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Clear Decline in June Snow Cover Extent across the Far North

January 9, 2013; 10:36 PM ET

Snow cover extent across the far northern latitudes for the month of June has steadily declined, especially since the mid 1990's. Data from the Rutgers University Snow Lab goes back to 1967.

Studies of snow cover published in Geophysical Research Letters and the Arctic Report Card: Update for 2012 found that, between 1979 and 2012, June snow cover extent decreased by 17.6 percent per decade compared to the 1979-2000 average.

In the Rutgers Global Snow Lab image below, above-average extent appears in shades of blue, and below-average extent appears in shades of orange. You can see that the below-average extent is much more common in recent years.

The snow-cover study authors, Chris Derksen and Ross Brown, found an overall decline in snow cover from 1967 through 2012, and also detected an acceleration of snow loss after the year 2003. (via NASA).

According to the NASA Earth Observatory article the Geophysical Research Letters study pointed out that declining snow cover raises ground temperatures and increases the thickness of the active layer-the uppermost layer of permafrost that thaws each summer. When organic material in thawing permafrost decomposes, it can release methane, a potent greenhouse gas when released to the atmosphere.

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