The influence of trends in sea ice concentration (SIC) and cloud cover on trends in surface temperature over the Arctic Ocean from 1982 to 2004 is investigated analytically, and evaluated empirically with satellite products. The results demonstrate that changes in SIC and cloud cover played major roles in the magnitude of recent Arctic surface temperature trends. Significant surface warming associated with sea ice loss, over 0.9 K decade−1, is found over the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in autumn, accounting for most of the observed 1.1 K decade−1 warming trend. If the mean SIC over the Arctic Ocean in each season is reduced by half, our analysis shows that the surface temperature will increase by approximately 10 K in winter and 6 K in spring and autumn. In winter, surface temperature trends associated with changes in cloud cover are negative over most of the Arctic Ocean, and with cloud cover trends explaining −0.91 out of −1.2 K decade−1 of the surface temperature cooling. In spring, 0.55 K decade−1 of the total 1.0 K decade−1 warming can be attributed to the trend associated with cloud cover changes. After eliminating the effects of changes in SIC and cloud cover on surface temperature trends, the residual surface temperature trends can be used in a more robust diagnosis of surface warming or cooling in the Arctic. The same procedure can be applied to study the impact of changes in sea ice thickness, ocean inflow, and other parameters on the temperature trends, and to completely different sets of climate variables, whether they are measured or modeled.