Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Observed soil temperature trends associated with climate change in Canada

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Abstract

[1] Trends in soil temperature are important, but rarely reported, indicators of climate change. On the basis of the soil temperature data from 30 climate stations across Canada during 1958–2008, trends in soil temperatures at 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 150 cm depths were analyzed, together with atmospheric variables, such as air temperature, precipitation, and depth of snow on the ground, observed at the same locations. There was a significant positive trend with soil temperatures in spring and summer means, but not for the winter and annual means. A positive trend with time in soil temperature was detected at about two-thirds of the stations at all depths below 5 cm. A warming trend of 0.26–0.30°C/decade was consistently detected in spring (March–April–May) at all depths between 1958 and 2008. The warming trend in soil temperatures was associated with trends in air temperatures and snow cover depth over the same period. A significant decreasing trend in snow cover depth in winter and spring was associated with increasing air temperatures. The combined effects of the higher air temperature and reduced snow depth probably resulted in an enhanced increasing trend in spring soil temperatures, but no significant trends in winter soil temperatures. The thermal insulation by snow cover appeared to play an important role in the response of soil temperatures to climate change and must be accounted for in projecting future soil-related impacts of climate change.

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