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Vital Signs

Terrestrial Snow Cover

Many components of the Arctic land surface are directly influenced by snow cover from fall through spring, including the surface energy budget, ground thermal regime, permafrost, and terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems.

Fig. 1. Seasonal departures of precipitation from the 1991-2020 climatological means for autumn 2021 (OND


Globally, precipitation over land has likely increased since 1950, consistent with increases in total atmospheric moisture. Climate models project an increase in Arctic precipitation, a transition from snowfall- to rainfall-dominated climates, and a higher frequency of heavy precipitation events.

Fig. 1. Total mass change (Gt) of the Greenland ice sheet from April 2002 to mid-August 2022 determined from GRACE (2002-17) and GRACE-FO (2018-Present) satellite data.

Greenland Ice Sheet

Ice loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet has immediate and global influence on sea level rise, with impacts including coastal erosion, saltwater inundation of freshwater resources, and increased flooding frequency.

Tundra Greenness

The biological, physical and climatic conditions of Arctic tundra ecosystems are changing profoundly, as vegetation and underlying permafrost soils are strongly influenced by warming air temperatures and the rapid decline of sea ice on the nearby Arctic Ocean.

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