Changing climate and warming atmosphere are supposed to result in changing thermal regimes of soils with a spectrum of impacts for terrestrial heat-flow, ecological and biochemical processes including vegetation and carbon dynamics. Here, six sites within an area of significant recent climatic warming, between 70° and 60°N, provided data of air and soil temperatures and snow depth to analyze the spatiotemporal air–soil temperature associations during the period 1971–2010. The air temperatures exhibited significant trends of warming across the boreal and subarctic regions. The records of snow depth showed trends of snowpack thinning and the soil temperature trends of warming especially in the southern and middle boreal sites. The boreal and subarctic sites showed predominant influence of air temperature variability on soil thermal conditions, with modulating effects of thermoinsulation caused by the snowpack. The yearly variations in soil temperatures correlated highly with those of air temperatures and the positive trend in soil temperatures was sufficiently explained by air temperature warming in the majority of the sites. The results thus propose that the climate change could be directly causing alterations in the soil thermal regime and the warming of soils, with generally expected continuation, driven by air temperature warming as projected by model simulations. The thermoinsulation effects during the winter were strongest in the northern boreal zone where the temperature difference between the air and soil temperatures was largest and the correlations between snow depth and soil temperatures were highest during the winter months. Likewise, the rate of air temperature warming appeared strongest in our northern boreal site where the soil temperature warming showed non-significant trend only. The evidence for temporal air–soil temperature decouplings and spatial disparity between the air and soil temperature data both expressed the importance of studying the soil temperature change in situ. In the same context, the potential for temperature induced soil organic carbon decomposition coincided spatially with the highest quantities of available carbon as indicated for our boreal and subarctic soils.

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