Climate models project a strong increase in Arctic precipitation over the coming century, which has been attributed primarily to enhanced surface evaporation associated with sea-ice retreat. Since the Arctic is still quite cold, especially in winter, it is often (implicitly) assumed that the additional precipitation will fall mostly as snow. However, little is known about future changes in the distributions of rainfall and snowfall in the Arctic.

The onset of major glaciations in the Northern Hemisphere about 2.7 million years ago was most probably induced by climate cooling during the late Pliocene epoch. These glaciations, during which the Northern Hemisphere ice sheets successively expanded and retreated, are superimposed on this long-term climate trend, and have been linked to variations in the Earth's orbital parameters.