A regional climate model with high horizontal resolution (25 km) is used to downscale 20-year-long time slices of present-day (1980–1999) and future (2046–2065, 2080–2099) Arctic climate, as simulated by the ECHAM5/MPI-OM general circulation model under the A1B emission scenario. Changes in simulated air temperature and derived indices at the end of the century indicate that significant impacts on permafrost conditions should be expected. But the magnitude of the change is regionally conditioned beyond what is obvious: Warm permafrost in the sporadic to discontinuous zone is threatened and may degrade or even complete thaw before the end of the century. A decrease in freezing and increase in thawing degree-days is interpreted as potential decrease in seasonal freeze depth and increase in active layer thickness (ALT). We show that for some regions increasing maximum summer temperature is associated with an increase of interannual temperature variability in summer, while in other regions decreased maximum summer temperatures are related to decreased variability. The occurrence of warm/cold summers and spells changes significantly in the future time slices using the present-day criteria for classification. Taken together this implies a regionally varying exposure to significant change in permafrost conditions. In addition to these aspects of the general warming trend that would promote an increase in ALT and a northward shift of the southern permafrost boundary, an analysis of the occurrence of warm summers and spells highlight some particularly vulnerable regions for permafrost degradation (e.g. West Siberian Plain, Laptev Sea coast, Canadian Archipelago), but also some less vulnerable regions (e.g. Mackenzie Mountains).