Accelerated release of carbon from soils is one of the most important feed backs related to anthropogenically induced climate change. Studies addressing the mechanisms for soil carbon release through organic matter decomposition have focused on the effect of changes in the average temperature, with little attention to changes in temperature vari-ability. Anthropogenic activities are likely to modify both the average state and the variability of the climatic system; therefore, the effects of future warming on decomposition should not only focus on trends in the average temperature, but also variability expressed as a change of the probability distribution of temperature.Using analytical and numerical analyses we tested common relationships between temperature and respiration and found that the variability of temperature plays an important role determining respiration rates of soil organic matter. Changes in temperature variability, without changes in the average temperature, can affect the amount of carbon released through respiration over the long term. Furthermore, simultaneous changes in the average and variance of temperature can either amplify or dampen there release of carbon through soil respiration as climate regimes change. The effects depend on the degree of convexity of the relationship between temperature and respiration and the magnitude of the change in temperature variance. A potential consequence of this effect of variability would be higher respiration in regions where both the mean and variance of temperature are expected to increase, such as in some low latitude regions; and lower amounts of respiration where the average temperature is expected to increase and the variance to decrease, such as in northern high latitudes.