Climate Dynamics

, Volume 34, Issue 6, pp 859–872 | Cite as

Using a global climate model to evaluate the influences of water vapor, snow cover and atmospheric aerosol on warming in the Tibetan Plateau during the twenty-first century

  • Imtiaz Rangwala
  • James R. Miller
  • Gary L. Russell
  • Ming Xu


We examine trends in climate variables and their interrelationships over the Tibetan Plateau using global climate model simulations to elucidate the mechanisms for the pattern of warming observed over the plateau during the latter half of the twentieth century and to investigate the warming trend during the twenty-first century under the SRES A1B scenario. Our analysis suggests a 4°C warming over the plateau between 1950 and 2100. The largest warming rates occur during winter and spring. For the 1961–2000 period, the simulated warming is similar to the observed trend over the plateau. Moreover, the largest warming occurs at the highest elevation sites between 1950 and 2100. We find that increases in (1) downward longwave radiation (DLR) influenced by increases in surface specific humidity (q), and (2) absorbed solar radiation (ASR) influenced by decreases in snow cover extent are, in part, the reason for a large warming trend over the plateau, particularly during winter and spring. Furthermore, elevation-based increases in DLR (influenced by q) and ASR (influenced by snow cover and atmospheric aerosols) appear to affect the elevation dependent warming trend simulated in the model.


Climate change High elevation Tibetan Plateau Global climate model Specific humidity Downward longwave 



We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments that have significantly improved our manuscript. Partial support for JRM has been provided by Project #32103 from the NJ Agricultural Experiment Station.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Imtiaz Rangwala
    • 1
  • James R. Miller
    • 2
  • Gary L. Russell
    • 3
  • Ming Xu
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Environmental SciencesRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Marine and Coastal SciencesRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  3. 3.NASA Goddard Institute for Space StudiesNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  5. 5.Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural ResourcesRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

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