Climate Dynamics

, Volume 51, Issue 5–6, pp 2209–2227 | Cite as

Spatiotemporal variations of annual shallow soil temperature on the Tibetan Plateau during 1983–2013

  • Fuxin Zhu
  • Lan CuoEmail author
  • Yongxin Zhang
  • Jing-Jia Luo
  • Dennis P. Lettenmaier
  • Yumei Lin
  • Zhe Liu


Soil temperature changes in cold regions can have great impacts on the land surface energy and water balance, and hence changes in weather and climate, surface and subsurface hydrology and ecosystem. We investigate the spatiotemporal variations of annual soil temperature at depths of 0, 5, 10, 15, 20, and 40 cm during 1983–2013 using observations at 85 stations on the Tibetan Plateau (TP). Our results show that the climatological soil temperatures exhibit a similar spatial pattern among different depths and they are generally higher than surface air temperature at the individual stations. Spatially averaged soil temperature show that the TP has experienced significant warming trends at all six depths during 1983–2013, and the soil at 0-cm depth has the fastest warming rate among all the six layers and the surface air temperature. The first leading mode of joint empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis exhibits a spatially prevailing warming pattern across the six depths. This plateau-wide soil warming correlates very well with surface air temperature and sea surface temperature in response to increasing radiative forcing caused by greenhouse gases. The joint EOF2 displays a southeastern-northwestern dipole pattern on the TP in the interannual-decadal variability of soil temperature at all layers, which appears to be related to the warm season precipitation and anomalous atmospheric circulations. The spatial difference of soil warming rates across stations on the TP is associated primarily with the spatial distribution of precipitation (mainly rainfall), with vegetation, snowfall and elevation playing a rather limited role.


Soil temperature Tibetan Plateau Climate change Joint empirical orthogonal function (joint EOF) 



This study is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant 41571067) and the International Partnership Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant 131C11KYSB20160061), and National Basic Research Program (Grant 2013CB956004).

Supplementary material

382_2017_4008_MOESM1_ESM.docx (34 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 34 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fuxin Zhu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lan Cuo
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Yongxin Zhang
    • 4
  • Jing-Jia Luo
    • 5
  • Dennis P. Lettenmaier
    • 6
  • Yumei Lin
    • 2
    • 7
  • Zhe Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Tibetan Environment Changes and Land Surface Processes, Institute of Tibetan Plateau ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth SciencesChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.National Center for Atmospheric ResearchBoulderUSA
  5. 5.Australian Bureau of MeteorologyMelbourneAustralia
  6. 6.Department of GeographyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  7. 7.Key Laboratory of Resource Use and Environmental Remediation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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