A tree ring-based winter temperature reconstruction for the southeastern Tibetan Plateau since 1340 CE

  • Ru Huang
  • Haifeng ZhuEmail author
  • Eryuan Liang
  • Bo Liu
  • Jiangfeng Shi
  • Ruibo Zhang
  • Yujiang Yuan
  • Jussi Grießinger


Climatic change is exhibiting significant effects on the ecosystem of the Tibetan Plateau (TP), a climate-sensitive area. In particularly, winter frost, freezing events and snow avalanche frequently causing severe effects on ecosystem and social economy, however, few long-term winter temperature records or reconstructions hinder a better understanding on variations in winter temperature in the vast area of the TP. In this paper, we present a minimum winter (November–February) temperature reconstruction for the past 668 years based on a tree-ring network (12 new tree-ring chronologies) on the southeastern TP. The reconstruction exhibits decadal to inter-decadal temperature variability, with cold periods occurring in 1423–1508, 1592–1651, 1729–1768, 1798–1847, 1892–1927, and 1958–1981, and warm periods in 1340–1422, 1509–1570, 1652–1728, 1769–1797, 1848–1891, 1928–1957, and 1982–2007. As suggested by the comparisons with existing winter temperature series and spatial correlations with Climatic Research Unit gridded data, our reconstruction is reliable and indicative, and it can represent large-scale winter temperature variability on the southeastern TP. Furthermore, it shows an overall agreement with winter temperature from the northeastern TP on decadal to inter-decadal timescales. It also shows the possible effects of volcanic eruption and reducing solar activity on the winter temperature variability for the past six centuries on the southeastern TP.


Dendroclimatology Southeastern Tibetan Plateau Winter temperature Solar activity Volcanic eruption 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 41571201, 41771240, 41661144040) and CAS “West Light Foundation” Program, and the Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences (No. XDA20050101). Data of tree-ring width chronologies and winter temperature reconstruction in the present study are available by contacting Dr. Haifeng Zhu ( The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

382_2019_4695_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.3 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1337 KB)


  1. Asad F, Zhu H, Zhang H et al (2017) Are Karakoram temperatures out of phase compared to hemispheric trends? Clim Dyn 48(9–10):3381–3390. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bayramzadeh V, Zhu H, Lu X et al (2018) Temperature variability in northern Iran during the past 700 years. Sci Bull 63:462–464. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Borgaonkar HP, Gandhi N, Ram S, Krishnan R (2018) Tree-ring reconstruction of late summer temperatures in northern Sikkim (eastern Himalayas). Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 504:125–135. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bräuning A (2006) Tree-ring evidence of “Little Ice Age” glacier advances in southern Tibet. Holocene 16(3):369–380. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bunn AG (2008) A dendrochronology program library in R (dplR). Dendrochronologia 26(2):115–124. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cai Q, Liu Y (2017) Two centuries temperature variations over subtropical southeast China inferred from Pinus taiwanensis Hayata tree-ring width. Clim Dyn 48(5–6):1813–1825. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cai Q, Liu Y, Wang Y, Ma Y, Liu H (2016) Recent warming evidence inferred from a tree-ring-based winter-half year minimum temperature reconstruction in northwestern Yichang, South Central China, and its relation to the large-scale circulation anomalies. Int J Biometeorol 60(12):1885–1896. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chen F, Yuan YJ, Wei WS, Yu SL, Zhang TW (2012) Tree ring-based winter temperature reconstruction for Changting, Fujian, subtropical region of Southeast China, since 1850: linkages to the Pacific Ocean. Theor Appl Climatol 109(1–2):141–151. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cook ER (1985) A time-series analysis approach to tree-ring standardization. Ph.D. dissertation, The University of Arizona, TusonGoogle Scholar
  10. Cook ER, Krusic PJ, Jones PD (2003) Dendroclimatic signals in long tree-ring chronologies from the Himalayas of Nepal. Int J Climatol 23(7):707–732. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cook ER, Krusic PJ, Anchukaitis KJ, Buckley BM, Nakatsuka T, Sano M (2013) Tree-ring reconstructed summer temperature anomalies for temperate East Asia since 800 CE. Clim Dyn 41(11–12):2957–2972. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Delaygue G, Bard E (2011) An Antarctic view of Beryllium-10 and solar activity for the past millennium. Clim Dyn 36(11–12):2201–2218. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Duan J, Zhang QB, Lv L, Zhang C (2012) Regional-scale winter-spring temperature variability and chilling damage dynamics over the past two centuries in southeastern China. Clim Dyn 39(3–4):919–928. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Duan J, Esper J, Büntgen U et al (2017) Weakening of annual temperature cycle over the Tibetan Plateau since the 1870s. Nat Commun 8:14008. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Esper J, Cook ER, Schweingruber FH (2002) Low-frequency signals in long tree-ring chronologies for reconstructing past temperature variability. Science 295(5563):2250–2253. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fan ZX, Bräuning A, Tian QH, Yang B, Cao KF (2010) Tree ring recorded May–August temperature variations since AD 1585 in the Gaoligong Mountains, southeastern Tibetan Plateau. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 296(1–2):94–102. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fang K, Guo Z, Chen D et al (2018) Interdecadal modulation of the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO) on southwest China’s temperature over the past 250 years. Clim Dyn. Google Scholar
  18. Fritts HC (1976) Tree rings and climate. Academic, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  19. Fu YH, Campioli M, Deckmyn G, Janssens IA (2012) The impact of winter and spring temperatures on temperate tree budburst dates: results from an experimental climate manipulation. PLoS One, 7(10):e47324. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gao C, Gao Y, Zhang Q, Shi C (2017) Climatic aftermath of the 1815 Tambora eruption in China. J Meteorol Res 31(1):28–38. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gou X, Chen F, Jacoby G, Cook E, Yang M, Peng J, Zhang Y (2007) Rapid tree growth with respect to the last 400 years in response to climate warming, northeastern Tibetan Plateau. Int J Climatol 27(11):1497–1503. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gouhier TC, Grinsted A, Simko V (2018) R package biwavelet: conduct univariate and bivariate wavelet analyses (Version 0.20.17). Available from
  23. Gray ST, Graumlich LJ, Betancourt JL, Pederson GT (2004) A tree-ring based reconstruction of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation since 1567 AD. Geophys Res Lett 31(12):L12205. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Guiot J (1991) The bootstrapped response function. Tree-Ring Bull 51:39–41Google Scholar
  25. Harris I, Jones PD, Osborn TJ, Lister DH (2014) Updated high-resolution grids of monthly climatic observations-the CRU TS3.10 Dataset. Int J Climatol 34:623–642. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hochreuther P, Loibl D, Wernicke J, Zhu H, Grießinger J, Bräuning A (2015) Ages of major Little Ice Age glacier fluctuations on the southeast Tibetan Plateau derived from tree-ring-based moraine dating. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 422:1–10. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hollesen J, Buchwal A, Rachlewicz G, Hansen BU, Hansen MO, Stecher O, Elberling B (2015) Winter warming as an important co-driver for Betula nana growth in western Greenland during the past century. Glob Change Biol 21(6):2410–2423. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Holmes RL (1983) Computer-assisted quality control in tree-ring dating and measurement. Tree-Ring Bull 43:69–75Google Scholar
  29. Körner C (2012) Alpine treelines: functional ecology of the global high elevation tree limits. Springer Science Business Media, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Krusic PJ, Cook ER, Dukpa D, Putnam AE, Rupper S, Schaefer J (2015) Six hundred thirty-eight years of summer temperature variability over the Bhutanese Himalaya. Geophys Res Lett 42(8):2988–2994. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kuang X, Jiao JJ (2016) Review on climate change on the Tibetan Plateau during the last half century. J Geophys Res Atmos 121:3979–4007. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kurths J, Spiering C, Müller-Stoll W, Triegler U (1993) Search for solar periodicities in Miocene tree ring widths. Terra Nova 5(4):359–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Li M, Huang L, Yin ZY, Shao X (2017) Temperature reconstruction and volcanic eruption signal from tree-ring width and maximum latewood density over the past 304 years in the southeastern Tibetan Plateau. Int J Biometeorol 61(11):2021–2032. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Liang E, Shao X, Qin N (2008) Tree-ring based summer temperature reconstruction for the source region of the Yangtze River on the Tibetan Plateau. Glob Planet Change 61(3–4):313–320. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Liang E, Shao X, Xu Y (2009) Tree-ring evidence of recent abnormal warming on the southeast Tibetan Plateau. Theor Appl Climatol 98(1–2):9–18. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Liang E, Wang Y, Piao S et al (2016) Species interactions slow warming-induced upward shifts of treelines on the Tibetan Plateau. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 113(16):4380–4385. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Liu X, Chen B (2000) Climatic warming in the Tibetan Plateau during recent decades. Int J Climatol 20(14):1729–1742.<1729::AID-JOC556>3.0.CO;2-Y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Liu Y, An Z, Linderholm HW et al (2009) Annual temperatures during the last 2485 years in the mid-eastern Tibetan Plateau inferred from tree rings. Chin Sci Bull 52(3):348–359. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lu X, Liang E, Wang Y, Babst F, Leavitt S, Camarero JJ (2019) Past the climate optimum: recruitment is declining at the world’s highest juniper shrublines on the Tibetan Plateau. Ecology 100(2):e02557. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Luterbacher J, Pfister C (2015) The year without a summer. Nat Geosci 8(4):246. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mann ME, Jones P (2003) Global surface temperatures over the past two millennia, Geophys Res Lett, 30(15):1820. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Michaelsen J (1987) Cross-validation in statistical climate forecast models. J Clim Appl Meteorol 26:1589–1600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Opała M, Mendecki MJ (2014) An attempt to dendroclimatic reconstruction of winter temperature based on multispecies tree-ring widths and extreme years chronologies (example of Upper Silesia, Southern Poland). Theor Appl Climatol 115(1–2):73–89. Google Scholar
  44. Pederson N, Cook ER, Jacoby GC, Peteet DM, Griffin KL (2004) The influence of winter temperatures on the annual radial growth of six northern range margin tree species. Dendrochronologia 22(1):7–29. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. R Core Team (2018) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna.
  46. Raspopov OM, Dergachev VA, Kolström T (2004) Periodicity of climate conditions and solar variability derived from dendrochronological and other palaeoclimatic data in high latitudes. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 209(1–4):127–139. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Shi J, Cook ER, Lu H, Li J, Wright WE, Li S (2010) Tree-ring based winter temperature reconstruction for the lower reaches of the Yangtze River in southeast China. Clim Res 41(2):169–175. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Shi F, Yang B, Von Gunten L (2012) Preliminary multiproxy surface air temperature field reconstruction for China over the past millennium. Sci China Earth Sci 55(12):2058–2067CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Shi S, Li J, Shi J, Zhao Y, Huang G (2017) Three centuries of winter temperature change on the southeastern Tibetan Plateau and its relationship with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. Clim Dyn 49(4):1305–1319. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sigdel SR, Wang Y, Julio Camarero J, Zhu H, Liang E, Peñuelas J (2018) Moisture-mediated responsiveness of treeline shifts to global warming in the Himalayas. Glob Change Biol 24(11):5549–5559. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Thompson LG, Yao T, Davis ME, Mosley-Thompson E, Wu G, Porter SE et al (2018) Ice core records of climate variability on the Third Pole with emphasis on the Guliya ice cap, western Kunlun Mountains. Quat Sci Rev 188:1–14. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Ukhvatkina ON, Omelko AM, Zhmerenetsky AA, Petrenko TY (2018) Autumn–winter minimum temperature changes in the southern Sikhote-Alin mountain range of northeastern Asia since 1529 AD. Clim Past 14:57–71. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wang L, Duan J, Chen J, Huang L, Shao X (2010) Temperature reconstruction from tree-ring maximum density of Balfour spruce in eastern Tibet, China. Int J Climatol 30(7):972–979. Google Scholar
  54. Wang J, Yang B, Qin C, Kang S, He M, Wang Z (2014) Tree-ring inferred annual mean temperature variations on the southeastern Tibetan Plateau during the last millennium and their relationships with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. Clim Dyn 43(3–4):627–640. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wang Y, Liang E, Ellison AM, Lu X, Camarero JJ (2015) Facilitation stabilizes moisture-controlled alpine juniper shrublines in the central Tibetan Plateau. Glob Planet Change 132:20–30. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wang B, Chen T, Xu G, Wu G, Li C (2016) Reconstructed annual mean temperatures for the northeastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau: associations with the East Asian monsoons and volcanic events. Int J Climatol 37(6):3044–3056. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Williams CM, Henry HA, Sinclair BJ (2015) Cold truths: how winter drives responses of terrestrial organisms to climate change. Biol Rev 90(1):214–235. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wilson R, Anchukaitis K, Briffa KR et al (2016) Last millennium northern hemisphere summer temperatures from tree rings: part I: the long term context. Quat Sci Rev 134:1–18. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Xu P, Zhu H, Shao X, Yin Z (2012) Tree ring-dated fluctuation history of Midui glacier since the Little Ice Age in the southeastern Tibetan Plateau. Chin Sci Bull 55(4):521–529. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Yang B, Kang X, Liu J, Bräuning A, Qin C (2010) Annual temperature history in Southwest Tibet during the last 400 years recorded by tree rings. Int J Climatol 30(7):962–971. Google Scholar
  61. Yao T, Masson-Delmotte V, Gao J et al (2013) A review of climatic controls on δ18O in precipitation over the Tibetan Plateau: observations and simulations. Rev Geophys 51(4):525–548. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Zhang H, Shao X, Zhang Y (2015a) Which climatic factors limit radial growth of Qilian juniper at the upper treeline on the northeastern Tibetan Plateau? J Geogr Sci 25(10):1173–1182. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Zhang QB, Evans MN, Lyu L (2015b) Moisture dipole over the Tibetan Plateau during the past five and a half centuries. Nat Commun 6:8062. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Zhang RB, Yuan YJ, Wei WS et al (2015c) Dendroclimatic reconstruction of autumn-winter mean minimum temperature in the eastern Tibetan Plateau since 1600 AD. Dendrochronologia 33:1–7. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Zheng Y, Shao X, Lu F, Li Y (2016) February–May temperature reconstruction based on tree-ring widths of Abies fargesii from the Shennongjia area in central China. Int J Biometeorol 60(8):1175–1181. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Zhu H, Zheng Y, Shao X, Liu X, Xu Y, Liang E (2008) Millennial temperature reconstruction based on tree-ring widths of Qilian juniper from Wulan, Qinghai Province, China. Chin Sci Bull 53(24):3914–3920. Google Scholar
  67. Zhu H, Fang X, Shao X, Yin Z (2009) Tree ring-based February-April temperature reconstruction for Changbai Mountain in Northeast China and its implication for East Asian winter monsoon. Clim Past 5(4):661–666. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Zhu H, Shao X, Yin Z, Huang L (2011a) Early summer temperature reconstruction in the eastern Tibetan Plateau since AD 1440 using tree-ring width of Sabina tibetica. Theor Appl Climatol 106(1–2):45–53. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Zhu H, Shao X, Yin Z, Xu P, Xu Y, Tian H (2011b) August temperature variability in the southeastern Tibetan Plateau since AD 1385 inferred from tree rings. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 305(1–4):84–92. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Zhu H, Xu P, Shao X, Luo H (2013) Little Ice Age glacier fluctuations reconstructed for the southeastern Tibetan Plateau using tree rings. Quat Int 283:134–138. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Zhu H, Shao X, Zhang H, Asad F, Sigdel S, Huang R, Li Y, Liu W, Muhammad S, Hussain I, Grießinger J, Liang E (2019) Trees record changes of the temperate glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau: potential and uncertainty. Glob Planet Change 173:15–23. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Alpine Ecology, Institute of Tibetan Plateau ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.College of Urban and Environmental SciencesNorthwest UniversityXi’anChina
  5. 5.School of Geographic and Oceanographic SciencesNanjing UniversityNanjingChina
  6. 6.Institute of Desert and MeteorologyChina Meteorological AdministrationUrumqiChina
  7. 7.Institute of GeographyFriedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-NurembergErlangenGermany

Personalised recommendations