Theoretical and Applied Climatology

, Volume 112, Issue 1–2, pp 307–316 | Cite as

Spatial and temporal changes in aridity index in northwest China: 1960 to 2010

  • Xiaomang Liu
  • Dan ZhangEmail author
  • Yuzhou Luo
  • Changming Liu
Original Paper


Northwest China is the driest region in China and the regional climate fluctuated dramatically during the last century. Aridity index, as the ratio between potential evapotranspiration and precipitation, is a good indicator to represent regional climate character. In this study, the change and attribution of the aridity index was investigated in northwest China using the observed climate data from 80 national meteorological stations during 1960–2010. The spatial and temporal variabilities of the aridity index shows that the annual aridity index decreased significantly (P < 0.05) by 0.048 year−1, indicating that northwest China became wetter from 1960 to 2010. A differentiation equation method was used to attribute the change in aridity index to climate variables. The results indicate that the aridity index was most sensitive to the change in precipitation, followed by vapor pressure, solar radiation, wind speed, and air temperature. Increase in air temperature should have led to an increase in aridity index, but this effect had been offset by the increase in precipitation and vapor pressure and the decrease in wind speed. Increasing precipitation, which contributed 91.7 % of the decrease in the aridity index, was the dominant factor to the decrease in the aridity index in northwest China from 1960 to 2010.


Wind Speed Vapor Pressure Climate Variable Potential Evapotranspiration Sensitivity Coefficient 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was supported by the “Strategic Priority Research Program—Climate Change: Carbon Budget and Relevant Issues” of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (grant no. XDA05090309) and the Natural Science Foundation of China (40971023).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaomang Liu
    • 1
  • Dan Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Yuzhou Luo
    • 3
  • Changming Liu
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Water Resources and Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Graduate University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Department of Land, Air and Water ResourcesUniversity of California, DavisCaliforniaUSA
  4. 4.College of Water SciencesBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina

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