Climatic Change

, Volume 109, Issue 3–4, pp 517–534 | Cite as

Response of hydrological cycle to recent climate changes in the Tibetan Plateau

  • Kun YangEmail author
  • Baisheng Ye
  • Degang Zhou
  • Bingyi Wu
  • Thomas Foken
  • Jun Qin
  • Zhaoye Zhou


The Tibetan Plateau (TP) surfaces have been experiencing an overall rapid warming and wetting while wind speed and solar radiation have been declining in the last three decades. This study investigated how climate changes influenced the hydrological cycle on the TP during 1984∼2006. To facilitate the analysis, a land surface model was used to simulate surface water budget at all CMA (China Meteorological Administration) stations on the TP. The simulated results were first validated against observed ground temperature and observation-derived heat flux on the western TP and observed discharge trends on the eastern TP. The response of evaporation and runoff to the climate changes was then analyzed. Major finding are as follows. (1) Surface water balance has been changed in recent decades. Observed precipitation shows insignificant increasing trends in central TP and decreasing trends along the TP periphery while evaporation shows overall increasing trends, leading to decreased discharge at major TP water resource areas (semi-humid and humid zones in the eastern and southern TP). (2) At the annual scale, evaporation is water-limited in dry areas and energy-limited (radiation and air temperature) in wet areas; these constraints can be interpreted by the Budyko-curve. Evaporation in autumns and winters was strongly controlled by soil water storage in summers, weakening the dependence of evaporation on precipitation at seasonal scales. (3) There is a complementary effect between the simulated actual evaporation and potential evaporation, but this complementary relationship may deviate from Bouchet’s hypothesis when vapor pressure deficit (or air temperature) is too low, which suppresses the power of vapor transfer.


Tibetan Plateau Vapor Pressure Deficit Arid Zone Humid Zone China Meteorological Administration 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kun Yang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Baisheng Ye
    • 2
  • Degang Zhou
    • 3
  • Bingyi Wu
    • 4
  • Thomas Foken
    • 5
  • Jun Qin
    • 1
  • Zhaoye Zhou
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratory of Tibetan Environment Changes and Land Surface ProcessesInstitute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.The State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric SciencesCold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouChina
  3. 3.Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.Chinese Academy of Meteorological SciencesChina Meteorological AdministrationBeijingChina
  5. 5.Department of MicrometeorologyUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany

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