Chinese Science Bulletin

, Volume 59, Issue 20, pp 2439–2448 | Cite as

Simulated change in the near-surface soil freeze/thaw cycle on the Tibetan Plateau from 1981 to 2010

  • Donglin GuoEmail author
  • Huijun Wang
Article Atmospheric Science


The near-surface freeze/thaw cycle in cold regions plays a major role in the surface energy budget, hydrological activity, and terrestrial ecosystems. In this study, the Community Land Model, Version 4 and a suite of high-resolution atmospheric data were used to investigate the changes in the near-surface soil freeze/thaw cycle in response to the warming on the Tibetan Plateau from 1981 to 2010. The in situ observations-based validation showed that, considering the cause of scale mismatch in the comparison, the simulated soil temperature, freeze start and end dates, and freeze duration at the near-surface were reasonable. In response to the warming of the Tibetan Plateau at a rate of approximately 0.44 °C decade−1, the freeze start-date became delayed at an area-mean rate of 1.7 days decade−1, while the freeze end-date became advanced at an area-mean rate of 4.7 days decade−1. The delaying of the freeze start-date, which was combined with the advancing of the freeze end-date, resulted in a statistically significant shortening trend with respect to the freeze duration, at an area-mean rate of 6.4 days decade−1. Such changes would strongly affect the surface energy flux, hydrological processes, and vegetation dynamics. We also found that the rate of freeze-duration shortening at the near-surface soil layer was approximately 3.0 days decade−1 lower than that at a depth of 1 m. This implied that the changes in soil freeze/thaw cycles at the near surface cannot be assumed to reflect the situation in deeper soil layers. The significant correlations between freeze duration and air temperature indicated that the shortening of the near-surface freeze duration was caused by the rise in air temperature, which occurred especially in spring, followed by autumn. These results can be used to reveal the laws governing the response of the near-surface freeze/thaw cycle to climate change and indicate related changes in permafrost.


Tibetan Plateau Freeze/thaw cycle Frozen ground Freeze duration Climate warming 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41130103 and 41210007). The authors are grateful to Prof. Kun Yang and Dr. Jie He for providing the high-resolution atmospheric data, as well as Prof. Meixue Yang for providing soil temperature observations used for the validation of the simulated results. Thanks were also extended to Dr. Xiaolei Chen for helping to run the single-point simulation experiment.


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nansen-Zhu International Research Center, Institute of Atmospheric PhysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Climate Change Research CenterChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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