Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 483–491 | Cite as

Changes in the thermal and hydraulic regime within the active layer in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

  • Changwei XieEmail author
  • Lin Zhao
  • Tonghua Wu
  • Xicheng Dong


The change trends of air temperature, precipitation and evaporation from 1999 to 2008 shows that the climate in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau permafrost region had become warmer. The analysis of the systematic active-layer data monitoring network along the Qinghai-Tibet Highway indicated that the active-layer thickness had been increasing and the soil temperature was rising. The soil temperature was rising in winter but not at the end of spring or during the entire summer. With thickening and warming of the active layer, the liquid water content of the active layer had an obvious downward migration and liquid water content in the top horizons decreased, but in the deeper horizons it increased.


Soil temperature Water content Active layer Permafrost Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP) 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anisimov OA, Shiklomanov NI, Nelson FE (1997) Global warming and active-layer thickness: results from transient general circulation models. Global and Planetary Change 15: 61–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Burn CR (1998) The Active Layer: Two contrasting definitions. Permafrost and Periglacial Process 9: 411–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cheng GD (1983) The mechanism of repeated segregation for the formation of thick-layered ground ice. Cold Regions Science and Technology 8(1): 57–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cheng GD, Wu TH (2007) Responses of permafrost to climate change and their environmental significance. Journal of Geophysical Research 112, F02S03, doi: 10.1029/2006JF000631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Hinzman DH, Gieck RE (2008) Spacial and temporal variation of soil temperatures and arctic hydrology in the Kuparuk River basin Alaska. The Ninth International Conference of Permafrost, Fairbanks, University of Alaska. pp 711–716.Google Scholar
  6. Hoekstra P (1996) Moisture movement in soils under temperature gradients with the cold-side temperature below freezing. Water Resources Research 2(2): 241–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Jin HJ, Zhao L, Wang SL, Jin R (2006) Thermal regimes and degradation modes of permafrost along the Qinghai-Tibet Highway. Science in China Series D: Earth Sciences 49(11): 1170–1183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Kane DL, Hinkel KM, Goering DJ, et al. (2001) Non-conductive heat transfer associated with frozen soils. Global and Planetary Change 29: 275–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Kang SC, Xu Y, You Q, et al. (2010) Review of climate and cryospheric change in the Tibetan Plateau. Environment Research Letter 5, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/5/1/015101.Google Scholar
  10. Osterkamp TE, Romanovsky VE (1997) Freezing of the active layer on the coastal plain of the Alaskan Arctic. Permafrost and Periglacial Process 8: 23–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Pang QQ, Zhao L, Li SX, et al. (2011) Active layer thickness variations on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau under the scenarios of climate change. Environment Earth Science 66:849–857CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Perfect E, Williams PJ (1980) Thermally induced water migration in frozen soils. Cold Regions Science and Technology 9(3): 101–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Roth K, Schulin R, Flühler H, et al. (1990) Calibration of time domain reflectometry for water content measurement using a composite dielectric approach. Water Resource Research 13: 909–914.Google Scholar
  14. Tong CJ, Wu QB (1996) The effect of climate warming on the Qinghai-Tibet highway. Cold Regions Science and Technology 24: 101–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Wang GX, Hu HC, Li TB (2009) The influence of freeze-thaw cycles of active soil layer on surface runoff in a permafrost watershed. Journal of Hydrology 375: 438–449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Wang SL, Yang MX (2000) Application of TDR to researching moisture variation in active layer on the Tibetan Plateau. Glaciology and Geocryology 20(1): 78–84.Google Scholar
  17. Williams PJ, Smith MW (1989) The frozen earth: Fundamentals of Geocryology. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp 89–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Wu QB, Lu ZJ, Liu YZ (2005) Permafrost monitoring and its recent changes in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Advances in Climate Change Research 1(1): 26–28.Google Scholar
  19. Wu QB, Zhang T (2008) Recent permafrost warming on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Journal of Geophysical Research 113, D13108, doi:10.1029/2007JD009539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Wu QB, Zhang T (2010) Changes in active layer thickness over the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau from 1995 to 2007. Journal of Geophysical Research 115, D09107, doi: 10.1029/2009JD012974.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Wu QB, Zhang T, Liu Y (2011) Thermal state of the active layer and permafrost along the Qinghai-Xizang (Tibet) railway from 2006 to 2010. The Cryosphere 5: 2465–2481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Xu XZ, Wang JC, Zhang LX (2001) Physics of Frozen Soil., Science Press of China, Beijing. pp 45–70.Google Scholar
  23. Yang MX, Nelson FE, Shiklomanov NI, et al. (2010) Permafrost degradation and its environmental effects on the Tibetan Plateau: A review of recent research. Earth-Science Reviews 103:31–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Zhang ZH, Kang ES, Jin BW, et al.(2003) A brief introduction to application of the TRIM E—TDR technology in the field experiment of the Hei River Basin. Journal of Glaciology and Geocrylogy 25(5): 574–579. (In Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  25. Zhao L, Wu QB, Marchenko SS, et al. (2010) Thermal state of permafrost and active layer in Central Asia during the International Polar Year. Permafrost and Periglacial Process 21: 198–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Zhao L, Cheng GD, Li SX (2003) Changes of plateau frozenground and environmental engineering effects. In: Zheng D. et al. (eds.), The Formation Environment and Development of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Heibei Science and Technology Press, Shijiazhang. pp. 143–150 (In Chinese).Google Scholar
  27. Zhao L, Ping CL, Yang DQ, et al. (2004) Changes of climate and seasonally frozen ground over the past 30 years in Qinghai-Xizang (Tibetan) Plateau, China. Global Planet Change 43: 19–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Changwei Xie
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lin Zhao
    • 1
  • Tonghua Wu
    • 1
  • Xicheng Dong
    • 1
  1. 1.Croyosphere Research Station on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences, Cold & Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research InstituteCASLanzhouChina

Personalised recommendations