Frontiers of Earth Science

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 159–170 | Cite as

Source of atmospheric moisture and precipitation over China’s major river basins

  • Tongtiegang ZhaoEmail author
  • Jianshi Zhao
  • Hongchang Hu
  • Guangheng Ni
Research Article


Oceanic evaporation via the East Asian Monsoon (EAM) has been regarded as the major source of precipitation over China, but a recent study estimated that terrestrial evaporation might contribute up to 80% of the precipitation in the country. To explain the contradiction, this study presents a comprehensive analysis of the contribution of oceanic and terrestrial evaporation to atmospheric moisture and precipitation in China’s major river basins. The results show that from 1980 to 2010, the mean annual atmospheric moisture (precipitable water) over China was 13.7 mm, 39% of which originates from oceanic evaporation and 61% from terrestrial evaporation. The mean annual precipitation was 737 mm, 43% of which originates from oceanic evaporation and 57% from terrestrial evaporation. Oceanic evaporation makes a greater contribution to atmospheric moisture and precipitation in the East Asian Monsoon Region in South and East China than terrestrial evaporation does. Particularly, for the Pearl River and southeastern rivers, oceanic evaporation contributes approximately 65% of annual precipitation and more than 70% of summer precipitation. Meanwhile, terrestrial evaporation contributes more precipitation in northwest China due to the westerly wind. For the northwestern rivers, terrestrial evaporation from the Eurasian continents contributes more than 70% of precipitation. There is a linear relation between mean annual precipitation and the contribution of oceanic evaporation to precipitation, with a correlation coefficient of 0.92, among the ten major river basins in China.


oceanic evaporation terrestrial evaporation moisture transport East Asian Monsoon westerly wind Tibetan Plateau 


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Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tongtiegang Zhao
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jianshi Zhao
    • 1
  • Hongchang Hu
    • 1
  • Guangheng Ni
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Hydro-Science and Engineering, Department of Hydraulic EngineeringTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina

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