Journal of Meteorological Research

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 3–16 | Cite as

An overview of mainland China temperature change research

  • Guoyu Ren
  • Yihui Ding
  • Guoli Tang


There has been significant effort devoted to investigating long-term trends in land surface air temperature over mainland China by Chinese scientists over the past 50 years, and much progress has been made in understanding dynamics of the changes. This review highlights research conducted by early Chinese climatologists, and particularly Professor Shaowu Wang from Peking University, with special focus on systematic work that has been conducted since the mid to late 1970s. We also discuss major issues that remain unresolved in past and current studies. The most recent analyses indicate that the country-average annual mean surface air temperature rose by 1.12°C over the past 115 years (1901–2015), with a rate of increase of about 0.10°C decade–1. Temperatures have risen more rapidly since the 1950s, with the rate of increase of more than 0.25°C decade-1. However, the recent increase in temperatures is in large part due to contamination by systematically biased data. These data are influenced by unprecedented urbanization in China, with a contribution of urbanization to the overall increase of annual mean temperatures in mainland China of about one third over the past half a century. If the bias is corrected, the rate of increase for the country-average annual mean surface air temperature is 0.17°C decade–1 over the last 50–60 years, which is approximately the same as global and Northern Hemispheric averages in recent decades. Future efforts should be focused towards the recovery and digitization of early-year observational records, the homogenization of observational data, the evaluation and adjustment of urbanization bias in temperature data series from urban stations, the analysis of extreme temperatures over longer periods including the first half of the 20th century, and the investigation of the observed surface air temperature change mechanisms in mainland China.

Key words

observational data surface air temperature mainland China modern time climate change urbanization effect climate warming 


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© The Chinese Meteorological Society and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory for Climate Studies, National Climate CenterChina Meteorological AdministrationBeijingChina
  2. 2.Department of Atmospheric Science, School of Environmental StudiesChina University of GeosciencesWuhanChina
  3. 3.National Meteorological Information CenterChina Meteorological AdministrationBeijingChina

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