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Progress in Semi-arid Climate Change Studies in China


This article reviews recent progress in semi-arid climate change research in China. Results indicate that the areas of semi-arid regions have increased rapidly during recent years in China, with an increase of 33% during 1994–2008 compared to 1948–62. Studies have found that the expansion rate of semi-arid areas over China is nearly 10 times higher than that of arid and sub-humid areas, and is mainly transformed from sub-humid/humid regions. Meanwhile, the greatest warming during the past 100 years has been observed over semi-arid regions in China, and mainly induced by radiatively forced processes. The intensity of the regional temperature response over semi-arid regions has been amplified by land-atmosphere interactions and human activities. The decadal climate variation in semi-arid regions is modulated by oceanic oscillations, which induce land-sea and north-south thermal contrasts and affect the intensities of westerlies, planetary waves and blocking frequencies. In addition, the drier climates in semi-arid regions across China are also associated with the weakened East Asian summer monsoon in recent years. Moreover, dust aerosols in semi-arid regions may have altered precipitation by affecting the local energy and hydrological cycles. Finally, semi-arid regions in China are projected to continuously expand in the 21st century, which will increase the risk of desertification in the near future.



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This work was supported by the National Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41521004, 41722502 and 91637312) and the China University Research Talents Recruitment Program (111 project, B13045). All of the data in this article were from the cited references.

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Correspondence to Jianping Huang.

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Article Highlights

• Semi-arid regions in northern China have experienced significant expansion and the largest warming during the past 100 years.

• Semi-arid climate change is affected by land-atmosphere, ocean-atmosphere and dust-cloud-precipitation interactions as well as human activities.

• The warming and expansion in semi-arid regions increases the challenges in dealing with desertification, food security and water supply.

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Huang, J., Ma, J., Guan, X. et al. Progress in Semi-arid Climate Change Studies in China. Adv. Atmos. Sci. 36, 922–937 (2019).

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Key words

  • semi-arid regions
  • drying
  • expansion
  • warming
  • dynamics


  • 半干旱区
  • 干旱化
  • 扩张
  • 强化增温
  • 动力学