Climate Dynamics

, Volume 42, Issue 9–10, pp 2639–2654 | Cite as

Relative humidity history on the Batang–Litang Plateau of western China since 1755 reconstructed from tree-ring δ18O and δD

  • Wenling An
  • Xiaohong LiuEmail author
  • Steven W. Leavitt
  • Guobao Xu
  • Xiaomin Zeng
  • Wenzhi Wang
  • Dahe Qin
  • Jiawen Ren


We measured the annual variation in the stable isotopes of oxygen (δ18O) and hydrogen (δD) in tree rings of Abies georgei on the Batang–Litang Plateau of western China. Although correlations between tree-ring δ18O and δD are relatively weak in semi-arid regions, we found a strong correlation between the δ18O and δD time series from 1755 to 2009 under the wetter environment. Tree-ring δ18O and δD time series are both significantly and negatively correlated with moisture conditions from June to August, including relative humidity and total precipitation, respectively, from 1960 to 2009. Considering the difference in low-frequency domain between the two isotopes, the relative humidity histories from June to August, reconstructed separately from the tree-ring δ18O and δD data with instrumental climate data, reveal a persistent drying trend since 1850s, especially since the early 1970s. There is an obvious offset of reconstructed relative humidity from tree-ring δ18O and δD in the period 1755–1820, despite the strong similarity in their 21-year moving averages. The decreased relative humidity since the 1850s may be associated with the thermal contrast between the sea surface temperature of the Indian Ocean and the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, which determines the strength of moisture transfer via the Indian summer monsoon.


Tree rings Dendrochronology δ18δD Relative humidity Atmospheric circulations Batang–Litang Plateau 



This research was supported by the Knowledge Innovation Project of the Chinese Academy Sciences (KZCX2-YW-QN308), by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41171167), and by the self-determination project of the State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences (SKLCS09-03). We thank Prof. Ningsheng Qin for assistance with collecting the meteorological data. We thank Prof. Qibing Zhang for providing the tree-ring δ18O time series of Bomi. We thank the journal’s anonymous reviewers and the journal’s editor, whose comments and suggestions were helpful in improving the quality of this paper.

Supplementary material

382_2013_1937_MOESM1_ESM.doc (1.2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 1223 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wenling An
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  • Xiaohong Liu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Steven W. Leavitt
    • 2
  • Guobao Xu
    • 1
    • 3
  • Xiaomin Zeng
    • 1
    • 3
  • Wenzhi Wang
    • 1
    • 3
  • Dahe Qin
    • 1
  • Jiawen Ren
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research InstituteChinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouChina
  2. 2.Laboratory of Tree-Ring ResearchUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  3. 3.University of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.Key Laboratory for Coast and Island Development (Ministry of Education), School of Geographic and Oceanographic SciencesNanjing UniversityNanjingChina

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