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Changes of the transitional climate zone in East Asia: past and future

Abstract

The transitional climate zone (TCZ) between humid and arid regions in East Asia is characterized by sharp climate and biome gradients, interaction between the East Asian summer monsoon and the mid-latitude westerly winds and mixed agriculture-pasture activities. Consequently, it is highly vulnerable to natural disturbances and particularly human-driven global change. This study aims to illuminate the spatial and temporal variation of TCZ across both the retrospective and the prospective periods. In the historical period, both the front and rear edges of TCZ exhibit wide year-to-year excursions and have experienced coastward migration with increasing aridity throughout TCZ. Furthermore, precipitation fluctuation mainly contributes to interannual variability of TCZ whereas potential evaporation behavior dominates the long-term trends of TCZ. Models are capable of largely reproducing the shape and orientation of TCZ, although northwestward bias is apparent. In global warming scenario period, there will be continuing southeastward displacement for the front edge but the opposite northwestward movement is projected for the rear one, as a consequence of significant drying trends in the humid zone together with regime shifts towards humid conditions in the arid zone. Despite expanded TCZ sector, however, the available water resources inside it suffer little magnitude changes without preferential tendency towards either drier or wetter conditions, implying neither deleterious nor beneficial effects on the TCZ environment. Moreover, interannual variability of TCZ is expected to become stronger, resulting in more frequent occurrences of extreme swings. Finally, it is noted that uncertainty arising from climate models dominates in the TCZ than dispersed emission scenarios, in contrast to the situation in humid and arid zones.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the reviewers for their constructive comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China Grant No. 41461144001, the National Key Research and Development Program of China Grant No. 2016YFA0600604, the National Outstanding Youth Science Fund Projection of China Grant No. 41425019, the National Natural Science Foundation of China Grants Nos. 91337105, 41505069, 41275083 and 41530425, Public science and technology research funds projects of ocean Grant No. 201505013, and Open Research Fund Program of Key Laboratory of Meteorological Disaster of Ministry of Education (Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology) Grant No. KLME1403.

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Correspondence to Gang Huang.

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Wang, L., Chen, W., Huang, G. et al. Changes of the transitional climate zone in East Asia: past and future. Clim Dyn 49, 1463–1477 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-016-3400-4

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Keywords

  • Transitional climate zone
  • East Asia
  • Vulnerability
  • Aridity index
  • Boundary (edge)
  • Dry-wet variation
  • Spatial swing