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Spatiotemporal variation and hotspots of climate change in the Yangtze River Watershed during 1958–2017


The Yangtze River Watershed in China is a climate change hotspot featuring strong spatial and temporal variability; hence, it poses a certain threat to social development. Identifying the characteristics of and regions vulnerable to climate change is significantly important for formulating adaptive countermeasures. However, with regard to the Yangtze River Watershed, there is currently a lack of research on these aspects from the perspective of natural and anthropogenic factors. To address this issue, in this study, based on the temperature and precipitation records from 717 meteorological stations, the RClimDex and random forest models were used to assess the spatiotemporal characteristics of climate change and identify mainly the natural and anthropogenic factors influencing climate change hotspots in the Yangtze River Watershed for the period 1958–2017. The results indicated a significant increasing trend in temperature, a trend of wet and dry polarization in the annual precipitation, and that the number of temperature indices with significant variations was 2.8 times greater than that of precipitation indices. Significant differences were also noted in the responses of the climate change characteristics of the sub-basins to anthropogenic and natural factors; the delta plain of the Yangtze River estuary exhibited the most significant climate changes, where 88.89% of the extreme climate indices varied considerably. Furthermore, the characteristics that were similar among the identified hotpots, including human activities (higher Gross Domestic Product and construction land proportions) and natural factors (high altitudes and large proportions of grassland and water bodies), were positively correlated with the rapid climate warming.

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Foundation: Program for Guangdong Introducing Innovative and Entrepreneurial Teams, No.2019ZT08L213; National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41701631; Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory Project, No. 2019B121203011; Key Special Project for Introduced Talents Team of Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Guangzhou), No.GML2019ZD0403

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Correspondence to Wei Gao.

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Cheng Guowei, specialized in environment simulation and assessment. E-mail:

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Cheng, G., Liu, Y., Chen, Y. et al. Spatiotemporal variation and hotspots of climate change in the Yangtze River Watershed during 1958–2017. J. Geogr. Sci. 32, 141–155 (2022).

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  • Yangtze River Watershed
  • climate change
  • RClimDex
  • Random Forest
  • anthropogenic and natural factors
  • hotspots