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Near-surface wind environment in the Yarlung Zangbo River basin, southern Tibetan Plateau

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Abstract

Aeolian processes have been studied extensively at low elevations, but have been relatively little studied at high elevations. Aeolian sediments are widely distributed in the Yarlung Zangbo River basin, southern Tibetan Plateau, which is characterized by low pressure and low temperature. Here, we comprehensively analyzed the wind regime using data since 1980 from 11 meteorological stations in the study area, and examined the interaction between the near-surface wind and aeolian environment. The wind environment exhibited significant spatial and temporal variation, and mean wind speed has generally decreased on both annual and seasonal bases since 1980, at an average of 0.181 m/(s·10a). This decrease resulted from the reduced contribution of maximum wind speed, and depended strongly on variations of the frequency of sand-driving winds. The drift potential and related parameters also showed obvious spatial and temporal variation, with similar driving forces for the wind environment. The strength of the wind regime affected the formation and development of the aeolian geomorphological pattern, but with variation caused by local topography and sediment sources. The drift potential and resultant drift direction were two key parameters, as they quantify the dynamic conditions and depositional orientation of the aeolian sediments. Wind affected the spatial variation in sediment grain size, but the source material and complex topographic effects on the near-surface wind were the underlying causes for the grain size distribution of aeolian sands. These results will support efforts to control aeolian desertification in the basin and improve our understanding of aeolian processes in high-elevation environments.

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  • 20 January 2021

    The fourth author should be “TIAN” not “WANG”.

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Acknowledgements

This research was sponsored by the Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research Program (STEP) (2019QZKK0602) and the Open Foundation of MOE Key Laboratory of Western China’s Environmental System, Lanzhou University and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (lzujbky-2020-kb01). We are grateful to Mr. Geoffrey HART for the language editing, and Dr. CUI Xujia (Taiyuan Normal University, China) and Dr. LI Chao (Shaanxi Normal University, China) for their helpful discussions. We also thank the two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments for improving the quality of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Dunsheng Xia.

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Yang, J., Xia, D., Wang, S. et al. Near-surface wind environment in the Yarlung Zangbo River basin, southern Tibetan Plateau. J. Arid Land 12, 917–936 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-020-0104-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-020-0104-8

Keywords

  • wind regime
  • sand dune
  • aeolian activity
  • Yarlung Zangbo River
  • Tibetan Plateau