PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2018, Vol. 37 ›› Issue (11): 1533-1544.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2018.11.009

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Spatial variability in the seasonal distribution of precipitation on the Tibetan Plateau

Yanxin ZHU1,2(), Yanfang SANG1,*()   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 101407, China
  • Received:2018-07-13 Revised:2018-09-30 Online:2018-11-28 Published:2018-11-28
  • Contact: Yanfang SANG;
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.91647110;Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences, No.XDA20060402;Youth Innovation Promotion Association, No.2017074


Hydroclimate process on the Tibetan Plateau (TP) is sensitive to global climate change, and its variability and change would directly affect the evolution of regional water resources in the region. However, there is not enough knowledge of the spatial-temporal characteristics of hydroclimate process on TP so far. In this article, based on the precipitation data measured at 80 meteorological stations and the water vapor flux data over the Tibetan Plateau, the quality of 13 types of remotely sensed and reanalysis-based precipitation datasets was analyzed and compared. The IGSNRR (Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research) precipitation dataset performs the best, and it was used to identify the spatial pattern of seasonal distribution of precipitation on the plateau. The results show that the concentration degree (PCD) and concentration period (PCP) of monthly precipitation were relatively small in the southeastern, southwestern, and northwestern parts of the Tibetan Plateau; correspondingly, summer precipitation accounted for less than 50% of annual precipitation in these regions. As going toward the hinterland of the plateau, the PCD and PCP values increased gradually, the rainy season became shorter and delayed, and the ratio between rainy season precipitation and annual precipitation increased. The spatial pattern of seasonal distribution of precipitation on the plateau was clearly consistent with the direction of water vapor transport, which is mainly determined by the Westerlies and the Indian Ocean monsoon. Based on this, it is identified that precipitation process in the areas north of 35°N was mainly influenced by the Westerlies, but that south of 30°N was influenced by the Indian Ocean monsoon; in the central plateau (30°N~35°N), precipitation process was under the control of both the Westerlies and the Indian Ocean monsoon.The study results are helpful for further understanding the spatial difference in hydroclimate variability on the Tibetan Plateau.

Key words: Tibetan Plateau, precipitation, seasonal distribution, spatial variability, Westerlies, Indian Ocean monsoon