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Satellite measurements reveal strong anisotropy in spatial coherence of climate variations over the Tibet Plateau

Journal article
Authors Deliang Chen
Y. D. Tian
T. D. Yao
Tinghai Ou
Published in Scientific Reports
Volume 6
ISSN 2045-2322
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Language en
Keywords air-temperature, ice core, surface-temperature, soil-moisture, precipitation, variability, himalaya, resolution, scales, gauge, Science & Technology - Other Topics
Subject categories Earth and Related Environmental Sciences


This study uses high-resolution, long-term satellite observations to evaluate the spatial scales of the climate variations across the Tibet Plateau (TP). Both land surface temperature and precipitation observations of more than 10 years were analysed with a special attention to eight existing ice-core sites in the TP. The temporal correlation for the monthly or annual anomalies between any two points decreases exponentially with their spatial distance, and we used the e-folding decay constant to quantify the spatial scales. We found that the spatial scales are strongly direction-dependent, with distinctive patterns in the west-east and south-north orientations, for example. Meanwhile, in the same directions the scales are largely symmetric backward and forward. Focusing on the west-east and south-north directions, we found the spatial coherence in the first is generally stronger than in the second. The annual surface temperature had typical spatial scales of 302-480 km, while the annual precipitation showed smaller scales of 111-182 km. The majority of the eight ice-core sites exhibit scales much smaller than the typical scales over the TP as a whole. These results provide important observational basis for the selection of appropriate downscaling strategies, deployment of climate-data collection networks, and interpreting paleoclimate reconstructions.

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