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Climatic and associated cryospheric, biospheric, and hydrological changes on the Tibetan Plateau: a review

Review article
Authors S. Bibi
L. Wang
X. P. Li
J. Zhou
Deliang Chen
T. D. Yao
Published in International Journal of Climatology
Volume 38
Pages E1-E17
ISSN 0899-8418
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Pages E1-E17
Language en
Keywords climate change, Tibetan Plateau, cryosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, streamflow, nam co basin, asian water-towers, long-term trends, sea-level rise, snow, cover, river-basins, possible mechanisms, precipitable water, spring, phenology, glacier changes
Subject categories Climate Research


We review recent climate changes over the Tibetan Plateau (TP) and associated responses of cryospheric, biospheric, and hydrological variables. We focused on surface air temperature, precipitation, seasonal snow cover, mountain glaciers, permafrost, freshwater ice cover, lakes, streamflow, and biological system changes. TP is getting warmer and wetter, and air temperature has increased significantly, particularly since the 1980s. Most significant warming trends have occurred in the northern TP. Slight increases in precipitation have occurred over the entire TP with clear spatial variability. Intensification of surface air temperature is associated with variation in precipitation and decreases in snow cover depth, spatial extent, and persistence. Rising surface temperatures have caused recession of glaciers, permafrost thawing, and thickening of the active layers over the permafrost. Changing temperatures, precipitation, and other climate system components have also affected the TP biological system. In addition, elevation-dependent changes in air temperature, wind speed, and summer precipitation have occurred in the TP and its surroundings in the past three decades. Before projecting multifaceted interactions and process responses to future climate change, further quantitative analysis and understanding of the change mechanisms is required.

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