Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions ›› 2021, Vol. 13 ›› Issue (4): 299-313.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1226.2021.20024.

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Ground temperature variation and its response to climate change on the northern Tibetan Plateau

GuoNing Wan,MeiXue Yang(),XueJia Wang   

  1. Yulong Snow Mountain National Field Observation and Research Station for Cryosphere and Sustainable Development, State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Science, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China
  • Received:2020-07-11 Accepted:2021-01-19 Online:2021-08-31 Published:2021-08-19
  • Contact: MeiXue Yang
  • Supported by:
    the National Natural Science Foundation of China(41771068);the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)(XDA20100102);the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) "Light of West China" Program, the Youth Innovation Promotion Association CAS(2018460);the Program of China Scholarship Council(201804910129)


Ground temperature plays a significant role in the interaction between the land surface and atmosphere on the Tibetan Plateau (TP). Under the background of temperature warming, the TP has witnessed an accelerated warming trend in frozen ground temperature, an increasing active layer thickness, and the melting of underground ice. Based on high-resolution ground temperature data observed from 1997 to 2012 on the northern TP, the trend of ground temperature at each observation site and its response to climate change were analyzed. The results showed that while the ground temperature at different soil depths showed a strong warming trend over the observation period, the warming in winter is more significant than that in summer. The warming rate of daily minimum ground temperature was greater than that of daily maximum ground temperature at the TTH and MS3608 sites. During the study period, thawing occurred earlier, whereas freezing happened later, resulting in shortened freezing season and a thinner frozen layer at the BJ site. And a zero-curtain effect develops when the soil begins to thaw or freeze in spring and autumn. From 1997 to 2012, the average summer air temperature and precipitation in summer and winter from six meteorological stations along the Qinghai-Tibet highway also demonstrated an increasing trend, with a more significant temperature increase in winter than in summer. The ground temperature showed an obvious response to air temperature warming, but the trend varied significantly with soil depths due to soil heterogeneity.

Key words: ground temperature, soil freezing-thawing processes, the Tibetan Plateau, climate change

Figure 1

Geographical location of ground temperature observation sites on the Tibetan Plateau"

Figure 2

Ground temperature isolines at the BJ site (a) 2001, (b) 2002, (c) 2003, (d) 2004, (e) 2005, (f) Mean of 5 years"

Figure 3

Soil moisture content isolines at the BJ site (a) 2001, (b) 2002, (c) 2003, (d) 2004, (e) 2005, (f) mean of 5 years"

Figure 4

Interannual variation of soil freezing time (day) at the BJ site"

Table 1

Soil freezing time (day) at various depths at the BJ site"

YearSoil depth (cm)

Figure 5

Interannual variation of mean summer (JJA) and winter (DJF) ground temperature at the D66, TTH, D110, and MS3608 sites. JJA indicate June, July and August, and DJF indicates December, January and February"

Table 2

Interannual variation of summer and winter mean ground temperature of the ten layers at D110 site. JJA indicates June, July and August, and DJF indicates December, January and February"

JJA0 cm4 cm20 cm40 cm60 cm80 cm100 cm130 cm160 cm180 cm
DJF0 cm4 cm20 cm40 cm60 cm80 cm100 cm130 cm160 cm180 cm

Figure 6

Interannual variation of summer and winter mean ground temperature at the MS3608 site, the mean air temperature at the Naqu meteorological station, and the mean ground temperature at the ten observation depths. JJA indicates June, July and August, and DJF indicates December, January and February"

Figure 7

Interannual variation of daily maximum, minimum and mean ground temperature at 4 cm deep in the MS3608 and TTH sites"

Figure 8

Interannual variation of summer and winter mean air temperature and accumulative precipitation at the Geermu, Tuotuohe, Wudaoliang, Anduo, Bange, and Naqu meteorological stations from 1965 to 2013. JJA indicates June, July and August, and DJF indicates December, January and February"

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