Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2012, Vol. 22 ›› Issue (3): 416-430 .doi: 10.1007/s11442-012-0936-z

• Physical Geography • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Altitude dependency of trends of daily climate extremes in southwestern China, 1961-2008

LI Zongxing1,2, HE Yuanqing1, Wilfred H. THEAKSTONE3, WANG Xufeng1,2, ZHANG Wei1,2, CAO Weihong1,2, DU Jiankuo1,2, XIN Huijuan1,2, CHANG LI1,2   

  1. 1. State Key Laboratory of Cryosphere Science/Yulong Snow Mountain Glaciers and Environmental Observation Station, Cold and Arid Region Environment and Engineering Research Institute, CAS, Lanzhou 730000, China;
    2. Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China;
    3. School of Environment and Development, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, England, UK
  • Received:2011-04-01 Revised:2011-05-29 Online:2012-06-15 Published:2012-05-04
  • About author:Li Zongxing (1984-), Ph.D and Associate Professor, specialized in climate change and glacial environment. E-mail:
  • Supported by:

    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.91025002; No.40725001; No.30970492; No.40971019; No.11J0930003; The CAS Special Grant for Postgraduate Research, Innovation and Practice; The Foundation from the State Key Laboratory of Cryosphere Science; The Foundation from Lijiang City Government


A total of 12 indices of temperature extremes and 11 indices of precipitation extremes at 111 stations in southwestern China at altitudes of 285-4700 m were examined for the period 1961-2008. Significant correlations of temperature extremes and elevation included the trends of diurnal temperature range, frost days, ice days, cold night frequency and cold day frequency. Regional trends of growing season length, warm night frequency, coldest night and warmest night displayed a statistically significant positive correlation with altitude. These characteristics indicated the obvious warming with altitude. For precipitation extreme indices, only the trends of consecutive dry days, consecutive wet days, wet day precipitation and the number of heavy precipitation days had significant correlations with increasing altitude owing to the complex influence of atmospheric circulation. It also indicated the increased precipitation mainly at higher altitude areas, whereas the increase of extreme precipitation events mainly at lowers altitude. In addition, the clearly local influences are also crucial on climate extremes. The analysis revealed an enhanced sensitivity of climate extremes to elevation in southwestern China in the context of recent warming.

Key words: southwestern China, climate, altitude dependency