Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2021, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (9): 1283-1298.doi: 10.1007/s11442-021-1898-9

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Recent signal and impact of wet-to-dry climatic shift in Xinjiang, China

YAO Junqiang(), MAO Weiyi, CHEN Jing, DILINUER Tuoliewubieke   

  1. Institute of Desert Meteorology, China Meteorological Administration, Urumqi 830002, China
  • Received:2021-05-06 Accepted:2021-07-16 Online:2021-09-25 Published:2021-09-16
  • About author:Yao Junqiang (1987-), Associate Professor, specialized in climate change and water cycle. E-mail:;
  • Supported by:
    National Key Research and Development Program of China(2019YFA0606902);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41975146);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41971023)


The Xinjiang region of China is among the most sensitive regions to global warming. Based on the meteorological and hydrological observation data, the regional wet-to-dry climate regime shifts in Xinjiang were analyzed and the impacts of climatic shift on the eco-hydrological environment of Xinjiang were assessed in this study. The results showed that temperature and precipitation in Xinjiang have increased since the mid-1980s, showing a warming-wetting trend. However, drought frequency and severity significantly increased after 1997. The climate of Xinjiang experienced an obvious shift from a warm-wet to a warm-dry regime in 1997. Since the beginning of the 21st century, extreme temperatures and the number of high temperature days have significantly increased, the start date of high temperature has advanced, and the end date of high temperature has delayed in Xinjiang. In addition, the intensity and frequency of extreme precipitation have significantly increased. Consequently, regional ecology and water resources have been impacted by climatic shift and extreme climate in Xinjiang. In response, satellite-based normalized difference vegetation index showed that, since the 1980s, most regions of Xinjiang experienced a greening trend and vegetation browning after 1997. The soil moisture in Xinjiang has significantly decreased since the late 1990s, resulting in adverse ecological effects. Moreover, the response of river runoff to climatic shift is complex and controlled by the proportion of snowmelt to the runoff. Runoff originating from the Tianshan Mountains showed a positive response to the regional wet-to-dry shift, whereas that originating from the Kunlun Mountains showed no obvious response. Both climatic shift and increased climate extremes in Xinjiang have led to intensification of drought and aggravation of instability of water circulation systems and ecosystem. This study provides a scientific basis to meet the challenges of water resource utilization and ecological risk management in the Xinjiang region of China.

Key words: climatic shift, wet-to-dry, water resources, drought, Xinjiang