Climate and Environmental Change

Climate change over the Yarlung Zangbo River Basin during 1961–2005

  • 1. Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, CAS, Beijing 100085, China|
    2. Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China|
    3. State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China|
    4. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China|
    5. National Climate Center, Beijing 100081, China

Received date: 2007-06-15

  Revised date: 2007-08-16

  Online published: 2007-12-25

Supported by

National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.40401054; No.40121101; CAS Hundred Talents Program; President Foundation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences; Knowledge Innovation Project of CAS, No.KZCX3-SW-339; National Basic Research Program of China, No.2005CB422004


The Yarlung Zangbo River (YR) is the highest great river in the world, and its basin is one of the centers of human economic activity in Tibet. Using 10 meteorological stations over the YR basin in 1961–2005, the spatial and temporal characteristics of temperature and precipitation as well as potential evapotranspiration are analyzed. The results are as follows. (1) The annual and four seasonal mean air temperature shows statistically significant in-creasing trend, the tendency is more significant in winter and fall. The warming in Lhasa river basin is most significant. (2) The precipitation is decreasing from the 1960s to the 1980s and increasing since the 1980s. From 1961 to 2005, the annual and four seasonal mean precipi-tation is increasing but not statistically significant, especially in fall and spring. The increasing precipitation rates are more pronounced in Niyangqu and Palong Zangbo river basins, the closer to the upper YR is, the less precipitation increasing rate would be. (3) The annual and four seasonal mean potential evapotranspiration has decreased, especially after the 1980s, and most of it happens in winter and spring. The decreasing trend is most significant in the middle YR and Nianchu river basin. (4) Compared with the Mt. Qomolangma region, Tibetan Plateau, China and global average, the magnitudes of warming trend over the YR basin since the 1970s exceed those areas in the same period, and compared with the Tibetan Plateau, the magnitudes of precipitation increasing and potential evapotranspiration decreasing are larger, suggesting that the YR basin is one of the most sensitive areas to global warming.

Cite this article

YOU Qinglong, KANG Shichang, WU Yanhong, YAN Yuping . Climate change over the Yarlung Zangbo River Basin during 1961–2005[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2007 , 17(4) : 109 -420 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-007-0409-y