Physical Geography

Temperature variation and abrupt change analysis in the Three-River Headwaters Region during 1961-2010

  • 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China;
    2. Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China;
    3. School of Geography, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China;
    4. Key Laboratory of Regional Geography, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
Yi Xiangsheng (1981-), Ph.D, specialized in climate change and grassland degradation. E-mail:

Received date: 2011-10-26

  Revised date: 2011-12-09

  Online published: 2012-05-04

Supported by

The National Science and Technology Support Plan, No.2009BAC61B01


In this study, a monthly dataset of temperature time series (1961-2010) from 12 meteorological stations across the Three-River Headwater Region of Qinghai Province (THRHR) was used to analyze the climate change. The temperature variation and abrupt change analysis were examined by using moving average, linear regression, Spline interpolation, Mann-Kendall test and so on. Some important conclusions were obtained from this research, which mainly contained four aspects as follows. (1) There were several cold and warm fluctuations for the annual and seasonal average temperature in the THRHR and its three sub-headwater regions, but the temperature in these regions all had an obviously rising trend at the statistical significance level, especially after 2001. The spring, summer, autumn and annual average temperature increased evidently after the 1990s, and the winter average temperature exhibited an obvious upward trend after entering the 21st century. Except the standard value of spring temperature, the annual and seasonal temperature standard value in the THRHR and its three sub-headwater regions increased gradually, and the upward trend for the standard value of winter average temperature indicated significantly. (2) The tendency rate of annual average temperature in the THRHR was 0.36℃10a-1, while the tendency rates in the Yellow River Headwater Region (YERHR), Lancangjiang River Headwater Region (LARHR) and Yangtze River Headwater Region (YARHR) were 0.37℃10a-1, 0.37℃10a-1 and 0.34℃10a-1 respectively. The temperature increased significantly in the south of Yushu County and the north of Nangqian County. The rising trends of temperature in winter and autumn were higher than the upward trends in spring and summer. (3) The abrupt changes of annual, summer, autumn and winter average temperature were found in the THRHR, LARHR and YARHR, and were detected for the summer and autumn average temperature in the YERHR. The abrupt changes of annual and summer average temperatures were mainly in the late 1990s, while the abrupt changes of autumn and winter average temperatures appeared primarily in the early 1990s and the early 21st century respectively. (4) With the global warming, the diversities of altitude and underlying surface in different parts of the Tibetan Plateau were possibly the main reasons for the high increasing rate of temperature in the THRHR.

Cite this article

YI Xiangsheng, LI Guosheng, YIN Yanyu . Temperature variation and abrupt change analysis in the Three-River Headwaters Region during 1961-2010[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2012 , 22(3) : 451 -469 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-012-0939-9


Alley R B, Marotzke J, Nordhaus W et al., 2003. Abrupt climate change. Science, 299: 2005-2010.
Bian Duo, Du Jun, 2006. Climate variation feature and its effect on environment change in central Tibet from1961-2000. Journal of Applied Meteorological Science, 17(2): 169-175. (in Chinese)
Chen Xiaoguang, Li Lin, Zhu Xide et al., 2009. Regional differences of climate change in Qinghai Province andits contributing factors. Advances in Climate Change Research, 5(5): 249-254. (in Chinese)
Ding Yihui, Zhang Jin, Xu Ying et al., 2003. Evolution and Forecast of Climatic System. Beijing: China Meteorological Press. (in Chinese)
Ding Yihui, Zhang Li, 2008. Intercomparison of the time for climate abrupt change between the Tibetan Plateau and other regions in China. Chinese Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, 32(4): 794-805. (in Chinese)
Du Jun, Hu Jun, Tang Shujun et al., 2008. Climatic variations of temperature and precipitation in the Yamzho Yumco lake basin of Tibet from 1961 to 2005. Acta Geographica Sinica, 63(11): 1160-1168. (in Chinese)
Editorial Board of Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve Ecological Environment (EBSNREE), 2002. Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve Ecological Environment. Xining: Qinghai People's Press. (in Chinese)
Hou Wenju, Tie Shunfu, Zhang Shizhen, 2010. The variation characteristics of winter snow and temperature,precipitation in the Sanjiangyuan region. Qinghai Technology, 17(1): 60-66. (in Chinese)
Hu Liping, Yao Yanfeng, Pei Gu'e et al., 2009. Changes on temperature and precipitation characteristics in Tianshui of Gansu Province during the past 50 years. Progress in Geography, 28(4): 651-656. (in Chinese)
IPCC, 2007a. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability: Contribution of Working Group II tothe Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
IPCC, 2007b. Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis: Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ip W C, Zhang L, Wong H et al., 2011. Multi-scale variability and trends of precipitation in North China. Water Resources and the Regime of Water Bodies, 38 (1): 18-28.
Jia Wenxiong, He Yuanqing, Li Zongxing et al., 2008. The regional difference and catastrophe of climatic changein Qilian Mt. Region. Acta Geographica Sinica, 63(3): 257-269. (in Chinese)
Kang Shichang, Zhang Yongjun, Qin Dahe et al., 2007. Recent temperature increase recorded in an ice core in thesource region of Yangtze River. Chinese Science Bulletin, 52(6): 825-831.
Kendall M G. 1955. Rank Correlation Methods. London: Griffin.
Li Lin, Li Fengxia, Guo Anhong et al., 2006. Study on the climate change trend and its catastrophe over Sanjiangyuanregion in recent 43 years. Journal of Natural Resources, 21(1): 79-85. (in Chinese)
Li Lin, Zhu Xide, Qin Ningsheng et al., 2003. Study on temperature variations and its anomaly patterns over Qinghai-Xizang Plateau. Plateau Meteorology, 22(5): 524-530. (in Chinese)
Li Lin, Zhu Xide, Zhou Lusheng et al., 2004. Climatic changes over headwater of the three river area and its effecton ecological environment. Meteorology, 30(8): 18-22. (in Chinese)
Li Zongxing, He Yuanqing, Wang Chunfen et al., 2011. Spatial and temporal trends of temperature and precipitationduring 1960-2008 at the Hengduan Mountains, China. Quaternary International, 236: 127-142.
Liu Guangsheng, Wang Gengxu, Hu Hongchang et al., 2010. Climate change characteristics in the source regionsof the Yangtze River and Yellow River over the past 45 years. Resources Science, 32(8): 1486-1492. (in Chinese)
Liu Jiyuan, Xu Xingliang, Shao Quanqin. 2008. Grassland degradation in the “Three-River Headwaters” region, Qinghai Province. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 18: 259-273.
Liu Shiyin, Lu Anxin, Ding Yongjian et al., 2002. Glacier fluctuations and inferred climate changes in the Animaqin Mountains in the source area of the Yellow River. Journal of Glaciology and Geocryology, 24(6):701-707. (in Chinese)
Liu Yuanpu, Lu Shihua, Li Suosuo et al., 2007. Changes and relation analyses of climate and vegetation in the sourceregion of Yellow River in recent several decade years. Plateau Meteorology, 26(5): 1045-1051. (in Chinese)
Luis M, Brunetti M, Gonzalez-Hidalgo J C et al., 2010. Changes in seasonal precipitation in the Iberian Peninsuladuring 1946-2005. Global and Planetary Change, 74 (1): 27-33.
Mann H B. 1945. Nonparametric tests against trend. Journal of the Econometric Society, 13 (3): 245-259.
Parmesan C. 2006. Ecological and evolutionary responses to recent climate change. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 37: 637-669.
Post E, Forchhammer M C, Bret-Harte M S et al., 2009. Ecological dynamics across the Arctic associated withrecent climate change. Science, 325: 1355-1358.
Qian W, Qin A, 2006. Spatial-temporal characteristics of temperature variation in China. Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics, 93(1): 1-16.
Rodrigo F, 2010. Changes in the probability of extreme daily precipitation observed from 1951 to 2002 in the Iberian Peninsula. International Journal of Climatology, 30 (10): 1512-1525.
Schlünzen K H, Hoffmann P, Rosenhagen G et al., 2010. Long-term changes and regional differences in temperatureand precipitation in the metropolitan area of Hamburg. International Journal of Climatology, 30:1121-1136.
Shen Yongping, Wang Genxu, Wu Qingbai et al., 2002. The impact of future climate change on ecology and environmentsin the Changjiang-Yellow rivers source region. Journal of Glaciology and Geocryology, 24(3):308-314. (in Chinese)
Sheng Wenping, Gao Qingzhu, Li Yu'e et al., 2008. Characteristic of climate change in northern Tibet and itsimpact. Plateau Meteorology, 27(3): 509-516. (in Chinese)
Shi Xinghe, Li Lin, Wang Qinchun et al., 2005. Climatic change and its influence on water level of Qinghai Lake. Meteorological Science and Technology, 33(1): 58-62. (in Chinese)
Shi Xinghe, Zhao Yanning, Dai Sheng et al., 2005. Research on climatic change of Qaidam Basin since 1961. Journal of Desert Research, 25(1): 123-128. (in Chinese)
Tang Hongyu, Zhai Pangmao, 2005. Comparison of variations of surface air temperatures in eastern and western China during 1951 to 2002. Chinese Journal of Geophysics, 48(3): 526-534. (in Chinese)
Thornton P E, Running S W, White M A, 1997. Generating surfaces of daily meteorological variables over largeregions of complex terrain. Journal of Hydrology, 190(3): 214-251.
Wang Mou, Li Yong, Huang Runqiu et al., 2005. The effects of climate warming on the alpine vegetation of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau hinterland. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 25(6): 1275-1281. (in Chinese)
Wang Qiji, Lai Dezhen, Jing Zengchu et al., 2005. The resources, ecological environment and sustainable developmentin the source regions of the Yangtze, Huanghe and Yalu Tsangpo rivers. Journal of Lanzhou University(Natural Sciences), 41(4): 31-37. (in Chinese)
Wang Shaopeng, Wang Zhiheng, Piao Shilong et al., 2010. Regional differences in the timing of recent air warmingduring the past four decades in China. Chinese Science Bulletin, 55(19): 1968-1973.
Wei Fengying, 2007. Modern Technology of Statistics, Diagnosis and Forecast for Climate. Beijing: China Meteorological Press. (in Chinese)
Wu Qingbai, Liu Yongzhi, 2004. Ground temperature monitoring and its recent change in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Cold Regions Science and Technology, 38: 85-92.
Wu Shaohong, Yin Yunhe, Zheng Du et al., 2005. Climate changes in the Tibetan Plateau during the last threedecades. Acta Geographica Sinica, 60(1): 3-11. (in Chinese)
Xiang Liaoyuan, Chen Xing, 2006. Regional and seasonal features of abrupt temperature change in China in recent55 years. Meteorological Monthly, 32(6): 44-47. (in Chinese)
Xu Zongxue, He Wanlin, 2006. Spatial and temporal characteristics and change trend of climatic elements in theheadwater region of the Yellow River in recent 40 years. Plateau Meteorology, 25(5): 906-913. (in Chinese)
Yamamoto R, Iwashima T, Sanga N, 1985. Climatic change: a hypothesis in climate diagnosis. Journal of the Meteorological Society of Japan, 63: 1157-1160.
Yang Jianping, Ding Yongjian, Shen Yongping et al., 2004. Climatic features of eco-environment change in thesource regions of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers in recent 40 years. Journal of Glaciology and Geocryology,26(1): 7-16. (in Chinese)
Yin Yunhe, Wu Shaohong, Chen Gang, 2009. Regional difference of climate trend and abrupt climate change in China during 1961-2006. Journal of Natural Resources, 24(12): 2147-2157. (in Chinese)
Zhang Q, Xu C Y, Becker S et al., 2009. Trends and abrupt changes of precipitation maxima in the Pearl Riverbasin, China. Atmospheric Science Letters, 10 (2): 132-144.
Zhang Shifeng, Hua Dong, Meng Xiujing et al., 2011. Climate change and its driving effect on the runoff in the“Three-River Headwaters” region. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 21(6): 963-978.
Zhang Zhanfeng, 2001. The climate resources changes over the Sanjiangyuan region in recent 40 years. Qinghai Environment, 11(2): 60-64. (in Chinese)