Research Articles

MODIS-based estimation of air temperature of the Tibetan Plateau

  • State Key Laboratory of Resource and Environmental Information System, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
Yao Yonghui (1975-), Ph.D, specialized in GIS/RS application and mountain environment. E-mail:

Received date: 2013-01-05

  Revised date: 2013-02-04

  Online published: 2013-08-15

Supported by

National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41030528;No.41001278


The immense and towering Tibetan Plateau acts as a heating source and, thus, deeply shapes the climate of the Eurasian continent and even the whole world. However, due to the scarcity of meteorological observation stations and very limited climatic data, little is quantitatively known about the heating effect and temperature pattern of the Tibetan Plateau. This paper collected time series of MODIS land surface temperature (LST) data, together with meteorological data of 137 stations and ASTER GDEM data for 2001-2007, to estimate and map the spatial distribution of monthly mean air temperatures in the Tibetan Plateau and its neighboring areas. Time series analysis and both ordinary linear regression (OLS) and geographical weighted regression (GWR) of monthly mean air temperature (Ta) with monthly mean land surface temperature (Ts) were conducted. Regression analysis shows that recorded Ta is rather closely related to Ts, and that the GWR estimation with MODIS Ts and altitude as independent variables, has a much better result with adjusted R2 > 0.91 and RMSE =1.13-1.53℃ than OLS estimation. For more than 80% of the stations, the Ta thus retrieved from Ts has residuals lower than 2℃. Analysis of the spatio-temporal pattern of retrieved Ta data showed that the mean temperature in July (the warmest month) at altitudes of 4500 m can reach 10℃. This may help explain why the highest timberline in the Northern Hemisphere is on the Tibetan Plateau.

Cite this article

YAO Yonghui, ZHANG Baiping . MODIS-based estimation of air temperature of the Tibetan Plateau[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2013 , 23(4) : 627 -640 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-013-1033-7


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