An examination of temperature trends at high elevations across the Tibetan Plateau: the use of MODIS LST to understand patterns of elevation‐dependent warming

N. C. Pepin, H. Deng, H. Zhang, F. Zhang, S. Kang, T. Yao

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    Abstract

    Research has revealed systematic changes in warming rates with elevation (EDW) in mountain regions. However, weather stations on the Tibetan plateau are mostly located at lower elevations (3000‐4000 m) and are non‐existent above 5000 m, leaving critical temperature changes unknown. Satellite LST (Land Surface Temperature) can fill this gap, but needs calibrating against in‐ situ air temperatures (Tair). We develop a novel statistical model to convert LST to Tair, developed at 87 high‐elevation Chinese Meteorological Administration stations. Tair (daily maximum/minimum temperatures) is compared with MODIS Aqua LST (1330 and 0130 local time) for 8 day composites during 2002‐2017. Typically, 80‐95% of the difference between LST and Tair (ΔT) is explained using predictors including LST diurnal range, morning heating/night‐time cooling rates, the number of cloud free days/nights and season (solar angle). LST is corrected to more closely represent Tair by subtracting modelled ΔT. We validate the model using an AWS on Zhadang Glacier (5800 m). Trend analysis at the 87 stations (2002‐2017) shows corrected LST trends to be similar to original Tair trends. To examine regional contrasts in EDW patterns, elevation profiles of corrected LST trends are derived for three ranges (Qilian Mountains, NyenchenTanglha and Himalaya). There is limited EDW in the Qilian mountains. Maximum warming is observed around 4500‐5500 m in NyenchenTanglha, consistent with snowline retreat. In common with other studies, there is stabilisation of warming at very high elevations in the Himalaya, including absolute cooling above 6000 m, but data there is compromised by frequent cloud.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number0
    Pages (from-to)5738-5756
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
    Volume124
    Issue number11
    Early online date5 Jun 2019
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2019

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