Changes in snow depth under elevation‐dependent warming over the Tibetan Plateau

Liucheng Shen, Yuqing Zhang, Safi Ullah, Nick Pepin, Qianrong Ma

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Snow plays an essential role in regulating climate change, the hydrological cycle, and various biological processes. Passive microwave snow depth data and gridded data from the Climate Research Unit (CRU_TS4.04) are utilized in this study to investigate spatiotemporal variations of snow depth over the Tibetan Plateau (TP), with special focus on the vertical dimension. The response of snow to elevation‐dependent warming (EDW) is determined accordingly. High mountains experience more rapid warming than lower elevations. During 1980–2014, the total snow depth over the TP decreased; areas with the most significant decreasing trends are mainly concentrated in the northwestern and southwestern parts of the TP. The plateau‐wide decrease in snow depth (−0.24 cm/decade) is mainly affected by increasing temperature (0.30°C/decade). The reduction in snow depth trend intensifies as sub‐regional mean elevation increases from 3,332 m (IID2) to 5,074 m (ID1). A stronger snow depth decrease in high‐elevation sub‐regions generally corresponds to higher warming rates, which demonstrates EDW. The most pronounced correlation between snow depth decrease rate and elevation occurs in the southeastern TP, which covers the largest elevation range on the plateau (from 2,000 to 6,000 m).
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1041
Number of pages12
JournalAtmospheric Science Letters
Issue number9
Early online date3 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021


  • climate zone
  • elevation-dependent warning
  • sonow depth
  • Tibetan Plateau


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