Elevation dependent warming over the Tibetan Plateau: Patterns, mechanisms and perspectives

Qinglong You, Deliang Chen, Fangying Wu, Nick Pepin, Ziyi Cai, Bodo Ahrens, Zhihong Jiang, Zhiwei Wu, Shichang Kang, Amir Aghakouchak

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The Tibetan Plateau (TP) is also known as the “Third Pole”. Elevation dependent warming (EDW), the phenomenon that warming rate changes systematically with elevation, is of high significance for realistically estimating warming rates and their impacts over the TP. This review summarizes studies of characteristics and mechanisms behind EDW over the TP based on multiple observed datasets and model simulations. Spatial expression of EDW and explanatory mechanisms are still largely unknown because of the lack of suitable data over the TP. The focus is on the roles played by known mechanisms such as snow/ice-albedo feedback, cloud feedback, atmospheric water vapor feedback, aerosol feedback, and changes in land use, ozone and vegetation. At present, there is limited consensus on the main mechanisms controlling EDW. Finally, new perspectives and unresolved issues are outlined, including quantification of EDW in climate model simulations, explanation of the long-term EDW reconstructed from proxies, interaction between the Asian summer monsoon and EDW, importance of EDW for future environmental changes and water resources, and current gaps in understanding EDW over extremely high elevations. Further progress requires a more comprehensive ground observation network, greater use of remote sensing data, and high-resolution climate modeling with better representation of both atmospheric and cryospheric processes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103349
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
Early online date2 Sept 2020
Publication statusEarly online - 2 Sept 2020


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