Review of snow cover variation over the Tibetan Plateau and its influence on the broad climate system

Qinglong You, Tao Wu, Liuchen Shen, Nick Pepin, Ling Zhang, Zhihong Jiang, Zhiwei Wu, Shichang Kang, Amir Aghakouchak

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Variation in snow cover over the Tibetan Plateau (TP) is a key component of climate change and variability, and critical for many hydrological and biological processes. This review first summarizes recent observed changes of snow cover over the TP, including the relationship between the TP snow cover and that over Eurasia as a whole; recent climatology and spatial patterns; inter-annual variability and trends; as well as projected changes in snow cover. Second, we discuss the physical causes and factors contributing to variations in snow cover over the TP, including precipitation, temperature, and synoptic forcing such as the Arctic Oscillation and the westerly jet, and large scale ocean-atmosphere oscillations such as the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ESNO), the Indian Ocean dipole, and the southern annular mode. Third, linkage between snow cover over the TP and subsequent weather and climate systems are discussed, including the East and South Asian Summer Monsoons, and their subsequent precipitation regimes. Finally, new perspectives and unresolved issues are outlined, including changes in extreme events and related disasters (e.g., avalanches), the use of novel datasets, the possible elevation dependency in snow cover change, expected snow cover changes under 1.5 °C and 2 °C global warming, the physical mechanisms modulating climate extremes in the region, and the linkage between snow cover variation and atmospheric pollution. Despite a large body of work over the TP, we argue that there is a need for more comparative studies using multiple snow datasets, and snow cover information over the western TP and during summer would benefit from more attention in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103043
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
Early online date27 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


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