10 Aug 2020

10 Aug 2020

Review status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Evidence for elevation-dependent warming from the Chinese Tianshan Mountains

Lu Gao1,2,3,4, Haijun Deng1,2,3,4, Xiangyong Lei3, Jianhui Wei5, Yaning Chen6, Zhongqin Li7, Miaomiao Ma8, Xingwei Chen1,2,3,4, Ying Chen1,2,3,4, Meibing Liu1,2,3,4, and Jianyun Gao9 Lu Gao et al.
  • 1Institute of Geography, Fujian Normal University, Fuzhou 350007, China
  • 2Fujian Provincial Engineering Research Center for Monitoring and Assessing Terrestrial Disasters, Fujian Normal University, Fuzhou 350007, China
  • 3College of Geographical Sciences, Fujian Normal University, Fuzhou 350007, China
  • 4State Key Laboratory of Subtropical Mountain Ecology (Funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Fujian province), Fujian Normal University, Fuzhou 350007, China
  • 5Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK-IFU), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Campus Alpine, Garmisch- Partenkirchen 82467, Germany
  • 6State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
  • 7State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences/Tianshan Glaciological Station, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China
  • 8China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research, Beijing 100038, China
  • 9Fujian Key Laboratory of Severe Weather, Fuzhou 350001, China

Abstract. The phenomenon that the warming rate of air temperature is amplified with elevation is termed elevation-dependent warming (EDW). It has been clarified that EDW can accelerate the retreat of glaciers and the melting of snow, which would have significant impacts on regional ecological environment. Owing to the lack of high-density ground observations in the high mountains, there is a widespread controversy on the existence of the EDW. Current evidences are mainly derived from some typical high mountains such as the Swiss Alps, the Colorado Rocky Mountains, the Tropical Andes and the Tibetan Plateau/Himalayas. Rare evidences in other mountains have been reported, especially in arid regions. In this study, EDW features in the Chinese Tianshan Mountains (CTM) are detected using a unique high-resolution (1 km, 6-hourly) air temperature data set (CTMD). The results showed that there are significant EDW signals at different altitudes on different time scales. The warming rate of the minimum temperature in winter shows significant elevation dependence, especially above 4000 m. The greatest altitudinal gradient in the warming rate of maximum temperature is found above 2500 m in April. For the mean temperature, the warming rates in January, February and March show prominent EDW features but with different significances. Within the CTM, the Tolm Mountains, the eastern part of the Borokoonu Mountains, the Bogda Mountains and the Balikun Mountains are the representative regions that show significant EDW features on different time scales. This new evidence partly explains the accelerated melting of glaciers in spring in the CTM.

Lu Gao et al.

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Lu Gao et al.

Data sets

A high-resolution air temperature data set for the Chinese Tianshan Mountians in 1979–2016 Lu Gao

Lu Gao et al.


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Short summary
There is a widespread controversy on the existence of the elevation-dependent warming (EDW) phenomenon due to the limited observations in the high mountains. This study provides a new evidence for EDW from the Chinese Tianshan Mountains based on a high-resolution (1 km, 6-hourly) air temperature data set. The result reveals the significant EDW on the month scale. The warming rate of the minimum temperature in December and January shows significant elevation dependence, particular above 4000m.