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Impacts of uplift of northern Tibetan Plateau and formation of Asian inland deserts on regional climate and environment

Liu, X., Sun, H., Miao, Y., Dong, B. and Yin, Z.-Y. (2015) Impacts of uplift of northern Tibetan Plateau and formation of Asian inland deserts on regional climate and environment. Quaternary Science Reviews, 116. pp. 1-14. ISSN 0277-3791

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2015.03.010


Based on the geological evidence that the northern Tibetan Plateau (NTP) had an uplift of a finite magnitude since the Miocene and the major Asian inland deserts formed in the early Pliocene, a regional climate model (RegCM4.1) with a horizontal resolution of 50 km was used to explore the effects of the NTP uplift and the related aridification of inland Asia on regional climate. We designed three numerical experiments including the control experiment representing the present-day condition, the high-mountain experiment representing the early Pliocene condition with uplifted NTP but absence of the Asian inland deserts, and the low-mountain experiment representing the mid-Miocene condition with reduced topography in the NTP (by as much as 2400 m) and also absence of the deserts. Our simulation results indicated that the NTP uplift caused significant reductions in annual precipitation in a broad region of inland Asia north of the Tibetan Plateau (TP) mainly due to the enhanced rain shadow effect of the mountains and changes in the regional circulations. However, four mountainous regions located in the uplift showed significant increases in precipitation, stretching from the Pamir Plateau in the west to the Qilian Mountains in the east. These mountainous areas also experienced different changes in the rainfall seasonality with the greatest increases occurring during the respective rainy seasons, predominantly resulted from the enhanced orographically forced upwind ascents. The appearance of the major deserts in the inland Asia further reduced precipitation in the region and led to increased dust emission and deposition fluxes, while the spatial patterns of dust deposition were also changed, not only in the regions of uplift-impacted topography, but also in the downwind regions. One major contribution from this study is the comparison of the simulation results with 11 existing geological records representing the moisture conditions from Miocene to Pliocene. The comparisons revealed good matches between the simulation results and the published geological records. Therefore, we conclude that the NTP uplift and the related formation of the major deserts played a controlling role in the evolution of regional climatic conditions in a broad region in inland Asia since the Miocene.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > NCAS
Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:40531

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