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Journal of Arid Land  2015, Vol. 7 Issue (4): 514-526    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-015-0045-9
Research Articles     
Precipitation trends and variability from 1950 to 2000 in arid lands of Central Asia
XU Ligang1,2, ZHOU Hongfei1*, DU Li2, YAO Haijiao1, WANG Huaibo2
1 Fukang National Field Scientific Observation and Research Station for Desert Ecosystems, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China;
2 Scientific Research Institute of Water Conservancy of Ningxia, Yinchuan 750021, China
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Abstract  Climate warming will cause differences in precipitation distribution and changes in hydrological cycle both at regional and global scales. Arid lands of Central Asia (ALCA), one of the largest arid regions at the middle latitudes in the world, is likely to be strongly influenced by climate warming. Understanding the precipitation variations in the past is an important prerequisite for predicting future precipitation trends and thus managing regional water resources in such an arid region. In this study, we used run theory, displacement, extreme deviation theory, precipitation concentration index (PCI), Mann-Kendall rank correlation and climatic trend coefficient methods to analyze the precipitation in wet and dry years, changes in precipitation over multiple-time scales, variability of precipitation and its rate of change based on the monthly precipitation data during 1950–2000 from 344 meteorological stations in the ALCA. The occurrence probability of a single year with abundant precipitation was higher than that of a single year with less precipitation. The average duration of extreme drought in the entire area was 5 years, with an average annual water deficit of 34.6 mm (accounting for 11.2% of the average annual precipitation over the duration). The occurrence probability of a single wet year was slightly higher than that of a single dry year. The occurrence probability of more than 5 consecutive wet years was 5.8%, while the occurrence probability of more than 5 consecutive dry years was 6.2%. In the center of the study area, the distribution of precipitation was stable at an intra-annual timescale, with small changes at an inter-annual timescale. In the western part of the study area, the monthly variation of precipitation was high at an inter-annual timescale. There were clear seasonal changes in precipitation (PCI=12–36) in the ALCA. Precipitation in spring and winter accounted for 37.7% and 24.4% of the annual precipitation, respectively. There was a significant inter-annual change in precipitation in the arid Northwest China (PCI=24–34). Annual precipitation increased significantly (P=0.05) in 17.4% of all the meteorological stations over the study period. The probability of an increase in annual precipitation was 75.6%, with this increase being significant (P=0.05) at 34.0% of all the meteorological stations. The average increasing rate in annual precipitation was 3.9 mm/10a (P=0.01) in the ALCA. There were significant increasing trends (P=0.01) in precipitation in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, with rates of 2.6, 3.1 and 3.7 mm/10a, respectively.

Key wordsTamarix ramosissima      stem diameter growth      tree ring formation      hydroclimatic factors      diurnal-seasonal scale      Heihe River     
Received: 31 October 2014      Published: 10 August 2015

This research was financially supported by International Science & Technology Cooperation Program of China (2010DFA92720),the Knowledge Innovation Project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KZCX2-YW-T09) and the Post-doctoral Fund Pro-gram of China (2013M542416).

Corresponding Authors: ZHOU Hongfei     E-mail:
Cite this article:

XU Ligang, ZHOU Hongfei, DU Li, YAO Haijiao, WANG Huaibo. Precipitation trends and variability from 1950 to 2000 in arid lands of Central Asia. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(4): 514-526.

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