Please wait a minute...
Journal of Arid Land  2020, Vol. 12 Issue (3): 397-412    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-020-0098-2
Spatial-temporal characteristics and influencing factors of relative humidity in arid region of Northwest China during 1966-2017
CHEN Ditao1,2,3, LIU Wenjiang4, HUANG Farong1,2,4, LI Qian1,2,3, Friday UCHENNA-OCHEGE1,3,5, LI Lanhai1,2,3,4,6,7,*()
1 State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
2 Ili Station for Watershed Ecosystem Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xinyuan 835800, China
3 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
4 CAS Research Center for Ecology and Environment in Central Asia, Urumqi 830011, China
5 Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Port Harcourt, Port Harcount 500102, Nigeria
6 Xinjiang Regional Center of Resources and Environmental Science Instrument, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
7 Xinjiang Key Laboratory of Water Cycle and Utilization in Arid Zone, Urumqi 830011, China
Download: HTML     PDF(1316KB)
Export: BibTeX | EndNote (RIS)      


Playing an important role in global warming and plant growth, relative humidity (RH) has profound impacts on production and living, and can be used as an integrated indicator for evaluating the wet-dry conditions in the arid and semi-arid area. However, information on the spatial-temporal variation and the influencing factors of RH in these regions is still limited. This study attempted to use daily meteorological data during 1966-2017 to reveal the spatial-temporal characteristics of RH in the arid region of Northwest China through rotated empirical orthogonal function and statistical analysis method, and the path analysis was used to clarify the impact of temperature (T), precipitation (P), actual evapotranspiration (ETa), wind speed (W) and sunshine duration (S) on RH. The results demonstrated that climatic conditions in North Xinjiang (NXJ) was more humid than those in Hexi Corridor (HXC) and South Xinjiang (SXJ). RH had a less significant downtrend in NXJ than that in HXC, but an increasingly rising trend was observed in SXJ during the last five decades, implying that HXC and NXJ were under the process of droughts, while SXJ was getting wetter. There was a turning point for the trend of RH in Xinjiang, which occurred in 2000. Path analysis indicated that RH was negatively correlated to T, ETa, W and S, but it increased with increase of P. S, T and W had the greatest direct effects on RH in HXC, NXJ and SXJ, respectively. ETa was the factor which had the greatest indirect effect on RH in HXC and NXJ, while T was the dominant factor in SXJ.

Key wordsrelative humidity      spatial-temporal characteristics      path analysis      influencing factor      arid region     
Received: 29 March 2019      Published: 10 May 2020
Corresponding Authors: Lanhai LI     E-mail:
Cite this article:

CHEN Ditao, LIU Wenjiang, HUANG Farong, LI Qian, Friday UCHENNA-OCHEGE, LI Lanhai. Spatial-temporal characteristics and influencing factors of relative humidity in arid region of Northwest China during 1966-2017. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(3): 397-412.

URL:     OR

[1] Brutsaert W, Stricker H.1979. An advection-aridity approach to estimate actual regional evapotranspiration. Water Resources Research, 15(2): 443-450.
[2] Chen D, Huang F, Li Q, et al.2018. Spatial variation of humidity and its influencing factors in the north and south slopes of the Tianshan Mountains, China during 1966-2015. Climate Change Research, 14(6): 562-572.
[3] Chen Y, Deng H, Li B, et al.2014. Abrupt change of temperature and precipitation extremes in the arid region of Northwest China. Quaternary International, 336: 35-43.
[4] IPCC.2007. Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis: Contribution of working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 95-123.
[5] Dai A.2006. Recent climatology, variability, and trends in global surface humidity. Journal of Climate, 19(15): 3589-3606.
[6] Deng H, Chen Y, Shi X, et al.2014. Dynamics of temperature and precipitation extremes and their spatial variation in the arid region of northwest China. Atmospheric Research, 138: 346-355.
[7] Dessler A E, Zhang Z, Yang P.2008. Water-vapor climate feedback inferred from climate fluctuations, 2003-2008. Geophysical Research Letters, 35(20): 293-310.
[8] Gaffen D J, Ross R J.1999. Climatology and trends of U.S. surface humidity and temperature. Journal of Climate, 12(3): 811-828.
[9] Gedney N, Cox P M, Betts R A, et al.2006. Detection of a direct carbon dioxide effect in continental river runoff records. Nature, 439(7078): 835-838.
[10] Guo L, Li L.2015. Variation of the proportion of precipitation occurring as snow in the Tian Shan Mountains, China. International Journal of Climatology, 35(7): 1379-1393.
[11] Han X, Xue H, Zhao C, et al.2016. The roles of convective and stratiform precipitation in the observed precipitation trends in Northwest China during 1961-2000. Atmospheric Research, 169: 139-146.
[12] Hannachi A, Jolliffe I T, Stephenson D B.2007. Empirical orthogonal functions and related techniques in atmospheric science: A review. International Journal of Climatology, 27(9): 1119-1152.
[13] Haque A.2003. Estimating actual areal evapotranspiration from potential evapotranspiration using physical models based on complementary relationships and meteorological data. Bulletin of Engineering Geology and the Environment, 62(1): 57-63.
[14] Held I M, Soden B J.2000. Water vapor feedback and global warming. Annual Review of Energy and the Environment, 25(1): 441-475.
[15] Held I M, Soden B J.2006. Robust responses of the hydrological cycle to global warming. Journal of Climate, 19(21): 5686-5699.
[16] Huang J, Guan X, Ji F.2012. Enhanced cold-season warming in semi-arid regions. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 12(12): 5391-5398.
[17] Huo Z, Dai X, Feng S, et al.2013. Effect of climate change on reference evapotranspiration and aridity index in arid region of China. Journal of Hydrology, 492: 24-34.
[18] Iwasaki H.2016. Recent variations in surface specific humidity in the warm season over Japan. Theoretical and Applied Climatology, 123(3-4): 845-858.
[19] Jian D, Li X, Sun H, et al.2018. Estimation of actual evapotranspiration by the complementary theory-based advection-aridity model in the Tarim River Basin, China. Journal of Hydrometeorology, 19(2): 289-303.
[20] Kaiser H F.1958. The varimax criterion for analytic rotation in factor analysis. Psychometrika, 23(3): 187-200.
[21] Kang S, Eltahir E A B.2018. North China Plain threatened by deadly heatwaves due to climate change and irrigation. Nature Communications, 9(1): 2894.
[22] Kozak M, Kang M S.2006. Note on modern path analysis in application to crop science. Communications in Biometry and Crop Science, 1(1): 32-34.
[23] Li B, Chen Y, Shi X, et al.2013. Temperature and precipitation changes in different environments in the arid region of northwest China. Theoretical and Applied Climatology, 112(3-4): 589-596.
[24] Li B, Chen Y, Chen Z, et al.2016. Why does precipitation in northwest China show a significant increasing trend from 1960 to 2010?. Atmospheric Research, 167: 275-284.
[25] Li L, Zha Y.2018. Mapping relative humidity, average and extreme temperature in hot summer over China. Science of The Total Environment, 615: 875-881.
[26] Li X, Li L, Guo L, et al.2011. Impact of climate factors on runoff in the Kaidu River watershed: path analysis of 50-year data. Journal of Arid Land, 3(2): 132-140.
[27] Lian T, Chen D.2012. An evaluation of rotated EOF analysis and its application to tropical Pacific SST variability. Journal of Climate, 25(15): 5361-5373.
[28] Liu C, Chen Y, Xu Z.2010. Eco-hydrology and sustainable development in the arid regions of China. Hydrological Processes: An International Journal, 24(2): 127-128.
[29] Liu S, Bai J, Jia Z, et al.2010. Estimation of evapotranspiration in the Mu Us Sandland of China. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 14(3): 573-584.
[30] Liu Z, Menzel L, Dong C, et al.2016. Temporal dynamics and spatial patterns of drought and the relation to ENSO: a case study in Northwest China. International Journal of Climatology, 36(8): 2886-2898.
[31] Lorenz E N.1956. Empirical orthogonal functions and statistical weather prediction. Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
[32] Lu E, Takle E S.2010. Spatial variabilities and their relationships of the trends of temperature, water vapor, and precipitation in the North American Regional Reanalysi. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 115(D6): 620-631.
[33] Ma Z, Fu C.2003. Interannual characteristics of the surface hydrological variables over the arid and semi-arid areas of northern China. Global and Planetary Change, 37(3-4): 189-200.
[34] Moratiel R, Soriano B, Centeno A, et al.2017. Wet-bulb, dew point, and air temperature trends in Spain. Theoretical and Applied Climatology, 130(1-2): 419-434.
[35] Peng D, Zhou T.2017. Why was the arid and semiarid northwest China getting wetter in the recent decades?. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 122(17): 9060-9075.
[36] Penman H L.1948. Natural evaporation from open water, bare soil and grass. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series A. Mathematical and Physical Sciences, 193(1032): 120-145.
[37] Piao S, Ciais P, Huang Y, et al.2010. The impacts of climate change on water resources and agriculture in China. Nature, 467(7311): 43-51.
[38] Priestley C H B, Taylor R J.1972. On the assessment of surface heat flux and evaporation using large-scale parameters. Monthly Weather Review, 100(2): 81-92.
[39] Richman M B.1986. Rotation of principal components. Journal of Climatology, 6(3): 293-335.
[40] Richman M B, Gong X.1999. Relationships between the definition of the hyperplane width to the fidelity of principal component loading patterns. Journal of Climate, 12(6): 1557-1576.
[41] Robinson P J.1998. Monthly variations of dew point temperature in the coterminous United States. International Journal of Climatology, 18(14): 1539-1556.
[42] Robinson P J.2000. Temporal trends in United States dew point temperatures. International Journal of Climatology, 20(9): 985-1002.
[43] Sherwood S C, Meyer C L.2006. The general circulation and robust relative humidity. Journal of Climate, 19(24): 6278-6290.
[44] Shi Y, Shen Y, Kang E, et al.2007. Recent and future climate change in northwest China. Climatic Change, 80(3-4): 379-393.
[45] Simmons A J, Willett K M, Jones P D, et al.2010. Low-frequency variations in surface atmospheric humidity, temperature, and precipitation: Inferences from reanalyses and monthly gridded observational data sets. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 115(D1), doi: 10.1029/2009JD012442.
[46] Song Y, Liu Y, Ding Y.2012. A study of surface humidity changes in China during the recent 50 years. Acta Meteorologica Sinica, 26(5): 541-553.
[47] Su B, Jian D, Li X, et al.2017. Projection of actual evapotranspiration using the COSMO-CLM regional climate model under global warming scenarios of 1.5°C and 2.0°C in the Tarim River basin, China. Atmospheric Research, 196: 119-128.
[48] Su B, Huang J, Fischer T, et al.2018. Drought losses in China might double between the 1.5°C and 2.0°C warming. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(42): 10600-10605.
[49] Sun S, Chen H, Wang G, et al.2016. Shift in potential evapotranspiration and its implications for dryness/wetness over Southwest China. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 121(16): 9342-9355.
[50] Surratt G, Aronowicz J, Shine W, et al.2004. Change in aqueous tear evaporation with change in relative humidity. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, 45(13): 92-92.
[51] Trenberth K E, Dai A, Rasmussen R M, et al.2003. The changing character of precipitation. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 84(9): 1205-1218.
[52] Vincent L A, van Wijngaarden W A, Hopkinson R.2007. Surface temperature and humidity trends in Canada for 1953-2005. Journal of Climate, 20(20): 5100-5113.
[53] Wang H, Chen Y, Pan Y, et al.2015. Spatial and temporal variability of drought in the arid region of China and its relationships to teleconnection indices. Journal of Hydrology, 523: 283-296.
[54] Wang J, Ren Y.2005. Study on the change of precipitation and general circulation in Xinjiang. Arid Zone Research, (3): 326-331. (in Chinese)
[55] Wang J W, Wang K, Pielke R A, et al.2008. Towards a robust test on North America warming trend and precipitable water content increase. Geophysical Research Letters, 35(18), doi: 10.1029/2008GL034564.
[56] Wang X, Liang P, Li C, et al.2014. Analysis of regional temperature variation characteristics in the Lancang River Basin in southwestern China. Quaternary International, 333: 198-206.
[57] Wang X, Cui G, Wu F, et al.2015. Analysis of temporal-spatial precipitation variations during the crop growth period in the Lancang River basin, southwestern China. Ecological Engineering, 76: 47-56.
[58] Wang Z, Li J, Lai C, et al.2017. Does drought in China show a significant decreasing trend from 1961 to 2009?. Science of the Total Environment, 579: 314-324.
[59] Wei W, Zhang R, Wen M, et al.2017. Relationship between the Asian westerly jet stream and summer rainfall over Central Asia and North China: Roles of the Indian monsoon and the South Asian High. Journal of Climate, 30(2): 537-552.
[60] Willett K M, Gillett N P, Jones P D, et al.2007. Attribution of observed surface humidity changes to human influence. Nature, 449(7163): 710-712.
[61] Willett K M, Jones P D, Gillett N P, et al.2008. Recent changes in surface humidity: Development of the HadCRUH dataset. Journal of Climate, 21(20): 5364-5383.
[62] Willett K M, Jones P D, Thorne P W, et al.2010. A comparison of large scale changes in surface humidity over land in observations and CMIP3 general circulation models. Environmental Research Letters, 5(2): 025210.
[63] Wright S.1921. Correlation and causation. Journal of Agricultural Research, 20(7): 557-585.
[64] Wright S.1934. The method of path coefficients. The annals of mathematical statistics, 5(3): 161-215.
[65] Xie B, Zhang Q, Ying Y.2011. Trends in precipitable water and relative humidity in China: 1979-2005. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 50(10): 1985-1994.
[66] Xing N, Zhou H, Shang K, et al.2010. The relationship between drought in Xinjiang and upper-air meridional circulation over the Tibetan Plateau. Journal of Arid Land Resources and Environment, 24(12): 121-127. (in Chinese)
[67] Xu L, Zhou H, Liang C, et al.2010. Spatial and temporal variability of annual and seasonal precipitation over the desert region of China during 1951-2005. Hydrological Processes, 24(20): 2947-2959.
[68] Yao J, Zhao Y, Chen Y, et al.2018. Multi-scale assessments of droughts: a case study in Xinjiang, China. Science of the Total Environment, 630: 444-452.
[69] You Q, Kang S, Aguilar E, et al.2011. Changes in daily climate extremes in China and their connection to the large scale atmospheric circulation during 1961-2003. Climate Dynamics, 36(11-12): 2399-2417.
[70] Yu M, Li Q, Hayes M J, et al.2014. Are droughts becoming more frequent or severe in China based on the standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index: 1951-2010?. International Journal of Climatology, 34(3): 545-558.
[71] Yuan H, Teng J, Li J, et al.2010. Spatio-temporal features of high temperature and drought in southern Xinjiang in summer and its anomalous circulation patterns. Journal of Arid Land Resources and Environment, 24(12): 73-79. (in Chinese)
[72] Yuan W, Zou L, Sun J.2009. Temporal and spatial variations of the summer air temperature in Xinjiang Region and their relationships with atmospheric circulation in 1961-2005. Journal of Glaciology and Geocryology, 31(5): 801-807. (in Chinese)
[73] Zhang F, Li L, Ahmad S, et al.2014. Using path analysis to identify the influence of climatic factors on spring peak flow dominated by snowmelt in an alpine watershed. Journal of Mountain Science, 11(4): 990-1000.
[74] Zhang Z, Liu L, Tang X.2012. The regional difference and abrupt events of climatic change in Tianshan Mountains during 1960-2010. Progress in Geography, 31(11): 1475-1484.
[75] Zhao Y, Wang M Z, Huang A N, et al.2014. Relationships between the West Asian subtropical westerly jet and summer precipitation in northern Xinjiang. Theoretical and Applied Climatology, 116(3-4): 403-411.
[1] Batjargal BUYANTOGTOKH, Yasunori KUROSAKI, Atsushi TSUNEKAWA, Mitsuru TSUBO, Batdelger GANTSETSEG, Amarsaikhan DAVAADORJ, Masahide ISHIZUKA, Tsuyoshi T SEKIYAMA, Taichu Y TANAKA, Takashi MAKI. Effect of stones on the sand saltation threshold during natural sand and dust storms in a stony desert in Tsogt-Ovoo in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(7): 653-673.
[2] WU Jun, DENG Guoning, ZHOU Dongmei, ZHU Xiaoyan, MA Jing, CEN Guozhang, JIN Yinli, ZHANG Jun. Effects of climate change and land-use changes on spatiotemporal distributions of blue water and green water in Ningxia, Northwest China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(7): 674-687.
[3] JIA Wuhui, YIN Lihe, ZHANG Maosheng, ZHANG Xinxin, ZHANG Jun, TANG Xiaoping, DONG Jiaqiu. Quantification of groundwater recharge and evapotranspiration along a semi-arid wetland transect using diurnal water table fluctuations[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(5): 455-469.
[4] LANG Man, LI Ping, WEI Wei. Gross nitrogen transformations and N2O emission sources in sandy loam and silt loam soils[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(5): 487-499.
[5] Mahsa MIRDASHTVAN, Mohsen MOHSENI SARAVI. Influence of non-stationarity and auto-correlation of climatic records on spatio-temporal trend and seasonality analysis in a region with prevailing arid and semi-arid climate, Iran[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(6): 964-983.
[6] FENG Jian, ZHAO Lingdi, ZHANG Yibo, SUN Lingxiao, YU Xiang, YU Yang. Can climate change influence agricultural GTFP in arid and semi-arid regions of Northwest China?[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(5): 837-853.
[7] LYU Changhe, XU Zhiyuan. Crop production changes and the impact of Grain for Green program in the Loess Plateau of China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(1): 18-28.
[8] HE Guohua, ZHAO Yong, WANG Jianhua, GAO Xuerui, HE Fan, LI Haihong, ZHAI Jiaqi, WANG Qingming, ZHU Yongnan. Attribution analysis based on Budyko hypothesis for land evapotranspiration change in the Loess Plateau, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(6): 939-953.
[9] Yaning CHEN, Baofu LI, Yuting FAN, Congjian SUN, Gonghuan FANG. Hydrological and water cycle processes of inland river basins in the arid region of Northwest China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(2): 161-179.
[10] Long MA, Hongyu LI, Tingxi LIU, Longteng LIANG. Abrupt temperature change and a warming hiatus from 1951 to 2014 in Inner Mongolia, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(2): 192-207.
[11] BELALA Fahima, HIRCHE Azziz, D MULLER Serge, TOURKI Mahmoud, SALAMANI Mostefa, GRANDI Mohamed, AIT HAMOUDA Tahar, BOUGHANI Madjid. Rainfall patterns of Algerian steppes and the impacts on natural vegetation in the 20th century[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2018, 10(4): 561-573.
[12] Ling NAN, Zhibao DONG, Weiqiang XIAO, Chao LI, Nan XIAO, Shaopeng SONG, Fengjun XIAO, Lingtong DU. A field investigation of wind erosion in the farming-pastoral ecotone of northern China using a portable wind tunnel: a case study in Yanchi County[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2018, 10(1): 27-38.
[13] TAMADDUN Kazi, KALRA Ajay, AHMAD Sajjad. Potential of rooftop rainwater harvesting to meet outdoor water demand in arid regions[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2018, 10(1): 68-83.
[14] Hui RAN, Shaozhong KANG, Fusheng LI, Taisheng DU, Risheng DING, Sien LI, Ling TONG. Responses of water productivity to irrigation and N supply for hybrid maize seed production in an arid region of Northwest China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2017, 9(4): 504-514.
[15] Di KANG, Jian DENG, Xiaowei QIN, Fei HAO, Shujuan GUO, Xinhui HAN, Gaihe YANG. Effect of competition on spatial patterns of oak forests on the Chinese Loess Plateau[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2017, 9(1): 122-131.