Climate Dynamics

, Volume 53, Issue 1–2, pp 353–370 | Cite as

How do westerly jet streams regulate the winter snow depth over the Tibetan Plateau?

  • Yuntao Bao
  • Qinglong YouEmail author


The linkages between upper-level westerly jet streams and snow depth over the Tibetan Plateau (TP) in winter (from November to the following April) were investigated for the period 1979–2014 using satellite-borne passive microwave retrievals of snow depth data and ERA-Interim reanalysis data. Anomalies in atmospheric circulation, temperature, and precipitation corresponding to variation in westerly jets were examined to find the causes of variation in snow depth over the TP, using singular value decomposition, composite analysis and dynamical diagnosis. Results show that variation in intensity and meridional shifts of westerly jets, with particular attention to the North Tibetan Plateau jet (NTPJ) and the South Tibetan Plateau jet (STPJ), significantly influence the interannual variation of snow depth over the TP in late winter (February–April). For the conjunction of intense STPJ and weak NTPJ, an anomalous cold low-pressure vortex is observed over the TP. The vortex extends across the TP and spans from the ground surface to the upper troposphere. There is anomalous ascending motion above the TP due to secondary circulations immediately south and north of STPJ, with increased moisture flux from the southwest. These circulation structures cause significant cooling and increased precipitation, thus promoting snowfall and snow accumulation. Temperature is a more important influence than precipitation on snow accumulation. Cooling over the TP is caused by cold temperature advection due to intensely cold air and weakened descending adiabatic heating due to anomalous ascending motion. Local moisture is reduced, and anomalous ascending moisture advection leads to more net precipitation and snowfall over the TP.


Westerly jet Snow depth Tibetan Plateau Interannual variability Atmospheric circulation 



Tibetan Plateau


Scanning multichannel microwave radiometer


Special sensor microwave/imager


Meteorological observation and moderate resolution imaging spectroadiometer


North Atlantic oscillation


Arctic oscillation


Arctic Oscillation Index


Indian Ocean Dipole


El Niño–southern oscillation


Sea surface temperature


Singular value decomposition


Snow depth index


Jet occurrence frequency


Horizontal wind speed


South Tibetan Plateau jet


North Tibetan Plateau jet



This study is supported by National Key R&D Program of China (2016YFA0601702 and 2017YFA0603804), National Natural Science Foundation of China (41771069). This study is also funded by “the Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions” (PAPD).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Meteorological Disaster, Ministry of Education (KLME)/Joint International Research Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Change (ILCEC), Collaborative Innovation Center on Forecast and Evaluation of Meteorological Disasters (CIC-FEMD)/Earth System Modeling CenterNanjing University of Information Science and Technology (NUIST)NanjingChina
  2. 2.Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Institute of Atmospheric SciencesFudan UniversityShanghaiChina

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