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Enlargement of the semi-arid region in China from 1961 to 2010


Due to spatial and temporal heterogeneity in moisture conditions, the responses of arid/humid climate regions (AHCR) to climate change are complex. In this study, we delineated the AHCR of China using information about the balance of the atmospheric water supply and demand collected from 581 meteorological stations over the past 50 years. We also analyzed inter-decadal shifts and linear trends in the AHCR and examined the influence of precipitation and reference evapotranspiration. The results indicate that the semi-arid region expanded significantly over the last five decades, mainly in northwest China, northern China, and the Tibetan Plateau and, by the 2000s, had increased by 33.53% relative to its extent in the 1960s; in contrast, the arid region shrank by 20.75%. The semi-arid region grew mainly because of transfers from the arid region in western China and the sub-humid region in eastern China. The decreased reference evapotranspiration and significantly increased precipitation together contributed to the expansion of the semi-arid region in northwest China and the Tibetan Plateau over the last 50 years. In contrast, the expansion of the semi-arid region in Inner Mongolia and northern China reflects the counteractive influence of decreased reference evapotranspiration and decreased precipitation.

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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41571043), the Key Program of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41530749), and the Cultivate Project of the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences (TSYJS03).

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Correspondence to Yunhe Yin.

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Yin, Y., Ma, D. & Wu, S. Enlargement of the semi-arid region in China from 1961 to 2010. Clim Dyn 52, 509–521 (2019).

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  • Arid/humid climate region
  • Climate change
  • Aridity index
  • Precipitation
  • Reference evapotranspiration