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Journal Article

Fine-grained climate classification for the Qaidam Basin


Fraedrich,  Klaus F.
The Atmosphere in the Earth System, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;

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Feng, Y., Du, S., Fraedrich, K. F., & Zhang, X. (2022). Fine-grained climate classification for the Qaidam Basin. Atmosphere, 13: 913. doi:10.3390/atmos13060913.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-B073-D
The Qaidam Basin is a sensitive climate transition zone revealing a wide spectrum of local climates and their variability. In order to obtain an objective and quantitative expression of local climate regions as well as avoid the challenge to pre-define the number of heterogeneous local climates, the ISODATA cluster method is employed to achieve the fine-grained climate divisions of the Qaidam Basin, which can heuristically alter the number of clusters based on the input of monthly temperature and precipitation data. The fine-grained climate classification extends the traditional Koppen climate classification and represents the complex climate transformation processes in terms of fine-grained climate clusters. The following results are observed: (i) The Qaidam Basin is divided into an arid desert basin area and the surrounding alpine mountainous areas. The climate distribution is affected by both the altitude and the dryness ratio, which, employing the Budyko framework, largely characterizes the local energy-water fluxes at the surface and the related vegetation regimes (biomes). The fine-grained climate classification successfully captures their causal relationships and represents them well by the local climates: the climatic spatial differentiation in the mountainous areas is highly consistent with the topography and reveals an elevation-dependent circular distribution from the edges to the center of the basin; the climate heterogeneity within the basin presents a west-to-east meridional distribution due to the combined effect of the mid-latitude westerlies and the Indian monsoon. (ii) The climate gradients are spatially different over the Qaidam Basin. The surrounding mountainous areas have a large climate gradient compared to the inner basin; the southern mountain edge is governed by a more severe climate change than the north-eastern one; and the climate gradient is larger in the eastern than in the western basin. (iii) The lake regions within the basin show an obvious lake effect and reveal a local lake climate. Spatially, a common structure emerges with a dryer-climate zone or watershed embedding a wetter lake-affected area, which appears to migrate eastward becoming stepwise wetter from the very dry center to the wet eastern boundary of the Qaidam basin. This provides a topographically induced insight of the wet climate expansion of initially arid climates and is crucial to improve the Qaidam Basin's ecological environment. Finally, although this work mainly focuses on the local-scale climates and their variability in the Qaidam Basin, the data-driven cluster methodology for climate refinement is transferable to regional- even global-scale climate studies, which offers broad application prospects.