Yao, YH; Zhang, BP (2013). A Preliminary Study of the Heating Effect of the Tibetan Plateau. PLOS ONE, 8(7), e68750.
The immense and towering Tibetan Plateau acts as a heating source and, thus, deeply shapes the climate of the Eurasian continent and even the whole world. However, due to the scarcity of meteorological observation stations and very limited climatic data, little is quantitatively known about the heating effect of the plateau and its implications. This paper firstly collects climate data (2001-2007) from 109 observation stations and MODIS-based estimated monthly mean temperature data in the plateau and the neighboring Sichuan Basin, and conducts correlation and simple linear regression to reveal the altitudinal pattern of temperature. Then, according to the linear relationships of temperature and altitude for each month, it compares air temperature differences on the same elevation between the main plateau and surrounding mountains and the Sichuan Basin so as to quantify the heating effect and discuss its implication on timberline of the plateau. The results show that: 1) the heating effect of the plateau is significant. The temperature of the main plateau area was higher than that of free air on the same elevation above the neighboring areas; on the elevation of 4500 m (the main plateau), temperature is 1-6 degrees C higher in the main Plateau than over the Sichuan Basin for different months and 5.9-10.7 degrees C higher than in the Qilian Mountains in the northeastern corner of the plateau. 2) Even at altitudes of 5000-6000 m in the main Plateau, there are 4 months with a mean temperature above 0 degrees C. The mean temperature of the warmest month (July) can reach 10 degrees C at about 4600-4700 m. This may help explain why the highest timberline in the northern hemisphere is on the southeastern Tibetan Plateau.