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Temperature Changes in Central Asia from 1979 to 2011 Based on Multiple Datasets*


Hu, Zengyun
Zhang, Chi
Hu, Qi
Tian, Hanqin


The arid and semiarid region in central Asia is sensitive and vulnerable to climate variations. However, the sparse and highly unevenly distributed meteorological stations in the region provide limited data for understanding of the region’s climate variations. In this study, the near-surface air temperature change in central Asia from 1979 to 2011 was examined using observations from 81 meteorological stations, three local observation validated reanalysis datasets of relatively high spatial resolutions, and the Climate Research Unit (CRU) dataset. Major results suggested that the three reanalysis datasets match well with most of the local climate records, especially in the low-lying plain areas. The consensus of the multiple datasets showed significant regional surface air temperature increases of 0.36°–0.42°C decade−1 in the past 33 years. No significant contributions from declining irrigation and urbanization to temperature change were found. The rate is larger in recent years than in the early years in the study period. Additionally, unlike in many regions in the world, the temperature in winter showed no increase in central Asia in the last three decades, a noticeable departure from the global trend in the twentieth century. The largest increase in surface temperature was occurring in the spring season. Analyses further showed a warming center in the middle of the central Asian states and weakened temperature variability along the northwest–southeast temperature gradient from the northern Kazakhstan to southern Xinjiang. The reanalysis datasets also showed significant negative correlations between temperature increase rate and elevation in this complex terrain region.