Advances in Climate Change Research (2021-02-01)

Dynamics of freezing/thawing indices and frozen ground from 1900 to 2017 in the upper Brahmaputra River Basin, Tibetan Plateau

  • Lei LIU,
  • Dong-Liang LUO,
  • Lei WANG,
  • Ya-Dong HUANG,
  • Fang-Fang CHEN

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 1
pp. 6 – 17


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Dynamics of the frozen ground are key to understand the changes of eco-environment in cold regions, especially for areas with limited field observations. In this study, we analyzed the spatial and temporal variations of the ground surface freezing and thawing indices from 1900 to 2017 for the upper Brahmaputra River (also called the Yarlung Zangbo River in China) Basin (UBRB), southwestern Tibetan Plateau, with the air freezing and thawing indices using the University of Delaware (UDEL) monthly gridded air temperature dataset. The abrupt change years for air freezing index (AFI) and ground surface freezing index (GFI) were detected in 1999 and 2002, respectively, and for both air thawing index (ATI) and ground surface thawing index (GTI) were 2009. With the air temperature rising at a rate of 0.006 °C per year over 1900–2017, the AFI and GFI decreased at a rate of −0.1 °C d per year, while the ATI and GTI increased at rates of 0.3 and 0.5 °C d per year before the abrupt change year, respectively; all changing trends of freezing/thawing indices increased after the abrupt year, which was −2.9, −0.8, 7.3, and 21.7 °C d per year for the AFI, GFI, ATI, and GTI, respectively. We utilized the surface frost number model to obtain the dynamics of the frozen ground over the UBRB. When the empirical coefficient of E was assigned to 1.2, the simulated frozen ground occupied about 53.2% of the whole UBRB in the 1990s, which agreed well with the existing permafrost map published in 1996. The area of frozen ground accounts for 51.5%–54.5% of the UBRB during 1900–2017. This result may facilitate further studies of the multi-interactions among the frozen ground and relevant eco-environment, such as the air-ground surface energy exchange, hydrological cycles, and changes of the active layer thickness over the UBRB.