Climate change and human activities: A case study in Xinjiang, China

Zhuoting Wu, Hongjun Zhang, Crystal M. Krause, Neil S. Cobb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


We examined both long-term climate variability and anthropogenic contributions to current climate change for Xinjiang province of northwest China. Xinjiang encompasses several mountain ranges and inter-mountain basins and is comprised of a northern semiarid region and a more arid southern region. Climate over the last three centuries was reconstructed from tree rings and temperature series were calculated for the past 50 years using weather station data. Three major conclusions from these analyses are: (1) Although temperature varied considerably in Xinjiang over the last 200 years, it was non-directional until the last 50 years when a substantial warming trend occurred; (2) The semiarid North Xinjiang was representative of the northern hemisphere climate, while the more arid South Xinjiang resembled the southern hemisphere climate, meanwhile, (3) The entire Xinjiang province captured the global-scale climate signal. We also compared human contributions to global change between North and South Xinjiang, including land cover/land use, population, and greenhouse gas production. For both regions, urban areas acted as heat islands; and large areas of grassland and forest were converted to barren land, especially in North Xinjiang. Additionally, North Xinjiang also showed larger increase in population and greenhouse gas emissions mainly associated with animal production than those in South Xinjiang. Although Xinjiang province is a geographically coupled mountain-basin system, the two regions have distinct climate patterns and anthropogenic activities related to land cover conversion and greenhouse gas production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-472
Number of pages16
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science


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