The impact of land-cover modification on the June meteorology of China since 1700, simulated using a regional climate model

H. Wang, A. J. Pitman*, M. Zhao, R. Leemans

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    25 Citations (Scopus)


    A series of simulation was conducted using a regional climate model with a domain covering mainland China. Simulations were conducted for a single June using estimated land cover for 1700. 1750, 1800, 1850, 1900, 1950, 1970 and 1990. The conversion of land cover between these periods was extensive over mainland China, where large areas were altered from natural forests to either grass or crops, or from natural grasslands to crops. These land-cover modifications affect various characteristics of the land surface, which lead to changes in the way available energy and water are partitioned. Over areas where land cover was modified, substantial changes are simulated. The conversion from forests to grasses or crops leads to warming and to reductions in root zone soil moisture and latent heat fluxes. Regionally, the conversion from forest to grasses and crops leads to significant warming over large areas of China, but there is an area of cooling present that is coincident with the main location of a land-use change from short grass to crops. The changes in temperature propagate to about 1500 m above the surface and affect specific humidity throughout this part of the atmosphere. An analysis of daily average results shows a consistent impact of land-cover modification on temperature, latent heat flux and soil moisture. Therefore, we find large and consistent impacts over China resulting from historical land-cover modification that are sufficiently important to the regional-scale climate to warrant inclusion in future modelling efforts. Our results suggest that efforts to attribute warming patterns over China to any particular cause need to take into account the conversion of the land cover that has taken place over China over the last 300 years.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)511-527
    Number of pages17
    JournalInternational Journal of Climatology
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2003


    • China
    • Land cover
    • Regional climate model
    • Regional warming
    • Simulation


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