Decreased Surface Albedo Driven By Denser Vegetation On the Tibetan Plateau Yangjian Zhang*, Li Tian

Monday, 15 December 2014
Yangjian Zhang and Li Tian, IGSNRR Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing, China
The Tibetan Plateau (TP) has fundamental ecological and environmental significance to China and Asia through its influence on regional and continental climates. In recent years, climate warming has caused unprecedented changes to land surface processes on the TP, which would unavoidably undermine the ecological and environmental functions of the TP. Among the numerous land surface processes potentially impacted by climate warming, the effect of vegetation greenness on surface energy balance is one of the most critical, but has been long ignored. In this study, we investigated the spatial and temporal patterns of land surface albedo (LSA) on the TP and evaluated the vegetation greenness in relation to patterns of LSA. We found that LSA has been decreasing in most of the vegetated grasslands on the TP from 2000 to 2013, as compared to a flat trend for desert area. The regions where LSA has been decreasing were spatially correlated to areas of increased vegetation greenness. Along rising altitude, LSA decreasing rate exhibited an overall decreasing trend. Across the TP, elevated vegetation greenness in grasslands acted as a primary factor pulling down LSA. The driving effects of vegetation greenness on LSA vary with grassland types, as revealed by a more significant relationship between vegetation greenness and LSA for the sparsely vegetated zone (i.e. steppe) than the more densely vegetated zone (i.e. meadow). Furthermore, the driving effect of vegetation greenness on LSA exhibited an obvious dependence on altitude as effects with rising altitude were relatively strong up to 3,000m, then weakened from 3,500m to 5,000m, and then the effects again increased from 5,000 to 6,000m. The growing season LSA trend revealed in this study emphasizes the need to give greater attention to the growing season LSA flux in future surface energy balance studies.