The variability of the lower tropospheric temperature inversion (TI) across China remains poorly understood. Using seven years’ worth of high-resolution radiosonde measurements at 120 sites, we compile the climatology of lower tropospheric TI in terms of frequency, intensity, and depth during the period from 2011 to 2017. The TI generally exhibits strong seasonal and geographic dependencies. Particularly, the TI frequency is found to be high in winter and low in summer, likely due to the strong aerosol radiative effect in winter. The frequency of the surface-based inversion (SBI) exhibits a “West-Low East-High” pattern at 0800 Beijing time (BJT), which then switches to “West-High East-Low” at 2000 BJT. Both the summertime SBI and elevated inversion (EI) reach a peak at 0800 BJT and a trough at 1400 BJT. Interestingly, the maximum wintertime EI frequency occurs over Southeast China (SEC) rather than over the North China Plain (NCP), likely attributed to the combination of the heating effect of black carbon (BC) originating from the NCP, along with the strong subsidence and trade inversion in SEC. Correlation analyses between local meteorology and TI indicate that larger lower tropospheric stability (LTS) favors more frequent and stronger TIs, whereas the stronger EI under smaller LTS conditions (unstable atmosphere) is more associated with subsidence rather than BC. Overall, the spatial pattern of the lower tropospheric TI and its variability in China are mainly controlled by three factors: local meteorology, large-scale subsidence, and BC-induced heating. These findings help shed some light on the magnitude, spatial distribution, and underlying mechanisms of the lower tropospheric TI variation in China.

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