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Jinqin Xu, Yan Zeng, Xinfa Qiu, Yongjian He, Guoping Shi, and Xiaochen Zhu

Abstract

Drylands cover about one-half of the land surface in China and are highly sensitive to climate change. Understanding climate change and its impact drivers on dryland is essential for supporting dryland planning and sustainable development. Using meteorological observations for 1960–2019, the aridity changes in drylands of China were evaluated using aridity index (AI), and the impact of various climatic factors [i.e., precipitation P; sunshine duration (SSD); relative humidity (RH); maximum temperature (Tmax); minimum temperature (Tmin); wind speed (WS)] on the aridity changes was decomposed and quantified. Results of trend analysis based on Sen’s slope estimator and Mann–Kendall test indicated that the aridity trends were very weak when averaged over the whole drylands in China during 1960–2019 but exhibited a significant wetting trend in hyperarid and arid regions of drylands. The AI was most sensitive to changes in water factors (i.e., P and RH), followed by SSD, Tmax, and WS, but the sensitivity of AI to Tmin was very small and negligible. Interestingly, the dominant climatic driver to AI change varied in the four dryland subtypes. The significantly increased P dominated the increase in AI in the hyperarid and arid regions. The significantly reduced WS and the significantly increased Tmax contributed more to AI changes than the P in the semiarid and dry subhumid regions of drylands. Previous studies emphasized the impact of precipitation and temperature on the global or regional dry–wet changes; however, the findings of this study suggest that, beyond precipitation and temperature, the impact of wind speed on aridity changes of drylands in China should be given equal attention.

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