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Weihong Qian, Lingshen Quan, and Shaoyin Shi

Abstract

In previous studies, limited meteorological observations were used to investigate the temporal–spatial changes of dust storms in China. Here, the authors use the daily 850-hPa geopotential height of NCEP–NCAR reanalysis for 1948–99 to examine the vortex fluctuations, which represent daily cyclone activity in east Asia. They also use the 1000-hPa air temperature data to explain the decadal change of the cyclone activity. In addition, the grid cyclone frequency for 1948–99 and the temperature and precipitation for 1950–98 are used to calculate the correlation with the dust weather frequency (for 1954–98) in China.

Results show that the interannual variability and long-term trend among dust storm frequency, dust weather frequency, air temperature, and cyclone frequency exist in northern China. In the eastern part of China, the frequencies of dust storms and dust weather in the 1950s–70s were about twice that after the mid-1980s. The reason for this feature may be due to the warming in Mongolia and cooling in northern China that reduced the meridional temperature gradient, resulting in the reduced cyclone frequency in northern China. In the Tarim Basin, the high-frequency dust storms have been attributed to less precipitation and to the arid-heating climate.

The frequency of dust storms (dust weather) is strongly related to the low air temperature in the prior winter season and the high-frequency cyclone activity in the spring season for most parts of eastern China. Based on this relationship, an index describing the dust weather (dust storm) frequency has been formulated. This index can well calibrate the variability of dust weather (dust storms) in northern China, except for the Xinjiang region in far northwest China.

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