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Keywords:

  • diurnal temperature range;
  • climate variation;
  • causes;
  • semiarid region;
  • long-term

ABSTRACT

The diurnal temperature range (DTR) is an important indicator of climate change, and it has decreased worldwide since the 1950s, particularly over arid and semiarid regions. This study analyses the effect of meteorological and anthropogenic factors on DTR variation to investigate the possible causes of DTR decreases in semiarid climates. The study region is located in northeast China, and the study period is from 1957 to 2006. There are three main results. First, the rate of decrease in the DTR is −1.24 K per 50 years. This decrease is mainly attributed to the increasing daily minimum temperature rate (Tmin, 2.24 K per 50 years), which is greater than the change in the daily maximum temperature (Tmax, 1.00 K per 50 years). Second, sunshine duration (SD) appears to be the most significant meteorological factor that determines the DTR through downward shortwave radiation (Rsw,d) and surface soil moisture (SM). The effect of Rsw,d is larger for Tmax than for Tmin; therefore, the decrease in Rsw,d results in a smaller increase in Tmax than in Tmin. On the other hand, the increase in SM can strengthen daytime latent heat release, and the increase in Tmax is then slowed because of the cooling effect of evaporation. The precipitation values and the leaf area index show a negative correlation with the DTR, whereas the cloud amount and the relative humidity appear not to be main causes of the DTR decrease in this region. Finally, atmospheric aerosols can reduce the SD by 0.27 h year–1 by decreasing atmospheric transparency, as indicated by an analysis of the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer Aerosol Index from 1979 to 2005. The decrease in direct solar radiation is the main cause of decreases in Rsw,d. These findings will provide references for DTR variation studies in similar climates.