Abstract The relationship between the altitude of the Tibetan Plateau and climate change in central Asia was investigated through a numeric experiment using the Meteorological Research Institute (MRI) coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation model I (MRI-CGCM1). The results suggest that summer precipitation in central Asia decreased significantly as the Tibetan Plateau rose in height. Spring precipitation, however, increased during initial growth stages when the plateau height was up to 40% of its present-day height, and then decreased with further plateau growth. During the Tibetan Plateau uplift, the difference between precipitation and evaporation was minimal during spring. When the plateau attained a height exceeding 60% of its present height, relatively low precipitation but high evaporation in spring led to a lower amount of ground moisture. In the case of the high plateau, sensible heat flux during summer and fall largely exceeded latent heat flux. Change was particularly significant for cases when the plateau reached 40–60% of its present-day height. The duration of the predominant sensible heat flux became longer with the uplift of the Tibetan Plateau. The period in which latent heat exceeded sensible heat seems to have been restricted to winter and early spring. The numeric experiments suggest that a significant drying of central Asia corresponded to the period in which the Tibetan Plateau exceeded approximately half its present-day height.