Precipitation has been considered to be a critical water source for both human livelihoods and ecosystems in Central Asia. Using observational data and gridded datasets, we studied the regional and seasonal differences of precipitation climate characteristics and variations in precipitation over Central Asia. Using observational data obtained from the China Meteorological Administration, Global Historical Climatology Network (V3.02), we divided Central Asia into four subregions (North, Center, Southwest, and Southeast) based on the differences in seasonal cycles of precipitation. ‘Single peaks’ were detected as types of seasonal cycles over the North and the Southeast, while ‘two peaks’ was the type that occurred in the Southwest. For the Center, the zone of transition between the North and the Southwest, each monthly precipitation value was higher than the Southwest’s and less than the North’s. GPCC (R2
of 0.89, RMSE of 64.5 mm/year) was proven to be the most suitable dataset of the four datasets (CRU, GPCC, MERRA, and TRMM) to describe precipitation in Central Asia, based on validation against observational data, and used to detect the spatial and temporal trend of precipitation in Central Asia and four subregions during 1960–2013. No significant trends were observed for annual precipitation in Central Asia, while precipitation in winter displayed a significant increase (0.11 mm/year). Additionally, significantly increasing trends (0.16, 0.27, 0.13, and 0.13 mm/year) were detected in spring, summer, autumn, and winter over the Southeast during 1960–2013.
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