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Advances in Meteorology
Volume 2018, Article ID 1502472, 13 pages
Research Article

Hydrological Variability in the Arid Region of Northwest China from 2002 to 2013

1College of Environment and Planning, Henan University, Kaifeng 475004, China
2Key Laboratory of Virtual Geographic Environment of Ministry of Education, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210023, China
3Jiangsu Center for Collaborative Innovation in Geographical Information Resource Development and Application, Nanjing 210023, China
4Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China

Correspondence should be addressed to Zhuotong Nan; nc.ude.unjn@tznan

Received 17 August 2017; Revised 18 January 2018; Accepted 19 February 2018; Published 29 March 2018

Academic Editor: Brian R. Nelson

Copyright © 2018 Yanping Cao et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The arid region of Northwest China (ANC) has a distinct and fragile inland water cycle. This study examined the hydrological variations in ANC and its three subregions from August 2002 to December 2013 by integrating terrestrial water storage (TWS) anomaly data derived from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite, soil moisture data modeled by the Global Land Data Assimilation System, and passive microwave snow water equivalent data. The results show that the TWS in ANC increased at a rate of 1.7 mm/a over the past decade, which consisted of an increasing trend of precipitation (0.12 mm/a). Spatially, in the northern ANC, TWS exhibited a significant decreasing trend of −3.64 mm/a () as a result of reduced rainfall, increased glacial meltwater draining away from the mountains, and intensified human activities. The TWS in southern and eastern ANC increased at a rate of 2.14 () and 1.63 () mm/a, respectively. In addition to increasing precipitation and temperature, decreasing potential evapotranspiration in Southern Xinjiang and expanding human activities in Hexi-Alashan together led to an overall increase in TWS. Increased glacier meltwater and permafrost degradation in response to climate warming may also affect the regional TWS balance. The variations in soil moisture, groundwater, and surface water accounted for the majority of the TWS anomalies in southern and eastern ANC. The proposed remote sensing approach combining multiple data sources proved applicable and useful to understand the spatiotemporal characteristics of hydrological variability in a large area of arid land without the need for field observations.