Climatic warming-induced change in timings of 24 seasonal divisions in China since 1960

Jan 24, 2012
This graph shows the cliimatological mean seasonal cycles in China during the 1960s (blue line) and a more recent decade (red line). Dashed lines indicate temperature thresholds for the 24 Solar Terms. From Qian et al., 2012 Chinese Sci. Bull. Credit: © Science China Press

Changes of seasonal cycles are important to social and economic activities, agricultural planning in particular. Qian et al. quantified changes in the timings of 24 seasonal divisions conventionally known in China as the "24 Solar Terms," based on a recently developed homogenized dataset of daily temperature observations dating to 1960. The results provide quantitative guidance for adaptation to global warming in the region.

The Twenty-four Solar Terms are ancient Chinese terms used for about 2000 years. They describe 24 stages or timings associated with in phenology and throughout a year. Qian et al. from the Key Laboratory of Regional Climate-Environment for East Asia, , quantitatively defined the somewhat 'astronomic' term for the first time, based on modern temperature records. This facilitated an investigation of changes in the climatic Solar Terms under global warming over the past half-century. Their results were based on a recently developed homogenized dataset of daily temperature observations, dating to 1960. According to these results, the timings of the climatic Solar Terms during the warming phase (around spring) of the seasonal cycle have significantly advanced (by 6-15 days) from the 1960s to the present.

Across China, timings during the cooling phase (around autumn) have delayed by 5-6 days on average. This is mainly because of a warming shift of the entire seasonal temperature cycle, as illustrated in the figure. Four particular phenology-related climatic Solar Terms, namely the Waking of Insects, Pure Brightness, Grain Full, and Grain in Ear, have advanced almost everywhere in the country (as much as 20 days in North China). This has important implications for agricultural planning. The numbers of extremely cold (Great Cold) days decreased by 56.8% over the last 10 years as compared with the 1960s, whereas those of extremely hot (Great Heat) days increased by 81.4%. The paper entitled 'Climatic changes in the Twenty-four Solar Terms during 1960-2008' is published in Chinese Science Bulletin, 2012, Vol 57(2).

The present results imply that under concurrent global warming and consequent earlier / delayed timings of the climatic Twenty-four Solar Terms, planning various human activities (especially agricultural ones) based on traditional experience requires adjustment. It has been suggested that decision-making regarding climate change adaptation should take into account more climate elements, such as changes in precipitation and climate extremes, plus technological advances.

Explore further: Cloud forests struggle to keep pace with climate change

More information: Qian C, Yan Z W, Fu C B. Climatic changes in the Twenty-four Solar Terms during 1960-2008, Chinese Sci. Bull., 2012, 57(2): 276-286

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Climate is warming - despite 'ups and downs'

Dec 28, 2010

Periodic short-term cooling in global temperatures should not be misinterpreted as signalling an end to global warming, according to an Honorary Research Fellow with CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Barrie Hunt.

Evidence shaky for Sun's major role in past climate changes

Sep 30, 2004

Computer models of Earth's climate have consistently linked long-term, high-magnitude variations in solar output to past climate changes. Now a closer look at earlier studies of the Sun casts doubt on evidence of such cycles of brightness, their inten ...

+4C scenarios for Australia's future climate

Jul 12, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The impacts on Australia of a 4 C increase in average annual temperatures – including major reductions in annual rainfall in southern Australia, marked increases in evaporation nationwide ...

Recommended for you

Could Iceland volcano disrupt air travel?

2 hours ago

Following further reports of seismic activity around volcanoes in Iceland, scientists from the University's Department of Meteorology provide comment on the likelihood of an eruption - and how any ash plume ...

Thailand totters towards waste crisis

4 hours ago

A blaze at a vast rubbish dump home to six million tonnes of putrefying trash and toxic effluent has kindled fears that poor planning and lax law enforcement are tipping Thailand towards a waste crisis.

Changing global diets is vital to reducing climate change

21 hours ago

A new study, published today in Nature Climate Change, suggests that – if current trends continue – food production alone will reach, if not exceed, the global targets for total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissi ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rubberman
5 / 5 (1) Jan 24, 2012
A 24 term yearly schedule for agriculture would definitely allow for more precise observations as far as changes to the norm. I wasn't aware of this system but I like it. It must be effective if it has been in place for 2000 years.