NCEP/NCAR reanalysis data and a 47-year precipitation dataset are utilized to analyze the relationship between an atmospheric heat source (hereafter called < Q1 >) over the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau (QXP) and its surrounding area and precipitation in northwest China. Our main conclusions are as follows: (1) The horizontal distribution of < Q1 > and its changing trend are dramatic over QXP in the summer. There are three strong centers of < Q1 > over the south side of QXP with obvious differences in the amount of yearly precipitation and the number of heat sinks predominate in the arid and semi-arid regions of northwest China (NWC), beside the northern QXP with an obvious higher intensity in years with less precipitation. (2) In the summer, the variation of the heat source's vertical structure is obviously different between greater and lesser precipitation years in eastern northwest China (ENWC). The narrow heat sink belt forms between the northeast QXP and the southwestern part of Lake Baikal. In July and August of greater precipitation years, the heating center of the eastern QXP stays nearly over 35°N, and at 400 hPa of the eastern QXP, the strong upward motion of the heating center constructs a closed secondary vertical circulation cell over the northeast QXP (40°-46°N), which is propitious to add precipitation over the ENWC. Otherwise, the heating center shifts to the south of 30°N and disappears in July and August of lesser precipitation years, an opposite secondary circulation cell forms over the northeast QXP, which is a disadvantage for precipitation. Meanwhile, the secondary circulation cell in years with more or less precipitation over the ENWC is also related to the heat source over the Lake Baikal. (3) The vertical structure of the heat source over the western QXP has obvious differences between greater and lesser precipitation years in western northwest China in June and July. The strong/weak heat source over the western QXP produces relatively strong/weak ascending motion and correspondingly constructs a secondary circulation cell in lesser/greater precipitation years.