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Impacts of climate change on hydrological processes in the Tibetan Plateau: a case study in the Lhasa River basin

Liu, Wenfeng, Xu, Zongxue, Li, Fapeng, Zhang, Lanying, Zhao, Jie, Yang, Hong
Stochastic environmental research and risk assessment 2015 v.29 no.7 pp. 1809-1822
General Circulation Models, air temperature, atmospheric precipitation, case studies, climate, climate change, evaporation, issues and policy, rivers, runoff, snowpack, spring, stream flow, temporal variation, water management, watersheds, Arizona, China
Climate change has great impacts on hydrological processes worldwide. The Tibetan Plateau (TP), the “Water Tower” of Asia, poses significant influences on Asian climate and is also one of the most sensitive areas to climate change. Therefore, it is of importance to investigate the plausible future hydrological regimes in the TP based on the climate scenarios provided by General Circulation Models (GCMs). In this study, the Variable Infiltration Capacity model was coupled with Shuffled Complex Evolution developed at the University of Arizona to explore the responses of hydrological processes to climate change in the Lhasa River basin, the tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo River in the southern TP. A downscaling framework based on Automatic Statistical Downscaling was used to generate the future climate data from two GCMs (Echam5 and Miroc3.2_Medres) under three scenarios (A1B, A2 and B1) for the period of 2046–2065. Results show increases for both air temperature and annual precipitation in the future climate. Evaporation, runoff and streamflow will experience a rising trend, whereas spring snow cover will reduce dramatically. These changes present significant spatial and temporal variations. The alteration of hydrological processes may challenge the local water resource management. This study is helpful for policy makers to tackle climate change related issues in terms of mitigation and adaptation.