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Attribution assessment and projection of natural runoff change in the Yellow River Basin of China

Yuan, Zhe, Yan, Denghua, Yang, Zhiyong, Xu, Jijun, Huo, Junjun, Zhou, Yanlai, Zhang, Cheng
Mitigation and adaptation strategies for global change 2018 v.23 no.1 pp. 27-49
General Circulation Models, atmospheric precipitation, climate, climate change, equations, humans, hydrologic cycle, hydrologic models, land management, land use and land cover maps, planning, runoff, sustainable development, temperature, water management, water resources, watersheds, China, Yellow River
Climate variability and human activities are two driving factors in the hydrological cycle. The analysis of river basin hydrological response to this change in the past and future is scientifically essential for the improvement of water resource and land management. Using a water balance model based on Fu’ equation, the attribution of climate variability and land-use/land-cover change (LUCC) for natural runoff decrease was quantitatively assessed in the Yellow River Basin (YRB). With five general circulation model (GCM) s’ output provided by The Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP), future runoff in the context of climate change was projected. The results show that (1) compared with other distributed hydrological models, the water balance model in this study has fewer parameters and simpler calculation methods, thus having advantages in hydrological simulation and projection in large scale; (2) during the last 50 years, the annual precipitation and runoff have decreased, while the mean temperature has increased in the YRB. The decrease of natural runoff between natural period (1961 to 1985) and impacted period (1986 to 2011) could be attributed to 27.1–49.8 and 50.2–72.9% from climate variability and LUCC, respectively. As the LUCC is the major driving factor of the decrease in the upper and middle reaches of the YRB, policymakers could focus on water resources management. While climate variability makes more contribution in the middle and lower reaches of the YRB, it is essential to study the impact of future climate change on water resources under different climate change scenarios, for planning and management agencies; (3) temperature and precipitation in the YRB were predicted to increase under RCP4.5. It means that the YRB will become warmer and wetter in the future. If we assume the land-use/land-cover condition during 2011 to 2050 is the same as that during 1986 to 2011, future annual average natural runoff in the YRB will increase by 14.4 to 16.8%. However, future runoff will still be lower than the average value during 1961 to 1985. In other words, although future climate change will cause the increase of natural runoff in the YRB, the negative effect of underlying surface condition variation is stronger. It is necessary to promote the sustainable development and utilization of water resources and to enhance adaptation capacity so as to reduce the vulnerability of the water resources system to climate change and human activities.