Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2015, Vol. 25 ›› Issue (6): 643-668.doi: 10.1007/s11442-015-1194-7

• Orginal Article •     Next Articles

Evidence for a recent warming and wetting in the source area of the Yellow River (SAYR) and its hydrological impacts

Hui TIAN1,2(), Yongchao LAN1,*(), Jun WEN1, Huijun JIN1, Chenghai WANG2, Xin WANG1, Yue KANG1   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Process and Climate Change in Cold and Arid Regions, CAS, Lanzhou 730000, China
    2. College of Atmospheric Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China
  • Received:2014-08-20 Accepted:2015-01-10 Online:2015-06-15 Published:2015-06-24
  • Contact: Yongchao LAN;
  • About author:

    Author: Tian Hui (1970-), PhD, specialized in land surface processes observation and remote sensing, climate change and water resources.

  • Supported by:
    The Key Deployment Project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, No.Y322G73001;National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.91225302, No.91437217, No.41375022, No.41175027


Climate change investigation at a watershed-scale plays a significant role in revealing the historical evolution and future trend of the runoff variation in watershed. This study examines the multisource hydrological and meteorological variables over the source area of the Yellow River (SAYR) from 1961 to 2012 and the future climate scenarios in the region during 2006-2100 based on the CMIP5 projection data. It recognizes the significant characteristics of the recent climate change in the SAYR and predicts the change trend of future flow in the region. It is found that (1) The climate in the SAYR has experienced a significant warm-wet change since the early 2000s, which is very different from the antecedent warm-dry trend since the late 1980s; (2) The warm-wet trend in the northwestern SAYR (the headwater area of the Yellow River (HAYR), is more obvious than that in the whole SAYR; (3) With precipitation increase, the runoff in the region also experienced an increasing process since 2006. The runoff variations in the region are sensitive to the changes of precipitation, PET and maximum air temperature, but not very sensitive to changes in mean and minimum air temperatures; (4) Based on the CMIP5 projection data, the warm-wet climate trend in SAYR are likely to continue until 2049 if considering three different (i.e. RCP2.6, RCP4.5 and RCP8.5) greenhouse gas emission scenarios, and the precipitation in SAYR will not be less than the current level before 2100; however, it is estimated that the recent flow increase in the SAYR is likely to be the decadal change and it will at most continue until the 2020s; (5) The inter-annual variations of the East Asian winter monsoon are found to be closely related to the variations of annual precipitation in the region. Meanwhile, the increased precipitation as well as the increase of potential evapotranspiration (PET) being far less than that of precipitation in the recent period are the main climate causes for the flow increase in the region.

Key words: source area of the Yellow River (SAYR), climate warming and wetting, decadal scale, hydrological impacts