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Temporal–Spatial Climate Variability in the Headwater Drainage Basins of the Yangtze River and Yellow River, China

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  • 1 Key Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, and Key Laboratory of Land Surface Process and Climate Change in Cold and Arid Regions, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, China
  • | 2 Key Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
  • | 3 Water Conservancy Department of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Lhasa, China
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Abstract

Variability of the climate in the headwater drainage basins of the Yangtze River and Yellow River during 1961–2010 was investigated by examining four typical climatic variables: daily minimum, mean, and maximum temperatures and daily precipitation. The results indicate that the temporal trends vary among the climatic variables and the time periods examined. The increase in daily minimum temperature began later than the daily mean and maximum temperatures, but the increase rate of the former was relatively greater after 1985. The abrupt increases in precipitation that occurred near 1978 were much clearer than the three temperature variables. Four dominant periodicities (3, 7, 11, and 18–20 yr) of temperature and precipitation were identified, and these variation patterns directly determined the periodic discharge variations in the two rivers. Under climate change impacts, periodic variations in temperature and precipitation at long temporal scales were intensified after the 1980s. Comparatively, climate change more severely impacts the minimum temperature and precipitation than the maximum and mean temperatures in the study area, and the variability of daily precipitation is more complex than the three temperature variables. Overall, the headwater drainage basin of the Yellow River is more susceptible to climate change compared with the other basin. After 2008, the increase rate of temperature (especially the daily mean and minimum temperatures) became greater, and precipitation showed a downward trend in the study areas. These trends are unfavorable for the safety of water resources and for eco-environmental safety in the two basins.

Corresponding author address: Zhonggen Wang, Key Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 11A, Datun Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100101, China. E-mail: wangzg@igsnrr.ac.cn

Abstract

Variability of the climate in the headwater drainage basins of the Yangtze River and Yellow River during 1961–2010 was investigated by examining four typical climatic variables: daily minimum, mean, and maximum temperatures and daily precipitation. The results indicate that the temporal trends vary among the climatic variables and the time periods examined. The increase in daily minimum temperature began later than the daily mean and maximum temperatures, but the increase rate of the former was relatively greater after 1985. The abrupt increases in precipitation that occurred near 1978 were much clearer than the three temperature variables. Four dominant periodicities (3, 7, 11, and 18–20 yr) of temperature and precipitation were identified, and these variation patterns directly determined the periodic discharge variations in the two rivers. Under climate change impacts, periodic variations in temperature and precipitation at long temporal scales were intensified after the 1980s. Comparatively, climate change more severely impacts the minimum temperature and precipitation than the maximum and mean temperatures in the study area, and the variability of daily precipitation is more complex than the three temperature variables. Overall, the headwater drainage basin of the Yellow River is more susceptible to climate change compared with the other basin. After 2008, the increase rate of temperature (especially the daily mean and minimum temperatures) became greater, and precipitation showed a downward trend in the study areas. These trends are unfavorable for the safety of water resources and for eco-environmental safety in the two basins.

Corresponding author address: Zhonggen Wang, Key Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 11A, Datun Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100101, China. E-mail: wangzg@igsnrr.ac.cn
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