The impact of climate change on runoff in the Yarlung Tsangpo River basin in the Tibetan Plateau

Li, Fapeng; Xu, Zongxue; Liu, Wenfeng; Zhang, Yongqiang
March 2014
Stochastic Environmental Research & Risk Assessment;Mar2014, Vol. 28 Issue 3, p517
Academic Journal
The Tibetan Plateau (TP) is the 'water tower of Asia' and it plays a key role on both hydrology and climate for southern and eastern Asia. It is critical to explore the impact of climate change on runoff for better water resources management in the TP. However, few studies pay attention to the runoff response to climate change in large river systems on the TP, especially in data-sparse upstream area. To complement the current body of work, this study uses two rainfall-runoff models (SIMHYD and GR4J) to simulate the monthly and annual runoff in the upstream catchments of the Yarlung Tsangpo River basin (YTR) under historical (1962-2002) and future (2046-2065 A1B scenario) climate conditions. The future climate series are downscaled from a global climate model (MIROC3.2_hires) by a high resolution regional climate model (RegCM3). The two rainfall-runoff models successfully simulate the historical runoff for the eight catchments in the YTR basin, with median monthly runoff Nash-Sutcliffe Efficiency of 0.86 for SIMHYD and 0.83 for GR4J. The mean annual future temperature in eight catchments show significant increase with the median of +3.8 °C. However, the mean annual future precipitation shows decrease with the median of −5.8 % except in Lhatse (+2.0 %). The two models show similar modeling results that the mean annual future runoff in most of catchments (seven in eight) shows decrease with the median of −13.9 % from SIMHYD and −15.2 % from GR4J. The results achieved in this study are not only helpful for local water resources management, but also for future water utilization planning in the lower reaches region of the Brahmaputra.


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