Long-term streamflow response to climatic variability in the Loess Plateau, China
The Loess Plateau region in northwestern China has experienced severe water resource shortages due to the combined impacts of climate and land use changes and water resource exploitation during the past decades. This study was designed to examine the impacts of climatic variability on streamflow characteristics of a 12-km2 watershed near Tianshui City, Gansu Province in northwestern China. Statistic analytical methods including Kendall?s trend test and stepwise regression were used to detect trends in relationship between observed streamflow and climatic variables. Sensitivity analysis based on an evapotranspiration model was used to detect quantitative hydrologic sensitivity to climatic variability. We found that precipitation (P), potential evapotranspiration (PET) and streamflow (Q) were not statistically significantly different (p > 0.05) over the study period between 1982 and 2003. Stepwise regression and sensitivity analysis all indicated that P was more influential than PET in affecting annual streamflow, but the similar relationship existed at the monthly scale. The sensitivity of streamflow response to variations of P and PET increased slightly with the increase in watershed dryness (PET ⁄P) as well as the increase in runoff ratio (Q⁄P). This study concluded that future changes in climate, precipitation in particular, will significantly impact water resources in the Loess Plateau region an area that is already experiencing a decreasing trend in water yield.