Responses of natural runoff to recent climatic variations in the Yellow River basin, China
The zero-flow phenomenon appeared frequently in the lower reaches of the Yellow River in China in the 1990s, whereas it has almost disappeared in recent years. The disappearance of the zero-flow phenomenon should be mainly attributed to the recent water management practices. However, little is known about the effects of recent climatic variations on natural runoff. In this study, we investigated the impacts of climatic variations on natural runoff above the Huayuankou station. The results indicate that there was little increase in precipitation, but substantial recovery of natural runoff in the recent period (2003–2011) compared with the low-flow period (1991–2002). The recent precipitation was slightly greater (∼2% of the baseline precipitation in 1960–1990) than precipitation in the low-flow period. However, the recent natural runoff was much larger (∼14% baseline runoff) than runoff in the low-flow period. The runoff reduction in the low-flow period was mainly caused by precipitation decrease. In the recent period, precipitation accounted for a runoff reduction (∼21% baseline runoff), whereas net radiation, wind speed, air temperature, and relative humidity accounted for a runoff increase (∼7.5% baseline runoff). The spatial pattern of the climatic variation is a factor influencing the response of runoff to climatic variations. The reduction in runoff induced by precipitation change was offset up to half by the impacts of changes in net radiation and wind speed at most sub-basins in the recent period.