, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 17-30

Variations of temperature and precipitation of snowmelt period and its effect on runoff in the mountainous areas of Northwest China

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Water resources in the arid land of Northwest China mainly derive from snow and glacier melt water in mountainous areas. So the study on onset, cessation, length, temperature and precipitation of snowmelt period is of great significance for allocating limited water resources reasonably and taking scientific water resources management measures. Using daily mean temperature and precipitation from 8 mountainous weather stations over the period 1960–2010 in the arid land of Northwest China, this paper analyzes climate change of snowmelt period and its spatial variations and explores the sensitivity of runoff to length, temperature and precipitation of snowmelt period. The results show that mean onset of snowmelt period has shifted 15.33 days earlier while mean ending date has moved 9.19 days later. Onset of snowmelt period in southern Tianshan Mountains moved 20.01 days earlier while that in northern Qilian Mountains moved only 10.16 days earlier. Mean precipitation and air temperature increased by 47.3 mm and 0.857°C in the mountainous areas of Northwest China, respectively. The precipitation of snowmelt period increased the fastest, which is observed in southern Tianshan Mountains, up to 65 mm, and the precipitation and temperature in northern Kunlun Mountains increased the slowest, an increase of 25 mm and 0.617°C, respectively, while the temperature in northern Qilian Mountains increased the fastest, increasing by 1.05°C. The annual runoff is also sensitive to the variations of precipitation and temperature of snowmelt period, because variation of precipitation induces annual runoff change by 7.69% while change of snowmelt period temperature results in annual runoff change by 14.15%.

Foundation: National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program), No.2010CB951003; National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.40901105; Knowledge Innovation Program of the CAS, No.KZCX2-YW-Q10-3-4
Author: Li Baofu (1983–), Ph.D, specialized in climate change and water resources.