Runoff dynamics of the upper Selenge basin, a major water source for Lake Baikal, under a warming climate

  • Munkhtsetseg Zorigt
  • Gankhuu Battulga
  • Ganjuur Sarantuya
  • Scott Kenner
  • Nergui SoninkhishigEmail author
  • Markus Hauck
Original Article


The Selenge basin contributes approximately 50% of the total inflow into Lake Baikal and is thus of high significance for the regional hydrological regime. Our study was conducted in the upper reaches of the basin, where the Selenge river and its tributaries flow through the Mongolian forest-steppe. Monthly and maximum runoff, precipitation, and air temperature data from 12 gauging stations collected between 1978 and 2015 were analyzed to characterize the hydrological regime response to climate change. Concomitant with rising temperatures and increased potential evaporation, river runoff in the Mongolian part of the Selenge basin has decreased from the first interval (1978–1995) of our study period compared with the consecutive interval from 1996 to 2015. The decrease in runoff throughout the study area was most likely caused by an increase in potential evapotranspiration (and not reduced precipitation or land use changes) for both summer rainfall- and snowmelt-dominated rivers. Annual maximum runoff has also strongly decreased suggesting that reduced flooding is a contemporary threat for Mongolia’s riverine ecosystems, probably causing the replacement of wetland and mesic habitats.


River runoff Global warming Snow and rain domination Flooding Central Asia 


Funding information

This work was funded through the National Science Foundation of Mongolia and the National University of Mongolia (P2017-2517).


  1. Alcamo J, Henrichs T (2002) Critical regions: a model based estimation of world water resources sensitive to global changes. Aquat Sci 64:352–362. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arnell NW (1999) Climate change and global water resources. Glob Environ Change 9:831–849. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barnett TP, Adam JC, Lettenmaier DP (2005) Potential impacts of a warming climate on water availability in snow-dominated regions. Nature 438:303–309. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berezhnykh TV, Marchenko OY, Abasov NV, Mordvinov VI (2012) Changes in the summertime atmospheric circulation over East Asia and formation of long-lasting low-water periods within the Selenge river basin. Geogr Nat Resour 33:223–229. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brett E, Moore RD (2010) Regional hydrology. In: Pike RG, Redding TE, Moore RD, Winker KD (eds) Compendium of forest hydrology and geomorphology in British Columbia. B.C. Ministry of Forest and Range, Victoria, pp 85–110Google Scholar
  6. Bring A, Destouni G (2011) Relevance of hydro-climatic projection and monitoring for assessment of water cycle changes in Arctic. Amnio 40:361–368. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bulygina ON, Razuvaev VN, Korshunova NN (2009) Changes in snow cover over Northern Eurasia in the last few decades. Environ Res Lett 4:045026. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chalov SR, Zavadsky AS, Belozeriva EV, Bulacheva MP, Jarsjo J, Thorsland J, Jambaljav J (2012) Suspended and dissolved matter fluxes in the upper Selenge river basin. Geogr Environ Sustain 5:78–94.
  9. Chalov S, Kasimov N, Lychagin M, Belozerova E, Shinkareva G, Theuring P, Romanchenko A, Alexeevsky N, Garmaev E (2013) Water resources assessment of the Selenge-Baikal river system. Geoöko 34:77–102Google Scholar
  10. Coles S (2001) An introduction to statistical modeling of extreme values. Springer, LondonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davaa G, Oyunbaatar D (2017) Surface water of Mongolia. In: Nyamdavaa A, Avid B (eds) Environment of Mongolia. Vol. II. Admon Printing, Ulaanbaatar, pp 13–131 (in Mongolian)Google Scholar
  12. Dulamsuren C, Hauck M, Khishigjargal M, Leuschner HH, Leuschner C (2010) Diverging climate trends in Mongolian taiga forests influence growth and regeneration of Larix sibirica. Oecologia 163:1091–1102. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dulamsuren C, Wommelsdorf T, Zhao F, Xue Y, Zhumadilov BZ, Leuschner C, Hauck M (2013) Increased summer temperatures reduce the growth and regeneration of Larix sibirica in southern boreal forests of eastern Kazakhstan. Ecosystems 16:1536–1549. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fassnacht SR, Sukh T, Fernandez-Gimenez M, Batbuyan B, Venable NBH, Laituri M, Adyabadam G (2011) Local understanding of hydro-climatic chnages in Mongolia. IAHS-AISH Publication 346:120–122Google Scholar
  15. Frolova NL, Belyakova PA, Grigoriev VY, Sazonov AA, Zotov LV, Jarsjö J (2017) Runoff fluctuations in the Selenge river basin. Reg Environ Chang 17:1965–1976. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fu G, Yu J, Yu X, Ouyang R, Zhang Y, Wang P, Liu W, Min L (2013) Temporal variation of extreme rainfall events in China, 1961-2009. J Hydrol 487:48–59. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gelfan AN, Millionshchikova TD (2018) Validation of a hydrological model intended for impact study: problem statement and solution example for Selenge river basin. Water Resour 45(Supplement 1):90–101. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gilleland E, Katz RW (2016) Extremes 2.0: an extreme value analysis package in R. J Stat Software 72:1–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Goulden CE, Mead J, Horwitz R, Goulden M, Nandintsetseg B, McCormick S, Boldgiv B, Petraitis PR (2016) Interviews of Mongolian herders and high resolution precipitation data reveal an increase in short heavy rains and thunderstorm activity in semi-arid Mongolia. Clim Chang 136:281–295. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hampton SE, Izmest'eva LR, Moore MV, Moore MV, Katz SL, Dennis B, Silow EA (2008) Sixty years of environmental change in the world's largest freshwater lake - Lake Baikal, Siberia. Glob Change Biol 14:1947–1958. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hiller BT, Jadambaa N (2013) Groundwater use in the Selenge river basin, Mongolia. J Groundwater Sci Engineer 1:11–32Google Scholar
  22. Hu Z, Li Q, Chen X, Teng Z, Chen C, Yin G, Yu Z (2016) Climate chnages in temperature and precipitation extremes in an alpine grassland of Central Asia. Theor Appl Climatol 126:519–531. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. IPCC (2013) Climate change 2013: the physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  24. Jambaljav Ya, Gansukh Ya, Saruulzaya A, Sharkhuu N (2017) Permafrost change in Mongolia. In: Nyamdavaa A, Avid B (eds) Environment of Mongolia. Vol. I. Admon Printing, Ulaanbaatar, pp 191–254 (in Mongolian)Google Scholar
  25. Jambaljav Y, Gansukh Y, Saruulzaya A, Sharkhuu N (2017) Permafrost change in Mongolia. In: Nyamdavaa A, Avid B (eds) Environment of Mongolia, vol I. Admon Printing, Ulaanbaatar, pp 191–254 (in Mongolian)Google Scholar
  26. Karthe D, Chalov S, Borchardt D (2014) Water resources and their management in Central Asia in the early twenty-first century: status, challenges and future prospects. Environ Earth Sci 73:487–499. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Khansaritoreh E, Dulamsuren C, Klinge M, Ariunbaatar T, Bat-Enerel B, Batsaikhan G, Ganbaatar K, Saindovdon D, Yeruult Y, Tsogtbaatar J, Tuya D, Leuschner C, Hauck M (2017) Higher climate warming sensitivity of Siberian larch in small than large forest islands in the fragmented Mongolian forest steppe. Glob Chang Biol 23:3675–3689. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kim BS, Hossein SZ, Choi G (2010) Evaluation of temporal-spatial precipitation variability and prediction using seasonal ARIMA model in Mongolia. KSCE J Civil Eng 15:917–925. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kimura R, Moriyama M (2019) Recent trends of annual aridity indices and classification of arid regions with satellite-based aridity indices. Remote Sens Earth Syst Sci 2:88–95. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Klein I, Dietz AJ, Gessner U, Galayeva A, Myrzakhmetov A, Kuenzer C (2014) Evaluation of seasonal water body extents in Central Asia over the past 27 years derived from medium-resolution remote sensing data. Int J Appl Earth Observ Geoinform 26:335–349. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Leta OT, El-Kadi A, Dulai H (2018) Impact of climate change on daily streamflow and its extreme values in Pacific Island watersheds. Sustainability 10(6):1–22. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Liu H, Williams AP, Allen CD, Guo D, Wu X, Anenkhonov OA, Liang EY, Sandanov DV, Yin Y, Qi Z, Badmaeva NK (2013) Rapid warming accelerates tree growth decline in semi-arid forests of inner Asia. Glob Change Biol 19:2500–2510. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ma X, Yasunari T, Ohata T, Natsasgdorj L, Davaa G, Oyunbaatar D (2003) Hydrological regime analysis of the Selenge river basin, Mongolia. Hydrol Process 17:2929–2945. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. MARCC (2009) Mongolia: assessment report on climate change. Ministry of Nature and the Environment of Mongolia, UlaanbaatarGoogle Scholar
  35. MEGD (2012) Integrated water management. National Assessment Report, vol. 1 (1). Ministry of Enviroment and Green Development, UlaanbaatarGoogle Scholar
  36. Middelkoop H, Daamen K, Gellens D, Grabs W, Kwadijk J, Lang CJ, Parmet H, Schadler B, Schulla J, Wilke K (2001) Impact of climate change on hydrological regimes and water resource management in the Rhine river basin. Clim Chang 49:105–128. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Milly PC, Dunne KA, Vecchia AV (2005) Global pattern of trends in streamflow and water availability in a changing climate. Nature 438:347–350. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Moreido VM, Kalugin AS (2017) Assessing possible changes in Selenge R. water regime in the XXI century based on a runoff formation model. Water Resour 44:390–398. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Myagmarjav B (1972) Long term average annual of rivers in Mongolia.Trudii GMGI No 66 (in Russian)Google Scholar
  40. Myagmarjav B, Davaa G (1999) Surface water of Mongolia. Interpress, Ulaanbaatar (in Mongolian)Google Scholar
  41. Nandintsetseg B, Greene JS, Goulden CE (2007) Trends in extreme daily precipitation and temperature near Lake Hovsgol, Mongolia. Int J Climatol 27:341–347. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Natsagdorj L, Gomboluudev P (2017) Climate of Mongolia and its change. In: Nyamdavaa A, Avid B (eds) Environment of Mongolia. Vol. I. Admon Printing, Ulaanbaatar, pp 13–91 (in Mongolian)Google Scholar
  43. Natsagdorj L, Dagvadorj D, Batima P, Tumurbaatar D (2000) Climate change and its impacts in Mongolia. JEMR Publishing, Ulaanbaatar (in Mongolian)Google Scholar
  44. Prospatin PA (2008) Simple model for monitoring Balkash Lake water levels and Ili River discharges: application of remote sensing. Lakes Reserv Res Manag 13:77–81. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rawlins MA, Ye H, Yang D, Shiklomanov A, McDonald KC (2009) Divergence in seasonal hydrology across northern Eurasia: emerging trends and water cycle linkage. J Geophys Res 114:D18119. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sato T, Kimura F, Kitoh A (2007) Projection of global warming onto regional precipitation over Mongolia using a regional climate model. J Hydrol 333:144–154. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Schneider CC, Laizé LR, Acreman MC, Flörke M (2013) How will climate change modify river flow regimes in Europe. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 17:325–339. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sevastyanov DV (2009) Physico-Geographic characteristics of the Selenge basin. In: Degubadze (gen. ed.) Water ecosystems of Selenge basin. pp 22-50 (in Russian)Google Scholar
  49. Sharkhuu N (1998) Trends of permafrost development in the Selenge river basin, Mongolia. Permafrost- seventh international conference proceeding, Yellowknife (Canada). Collection Nordicana 55:979–984Google Scholar
  50. Sharkhuu N (1999) Occurrence of frost heaving in the Selenge river basin, Mongolia. Permafrost Periglaci Process 10:187–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sharkhuu N (2003) Recent changes in the permafrost of Mongolia. In: Phillips M, Springman SM, Arenson LU (eds) Permafrost. Swets & Zeitlinger, Lisse, pp 1029–1034Google Scholar
  52. Shimaraev M, Kuimova L, Sinyukovich V, Tsekhanovskii V (2002) Manifestation of global climate change in Lake Baikal during the 20th century. Doklady Earth Sci 383A(3):288–291Google Scholar
  53. Sulla-Menashe D, Fiedl MA (2018). User guide to collection 6 MODIS land cover (MCD12Q1 and MCD12C1) product. Accessed 25 June 2019
  54. Törnqvist R, Jarsjo J, Pietron J, Bring A, Rodberg P, Asokan SM (2014) Evolution of the hydro-climatic system in the Lake Baikal basin. J Hydrol 519:1953–1962. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Tserendash S, Bilegt T (2017) Pasture, soil utilization and management. In: Nyamdavaa A, Avid B (eds) Environment of Mongolia. Vol. IV. Admon Printing, Ulaanbaatar, pp 78–198 (in Mongolian)Google Scholar
  56. Yang M, Chen X, Cheng Ch S (2016) Hydrological impacts of precipitation extremes in the Huaihe river basin, China. SpringerPlus 5:1731–1713. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Zhao L, Wu Q, Marchenko SS, Sharkhuu N (2010) Thermal state of permafrost and active layer in Central Asia during the international polar year. Permafrost Periglac Process 21:198–207. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Engineering and Applied SciencesNational University of MongoliaUlaanbaatarMongolia
  2. 2.University of TwenteEnschedeThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Information and Research Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and EnvironmentUlaanbaatarMongolia
  4. 4.South Dakota School of Mines and TechnologyRapid CityUSA
  5. 5.School of Arts and SciencesNational University of MongoliaUlaanbaatarMongolia
  6. 6.Applied Vegetation Ecology, Faculty of Environment and Natural ResourcesUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany

Personalised recommendations