Climatic Change

, Volume 99, Issue 3–4, pp 425–456 | Cite as

Impact of recent climate change on the hydrology of coastal Mediterranean rivers in Southern France



The purpose of this paper is to analyse the regional impact of recent climate change on the water resources in southern France. We produced spatial reconstructions of the monthly evolutions of temperature, precipitation and water discharge in 15 watersheds of six coastal river basins and examined the major changes based on trend analysis for the last 40 years. In this part of the Mediterranean, the general warming trend was strongly enhanced by changes in the atmospheric circulation patterns, characterized by a northward extension of the subtropical high pressure domain during spring and summer. During these seasons, monthly warming rates could achieve almost twice the mean annual warming rates. Although annual precipitation did not follow clear trends, water discharge significantly decreased in one third of the watersheds and accounted for an estimated 20% reduction of the water resources in this region. This concerns both the highest and lowest watersheds. In the former, the reduction is likely the result of a temperature induced switch of snowfall to rainfall at high altitudes. In the latter, the reduction of discharge seems to come from lower groundwater levels, which may be related to the temperature increase too, but also have other origins. The recent climatic evolution is consistent with most modelling simulations for the future, indicating that the reduction of the water resources will hold on, probably still enhanced by decreases in precipitation.


Digital Elevation Model Canonical Correlation Analysis Pyrenees Atmospheric Circulation Pattern Mountainous Watershed 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Franck Lespinas
    • 1
  • Wolfgang Ludwig
    • 1
  • Serge Heussner
    • 1
  1. 1.Cefrem—Centre de Formation et de Recherche sur l’Environnement Marin (UMR 5110-CNRS/Université de Perpignan)Université de PerpignanPerpignan CedexFrance

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