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Impact of precipitation and evaporation change on flood runoff over Lake Baikal catchment


This paper addresses the nexus of climate change and variability, soil moisture and surface runoff over the Lake Baikal catchment. Water level and distribution of dissolved and suspended matter over Lake Baikal are strongly affected by river inflow during rain-driven floods. In this study, we evaluate river flow changes at 44 streamflow gauges as well as related precipitation, evaporation, potential evaporation and soil moisture obtained from the ERA5-Land dataset. Based on Sen’s slope trend estimator, Mann–Kendall non-parametric test, and using dominance analysis, we estimated the influence of meteorological parameters on river flow during 1979–2019. We found a significant correlation between the precipitation elasticity of river flow and catchment characteristics. Half of the gauges in the eastern part of the Selenga River basin showed a significant decreasing trend of average and maximum river flow (up to −2.9%/year). No changes in the central volume date of flood flow have been found. The reduction in rainfall amount explains more than 60% of runoff decrease. A decrease in evaporation is observed in areas where precipitation decrease is higher than 0.8%/year. Catchments, where the precipitation trends are not as substantial, are associated with increasing evaporation as a result of the increasing potential evaporation. Negative precipitation trends are accompanied by negative trends of soil moisture. Finally, the study reveals the sensitivity of catchments with steep slopes located in humid areas to precipitation change.

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All datasets used or analyzed in this study except for the river discharge dataset are publicly available. River discharge data are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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We greatly thank Dr. Max Luimens for improving language of the paper.


The study was supported by the Russian Fund for Basic research project 19–05-50109 and Kazan Federal University Strategic Academic Leadership Program. Additionally, the research was performed according to the Development program of the Interdisciplinary Scientific and Educational School of M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University (Future Planet and Global Environmental Change).

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Study conception and design was performed by VG. The first draft of the manuscript was written by VG and SC commented and proofread on previous versions of the manuscript. Material preparation, data collection, and analysis were performed by VG, MK, NS, and AS.

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Correspondence to Vadim Yu. Grigorev.

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This article is part of a Topical Collection in Environmental Earth Sciences on “The Soil-Water-Atmosphere Nexus”, guest edited by Daniel Karthe, Lulu Zhang, Sabrina Kirschke, Nora Adam, Serena Caucci, and Edeltraud Günther.

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Grigorev, V.Y., Kharlamov, M.A., Semenova, N.K. et al. Impact of precipitation and evaporation change on flood runoff over Lake Baikal catchment. Environ Earth Sci 82, 16 (2023).

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  • Lake Baikal catchment
  • Floods
  • River flow changes
  • Water balance
  • Precipitation