Water discharge variability of Changjiang (Yangtze) and Huanghe (Yellow) Rivers and its response to climatic changes

Research paper by Xilin Zhang, Dejiang Fan, Houjie Wang, Zuosheng Yang

Indexed on: 18 Jul '14Published on: 18 Jul '14Published in: Chinese Journal of Oceanology and Limnology


Infl uences of large-scale climatic phenomena, such as the El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), on the temporal variations of the annual water discharge at the Lijin station in the Huanghe (Yellow) River and at the Datong station in the Changjiang (Yangtze) River were examined. Using the empirical mode decomposition-maximum entropy spectral analysis (EMDMESA) method, the 2- to 3-year, 8- to 14-year, and 23-year cyclical variations of the annual water discharge at the two stations were discovered. Based on the analysis results, the hydrological time series on the interannual to interdecadal scales were constructed. The results indicate that from 1950 to 2011, a significant downward trend occurred in the natural annual water discharge in Huanghe River. However, the changes in water discharge in Changjiang River basin exhibited a slightly upward trend. It indicated that the changes in the river discharge in the Huanghe basin were driven primarily by precipitation. Other factors, such as the precipitation over the Changjiang River tributaries, ice melt and evaporation contributed much more to the increase in the Changjiang River basin. Especially, the impacts of the inter-annual and inter-decadal climate oscillations such as ENSO and PDO could change the long-term patterns of precipitation over the basins of the two major rivers. Generally, low amounts of basin-wide precipitation on interannual to interdecadal scales over the two rivers corresponded to most of the warm ENSO events and the warm phases of the PDO, and vice versa. The positive phases of the PDO and ENSO could lead to reduced precipitation and consequently affect the long-term scale water discharges at the two rivers.