Detecting changes in extreme precipitation and extreme streamflow in the Dongjiang River Basin in southern China
Abstract. Extreme hydro-meteorological events have become the focus of more and more studies in the last decade. Due to the complexity of the spatial pattern of changes in precipitation processes, it is still hard to establish a clear view of how precipitation has changed and how it will change in the future. In the present study, changes in extreme precipitation and streamflow processes in the Dongjiang River Basin in southern China are investigated with several nonparametric methods, including one method (Mann-Kendall test) for detecting trend, and three methods (Kolmogorov–Smirnov test, Levene's test and quantile test) for detecting changes in probability distribution. It was shown that little change is observed in annual extreme precipitation in terms of various indices, but some significant changes are found in the precipitation processes on a monthly basis, which indicates that when detecting climate changes, besides annual indices, seasonal variations in extreme events should be considered as well. Despite of little change in annual extreme precipitation series, significant changes are detected in several annual extreme flood flow and low-flow series, mainly at the stations along the main channel of Dongjiang River, which are affected significantly by the operation of several major reservoirs. To assess the reliability of the results, the power of three non-parametric methods are assessed by Monte Carlo simulation. The simulation results show that, while all three methods work well for detecting changes in two groups of data with large sample size (e.g., over 200 points in each group) and large differences in distribution parameters (e.g., over 100% increase of scale parameter in Gamma distribution), none of them are powerful enough for small data sets (e.g., less than 100 points) and small distribution parameter difference (e.g., 50% increase of scale parameter in Gamma distribution). The result of the present study raises the concern of the robustness of statistical change-detection methods, shows the necessity of combined use of different methods including both exploratory and quantitative statistical methods, and emphasizes the need of physically sound explanation when applying statistical test methods for detecting changes.