Articles | Volume 14, issue 10
19 Oct 2010
 | 19 Oct 2010

Responses of snowmelt runoff to climatic change in an inland river basin, Northwestern China, over the past 50 years

J. Wang, H. Li, and X. Hao

Abstract. The spatial and temporal variations of snowcover distribution, and snowmelt runoff are considered as sensitive indicators for climatic change. The purpose of this paper is to analyze and forecast the responses of snowmelt runoff to climate change in an inland river basin. The upper basin of Heihe River in Northwestern China was chose as the study area, and the observation data from the meteorological and hydrological stations were utilized to analyze the status and regularity of the climatic change over the past 50 years. Snow cover area was obtained by an optimized technology using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer data with Normalized Difference Snow Index adjustment and topographic correction. A concept of potential snowmelt was suggested to illustrate the response of spatial snowmelt to climate change. The results show that the annual SCA proportion and the potential snowmelt keep an increasing trend since 2000. There is a negative relationship between annual air temperature and SCA proportion from 2000 to 2008. Snowmelt Runoff Model was chose to simulate snowmelt runoff and scenario forecast the change trend of snowmelt runoff in this region. The results show that climatic warming was apparent in the upper basin of Heihe River over the past 50 a. Annual average air temperature of three different weather stations located in the basin has increased 2.1 °C, 2.6 °C and 2.9 °C respectively from 1956 to present. The snowmelt runoff has increased obviously from 1970 to present. With different warming climate scenarios, the results by using SRM simulating showed that the first occurred time of snowmelt runoff shift ahead and discharge become larger as responses of snowmelt runoff to air temperature increasing, and the influence of temperature rising on average discharge of the whole snow season is not obvious.