Articles | Volume 18, issue 8
Research article
19 Aug 2014
Research article |  | 19 Aug 2014

Quantitative contribution of climate change and human activities to runoff changes in the Wei River basin, China

C. S. Zhan, S. S. Jiang, F. B. Sun, Y. W. Jia, C. W. Niu, and W. F. Yue

Abstract. Surface runoff from the Wei River basin, the largest tributary of the Yellow River in China, has dramatically decreased over last 51 years from 1958 to 2008. Climate change and human activities have been identified as the two main reasons for the decrease in runoff. The study period is split into two sub-periods (1958–1989 and 1990–2008) using the Mann–Kendall jump test. This study develops an improved climate elasticity method based on the original climate elasticity method, and conducts a quantitative assessment of the impact of climate change and human activities on the runoff decrease in the Wei River basin. The results from the original climate elasticity method show that climatic impacts contribute 37–40% to the decrease in runoff, while human impacts contribute 60–63%. In contrast, the results from the improved climate elasticity method yield a climatic contribution to runoff decrease of 22–29% and a human contribution of 71–78%. A discussion of the simulation reliability and uncertainty concludes that the improved climate elasticity method has a better mechanism and can provide more reasonable results.