Investigating water budget dynamics in 18 river basins across the Tibetan Plateau through multiple datasets
Abstract. The dynamics of basin-scale water budgets over the Tibetan Plateau (TP) are not well understood nowadays due to the lack of in situ hydro-climatic observations. In this study, we investigate the seasonal cycles and trends of water budget components (e.g. precipitation P, evapotranspiration ET and runoff Q) in 18 TP river basins during the period 1982–2011 through the use of multi-source datasets (e.g. in situ observations, satellite retrievals, reanalysis outputs and land surface model simulations). A water balance-based two-step procedure, which considers the changes in basin-scale water storage on the annual scale, is also adopted to calculate actual ET. The results indicated that precipitation (mainly snowfall from mid-autumn to next spring), which are mainly concentrated during June–October (varied among different monsoons-impacted basins), was the major contributor to the runoff in TP basins. The P, ET and Q were found to marginally increase in most TP basins during the past 30 years except for the upper Yellow River basin and some sub-basins of Yalong River, which were mainly affected by the weakening east Asian monsoon. Moreover, the aridity index (PET/P) and runoff coefficient (Q/P) decreased slightly in most basins, which were in agreement with the warming and moistening climate in the Tibetan Plateau. The results obtained demonstrated the usefulness of integrating multi-source datasets to hydrological applications in the data-sparse regions. More generally, such an approach might offer helpful insights into understanding the water and energy budgets and sustainability of water resource management practices of data-sparse regions in a changing environment.