17 Oct 2022
17 Oct 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Hydrological response to climate change and human activities in the Three-River Source Region

Ting Su1, Chiyuan Miao1, Qingyun Duan2, Jiaojiao Gou1, Xiaoying Guo1, and Xi Zhao1 Ting Su et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology, Faculty of Geographical Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
  • 2College of Hydrology and Water Resources, Hohai University, Nanjing 210024, China

Abstract. The Three-River Source Region (TRSR), which is known as “China’s Water Tower” and affects the water resources security of 700 million people living downstream, has experienced significant hydrological changes in the past few decades. In this work, we used an extended variable infiltration capacity (VIC) land surface hydrologic model (VIC-Glacier) coupled with the degree-day factor algorithm to simulate the runoff change in the TRSR during 1984–2018. VIC-Glacier performed well in the TRSR, with Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE) above 0.68, but it was sensitive to the quality of the limited ground-based precipitation. This was especially marked in the source region of the Yangtze River: when we used Precipitation Estimation from Remotely Sensed Information Using Artificial Neural Networks – Climate Data Record (PERSIANN-CDR), which has better spatial details, instead of ground-based precipitation, the NSE of Tuotuohe Station increased from 0.31 to 0.86. Using the well-established VIC-Glacier model, we studied the contribution of each runoff component (rainfall, snowmelt, and glacier runoff) to the total runoff and the causes of changes in runoff. The results indicate that rainfall runoff contributed over 80 % of the total runoff, while snowmelt runoff and glacier runoff both contributed less than 10 % in 1984–2018. Climate change was the main reason for the increase in runoff in the TRSR after 2004, accounting for 75 %–89 %, except in the catchment monitored by Xialaxiu Station. Among climate change factors, precipitation had the greatest impact on runoff. Finally, through a series of hypothetical climate change scenario experiments, we found that a future simultaneous increase in precipitation and temperature would increase the total runoff, rainfall runoff, and glacier runoff. The snowmelt runoff might remain unchanged, because the increased precipitation, even with seasonal fluctuations, was basically completely compensated for by the decreased solid-to-liquid precipitation ratio. These findings improve our understanding of hydrological processes and provide insights for policy makers on how to optimally allocate water resources and manage the TRSR in response to global climate change.

Ting Su et al.

Status: open (until 05 Jan 2023)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2022-355', Anonymous Referee #1, 08 Nov 2022 reply

Ting Su et al.


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Short summary
Three-River Source Region (TRSR) plays an extremely important role in water resources security and ecological and environmental protection in China and even all of Southeast Asia. This study used the variable infiltration capacity (VIC) land surface hydrologic model linked with the degree-day factor algorithm to simulate the runoff change in the TRSR. These results will help to guide current and future regulation and management of water resources in the TRSR.