23 Jan 2024
 | 23 Jan 2024
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Spatiotemporal responses of runoff to climate change on the southern Tibetan Plateau

He Sun, Tandong Yao, Fengge Su, Wei Yang, and Deliang Chen

Abstract. A comprehensive understanding of spatiotemporal runoff changes at a sub-basin scale of the Yarlung Zangbo (YZ) basin on the southern Tibetan Plateau (TP), amidst varying climatic and cryospheric conditions, is imperative for effective water resources management. However, spatiotemporal differences of runoff composition, change and the attribution within the YZ basin have not been extensively explored, primarily due to the lack of hydrometeorological observations, especially in the downstream region. In this study, we investigated historical and future evolution of annual and seasonal total water availability, as well as glacier runoff and snowmelt contributions across six sub-basins of the YZ with a particular focus on the comparison between the upstream Nuxia (NX) basin and the downstream Nuxia-Pasighat (NX-BXK) basin, based on a newly generated precipitation dataset and a well-validated model with streamflow, glacier mass, and snow cover observations. Our findings revealed large spatiotemporal differences in changes exist within the YZ basin for 1971–2020. Firstly, runoff generation was dominated by rainfall runoff throughout the YZ basin, with glacier runoff playing more important role in the annual total runoff (19 %) in the NX-BXK sub-basin compared to other sub-basins. Notably, glacier runoff contributed 52 % of the total runoff at the Pasighat outlet of the YZ basin. Secondly, annual runoff exhibited an increasing trend in the NX basin but a decreasing trend in the NX-BXK, primarily attributed to rainfall runoff changes influenced by atmospheric moisture. Glacier runoff enhanced water supply, by offsetting the decreasing contribution from rainfall. Total runoff will consistently increase (27–100 mm/10 yr) across the sub-basins through the 21st century, resulting from increased rainfall runoff and a minor effect of increased snowmelt and glacier runoff.

He Sun, Tandong Yao, Fengge Su, Wei Yang, and Deliang Chen

Status: open (until 28 Mar 2024)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • CC1: 'Comment on hess-2024-11', Sivarajah Mylevaganam, 15 Feb 2024 reply
  • CC2: 'Comment on hess-2024-11', Sivarajah Mylevaganam, 16 Feb 2024 reply
  • CC3: 'Comment on hess-2024-11', Sivarajah Mylevaganam, 17 Feb 2024 reply
  • CC4: 'Comment on hess-2024-11', Sivarajah Mylevaganam, 19 Feb 2024 reply
He Sun, Tandong Yao, Fengge Su, Wei Yang, and Deliang Chen
He Sun, Tandong Yao, Fengge Su, Wei Yang, and Deliang Chen


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Short summary
Our findings revealed runoff generation is dominated by rainfall runoff in the YZ, and the largest glacier runoff contribution is in the downstream sub-basin. Annual runoff trends indicate an increase in the NX but a decrease in the NX-BXK for 1971–2020, due to contrasting precipitation changes. Total runoff across the sub-basins will consistently increase through the 21st century, mostly resulting from increased rainfall runoff.