Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

Impact of climate change on the streamflow in the glacierized Chu River Basin, Central Asia


Catchments dominated by meltwater runoff are sensitive to climate change as changes in precipitation and temperature inevitably affect the characteristics of glaciermelt/snowmelt, hydrologic circle and water resources. This study simulated the impact of climate change on the runoff generation and streamflow of Chu River Basin (CRB), a glacierized basin in Central Asia using the enhanced Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT). The model was calibrated and validated using the measured monthly streamflow data from three discharge gauge stations in CRB for the period 1961–1985 and was subsequently driven by downscaled future climate projections of five Global Circulation Models (GCMs) in Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) under three radiative forcing scenarios (RCP2.6, RCP4.5 and RCP8.5). In this study, the period 1966–1995 was used as the baseline period, while 2016–2045 and 2066–2095 as the near-future and far-future period, respectively. As projected, the climate would become warmer and drier under all scenarios in the future, and the future climate would be characterized by larger seasonal and annual variations under higher RCP. A general decreasing trend was identified in the average annual runoff in glacier (–26.6% to –1.0%), snow (–21.4% to +1.1%) and streamflow (–27.7% to –6.6%) for most of the future scenario periods. The projected maximum streamflow in each of the two future scenarios occurred one month earlier than that in the baseline period because of the reduced streamflow in summer months. Results of this study are expected to arouse the serious concern about water resource availability in the headwater region of CRB under the continuously warming climate. Changes in simulated hydrologic outputs underscored the significance of lowering the uncertainties in temperature and precipitation projection.


glacier; snow; meltwater runoff; climate change; hydrologic modeling

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