Journal cover Journal topic
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
doi:10.5194/hess-2016-231
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
23 May 2016
Review status
A revision of this discussion paper was accepted for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS) and is expected to appear here in due course.
Climate Change Impacts on Yangtze River Discharge at the Three Gorges Dam
Steve J. Birkinshaw1, Selma B. Guerreiro1, Alex Nicholson2, Qiuhua Liang1, Paul Quinn1, Lili Zhang3, Bin He4, Junxian Yin3, and Hayley J. Fowler1 1School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle NE1 7RU, UK
2Ove Arup and Partners, Admiral House, 78 East St., Leeds, UK
3State Key Laboratory of Simulation and Regulation of Water Cycle in River Bain, China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research, Beijing, 100038, China
4School of Hydraulic Engineering, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, P. R. China
Abstract. The Yangtze River Basin is home to more than 400 million people, contributes to nearly half of China’s food production, and is susceptible to major floods. Therefore planning for climate change impacts on river discharges is essential. We used a physically-based distributed hydrological model, Shetran, to simulate discharge in the Yangtze River just below the Three Gorges Dam at Yichang (1,007,200 km2), obtaining an excellent match between simulated and measured daily discharge, with Nash-Sutcliffe efficiencies of 0.95 for the calibration period (1996–2000) and 0.92 for the validation period (2001–2005). We then used a simple monthly delta change approach for 78 climate model projections (35 different GCMs) from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project-5 (CMIP5) to examine the effect of climate change on river discharge for 2041–2070 for Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5. Projected changes to the basin’s annual precipitation varied between −3.6 % and +14.8 % but increases in temperature and consequently evapotranspiration (calculated using the Thornthwaite equation) were projected by all CMIP5 models, resulting in projected changes in the basin’s annual discharge from −29.8 % to +16.0 %. These large differences were mainly due to the predicted expansion of the summer monsoon north and west into the Yangtze basin in some CMIP5 models, e.g. CanESM2, but not in others, e.g. CSIRO-Mk3-6-0. This was despite both models being able to simulate current climate well. Until projections of the strength and location of the monsoon under a future climate improve there will remain large uncertainties in the direction and magnitude of future change in discharge for the Yangtze.

Citation: Birkinshaw, S. J., Guerreiro, S. B., Nicholson, A., Liang, Q., Quinn, P., Zhang, L., He, B., Yin, J., and Fowler, H. J.: Climate Change Impacts on Yangtze River Discharge at the Three Gorges Dam, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., doi:10.5194/hess-2016-231, in review, 2016.
Steve J. Birkinshaw et al.
Steve J. Birkinshaw et al.

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Short summary
The Yangtze River Basin in China is home to more than 400 million people and susceptible to major floods. We used projections of future precipitation and temperature from 35 of the most recent global climate models and applied this to a hydrological model of the Yangtze. Changes in the annual discharge varied between a 29.8 % decrease and a 16.0 % increase. The main reason for difference between the models was the predicted expansion of the summer monsoon north and and west into the basin.
The Yangtze River Basin in China is home to more than 400 million people and susceptible to...
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