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Water 2017, 9(1), 25; doi:10.3390/w9010025

Increasing Winter Baseflow in Response to Permafrost Thaw and Precipitation Regime Shifts in Northeastern China

1
School of Forestry, Northeast Forestry University, Harbin 150040, China
2
School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Athanasios Loukas
Received: 29 October 2016 / Revised: 20 December 2016 / Accepted: 28 December 2016 / Published: 5 January 2017
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [2747 KB, uploaded 5 January 2017]   |  

Abstract

Rapid permafrost thaw and precipitation regime shifts are altering surface and subsurface hydrological processes in arctic and subarctic watersheds. Long-term data (40 years) from two large permafrost watersheds in northeastern China, the Tahe River and Duobukuer River watersheds, indicate that winter baseflows are characterized by significant positive trends of 1.7% and 2.5%·year−1, respectively. Winter baseflows exhibited statistically significant positive correlations with mean annual air temperature and the thawing index, an indicator of permafrost degradation, for both watersheds, as well as the increasing annual rainfall fraction of precipitation for the Duobukuer River watershed. Winter baseflows were characterized by a breakpoint in 1989, which lagged behind the mean annual air temperature breakpoint by only two years. The statistical analyses suggest that the increases in winter baseflow are likely related to enhanced groundwater storage and winter groundwater discharge caused by permafrost thaw and are potentially also due to an increase in the wet season rainfall. These hydrological trends are first apparent in marginal areas of permafrost distribution and are expected to shift northward towards formerly continuous permafrost regions in the context of future climate warming. View Full-Text
Keywords: cold regions groundwater; climate warming; frozen ground; hydrologic trends; precipitation regimes cold regions groundwater; climate warming; frozen ground; hydrologic trends; precipitation regimes
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Duan, L.; Man, X.; Kurylyk, B.L.; Cai, T. Increasing Winter Baseflow in Response to Permafrost Thaw and Precipitation Regime Shifts in Northeastern China. Water 2017, 9, 25.

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