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Water 2017, 9(11), 897; https://doi.org/10.3390/w9110897

Effects of Permafrost Degradation on the Hydrological Regime in the Source Regions of the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, China

1
Qilian Alpine Ecology and Hydrology Research Station, Key Laboratory of Inland River Ecohydrology, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China
2
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 22 July 2017 / Revised: 12 October 2017 / Accepted: 10 November 2017 / Published: 16 November 2017
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Abstract

Climate warming has intensified permafrost degradation, which could have a variety of implications on the hydrological regime in permafrost regions. In this study, we analyzed the effects of permafrost degradation on the hydrological regime via four hydrological variables for 10 unregulated catchments in the source regions of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers. The results demonstrate that catchments with high permafrost coverage are expected to have an increased winter discharge ratio (proportion of winter discharge contribution to total annual flow), a decreased recession coefficient and a decreased ratio of Qmax/Qmin due to permafrost degradation. However, the great storage effects of lakes and wetlands, which could contribute to more groundwater instead of direct surface discharge, may affect the hydrological effects of permafrost degradation and result in the abnormal performance at catchment scale. The correlation analysis between summer precipitation (July–September) and the following winter discharge (December–February) indicates that permafrost degradation may affect the redistribution of summer precipitation towards the following winter discharge via increasing the soil storage capacity and delaying the release of water into streams in permafrost regions. However, unlike the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, no significant changes for the hydrological regime (four hydrological variables) are detected over the individual periods of records for each catchment. Decreased precipitation in summer seems to reduce the water infiltration to supply the groundwater, which weakens the effects of permafrost degradation on the hydrological regime. This study implies that the storage effects of lakes and wetlands and the changes of summer precipitation patterns should be considered in future permafrost hydrological simulations, which have suggested that a large increase in groundwater discharge to streams will likely occur in response to permafrost degradation due to the warming climate in the ideal scenario. View Full-Text
Keywords: permafrost degradation; source regions of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers; summer precipitation; correlation analysis; hydrological regime permafrost degradation; source regions of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers; summer precipitation; correlation analysis; hydrological regime
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Wang, X.; Chen, R.; Yang, Y. Effects of Permafrost Degradation on the Hydrological Regime in the Source Regions of the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, China. Water 2017, 9, 897.

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