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Open AccessArticle

Assessment of the Effects of Climate Change on Evapotranspiration with an Improved Elasticity Method in a Nonhumid Area

by Lei Tian 1,2,3, Jiming Jin 2,3,*, Pute Wu 1,4,* and Guo-yue Niu 5,6
1
Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Northwest A&F University, Yangling 712100, China
2
College of Water Resources and Architectural Engineering, Northwest A&F University, Yangling 712100, China
3
Department of Watershed Sciences, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322, USA
4
National Engineering Research Center of Water Saving and Irrigation Technology at Yangling, Yangling 712100, China
5
Biosphere 2, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85623, USA
6
Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4589; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124589
Received: 30 October 2018 / Revised: 29 November 2018 / Accepted: 1 December 2018 / Published: 4 December 2018
Climatic elasticity is a crucial metric to assess the hydrological influence of climate change. Based on the Budyko equation, this study performed an analytical derivation of the climatic elasticity of evapotranspiration (ET). With this derived elasticity, it is possible to quantitatively separate the impacts of precipitation, air temperature, net radiation, relative humidity, and wind speed on ET in a watershed. This method was applied in the Wuding River Watershed (WRW), located in the center of the Yellow River Watershed of China. The estimated rate of change in ET caused by climatic variables is −10.69 mm/decade, which is close to the rate of change in ET (−8.06 mm/decade) derived from observable data. The accurate estimation with the elasticity method demonstrates its reliability. Our analysis shows that ET in the WRW had a significant downward trend, but the ET ratio in the WRW has increased continually over the past 52 years. Decreasing precipitation is the first-order cause for the reduction of ET, and decreasing net radiation is the secondary cause. Weakening wind speed also contributed to this reduction. In contrast, regional warming led to an increase in ET that partly offset the negative contributions from other climatic variables. Moreover, reforestation can affect the energy budget of a watershed by decreasing albedo, compensating for the negative influence of global dimming. The integrated effect from precipitation and temperature can affect the energy budget of a watershed by causing a large fluctuation in winter albedo. View Full-Text
Keywords: climate change; evapotranspiration; Budyko equation; climatic elasticity climate change; evapotranspiration; Budyko equation; climatic elasticity
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Tian, L.; Jin, J.; Wu, P.; Niu, G.-Y. Assessment of the Effects of Climate Change on Evapotranspiration with an Improved Elasticity Method in a Nonhumid Area. Sustainability 2018, 10, 4589.

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