With the change of climate and the impacts of human activities, the water resources crisis of the Yellow River is becoming increasingly serious. How and why did the streamflows of the Yellow River basin change? Based on observed annual runoff data (1956–2016) of 10 main hydrological stations along the Yellow River, the linear regression method, the Spearman rank correlation method and the Mann-Kendall test method are used to analyze runoff trend. The orderly clustering method, the sliding t
test method and the Lee-Heghinian Method are used to identify the abrupt change point. Finally, the wavelet analysis method is used to identify runoff time series period. The results show that: (1) With the exception of the streamflow of Tangnaihai, the streamflows of all examined stations have significantly declining trends. The decrease of the streamflow from the upper to the middle to the lower reaches is becoming more and more obvious; (2) The runoff of the Yellow River has changed greatly. The abrupt change point at Tangnaihai occurred in 1989. The abrupt change points of the other stations took place in 1985; (3) The runoff along the Yellow River presents multi-time scale changes. The streamflows appear to have strongest periods of 25–40 years with a 40-year scale, which indicate the alternate oscillations of the high and the low water periods. The periods of <6 and 7–24 years are not stable and are complicated. The first main period of runoff in the Yellow River is 30 years; (4) The streamflow upstream of Tangnaihai station is mainly affected by the climate. The streamflows downstream of Tangnaihai station are influenced by human activities, especially water extraction and diversion and the operations of the large reservoirs. These research results have important practical guiding significance for hydrological forecasting, evaluation and management of water resources, construction of water conservancy projects and sustainable utilization of water resources in the region.
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