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Changes in flow regimes of the Yellow River in the Headwater Area of the Yellow River on the northeastern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, SW China during 1955-2040
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  • Qiang Ma,
  • Huijun Jin,
  • Sihai Liang,
  • Victor Bense,
  • yongchao lan
Qiang Ma
Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Huijun Jin
Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences
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Sihai Liang
China University of Geosciences Beijing
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Victor Bense
Wageningen Universtiy
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yongchao lan
Chinese Academy of Sciences
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Human disturbance has substantially altered real-time flow regimes. The Headwater Area of the Yellow River (HAYR, above Huanghe’yan Hydrological Station) on the northeastern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Southwest China has been undergoing extensively streamflow changes, permafrost degradation and ecological deterioration under a warming climate. However, the damming of the Yellow River complicates examining the relations between hydroclimatic variables and streamflow dynamics. In this study, monthly streamflow of the Yellow River (YR) at the Huanghe’yan Hydrological Station is reconstructed for 1955-2019 dusing the double mass curve (DMC) method and then forecasted for the next 20 years (2020-2040) using Elman Neural Network (ENN) time-series method. Construction of dam (1998-2000) has caused a reduction of 53.5%-68.4% in annual streamflow and a reduction of 71.8 %-94.4% in annual streamflow of dry years (2003-2005) in the HAYR and recent dam removal (September 2018) has boosted annual streamflow by 123% -210% (2018-2019). Post-correction trends of annual maximum (QMax) and minimum (QMin) streamflows and the ratio of the QMax/QMin of the YR in the HAYR (0.18 and 0.03 m3s1yr1 and -0.04 yr1) compared to those of pre-correction values (-0.25, -0.004 m3s1yr1 and 0.001 yr1) have revealed hydrological impacts of degrading permafrost. Based on the ENN model predictions, over the next 20 years, the increasing trend of the YR flow in the HAYR would generally be accelerated at a rate of 0.42 m3s1yr1. Boosting rates of spring (0.57 m3s1yr1) and autumn (0.18 m3s1yr1) YR flow would see an advance of snow-melt season and delayed arrival of winter. This suggests an elongating growing season, which indicates ameliorating phonological and soil nutrient and hydrothermal environments for vegetation in the HAYR. These hydrological and ecological change trends in the HAYR may potentially improve ecological safety and water supplies security in the HAYR and downstream YR basins.