Evolution of the hydro-climate system in the Lake Baikal basin

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Abstract

Climatic changes can profoundly alter hydrological conditions in river basins. Lake Baikal is the deepest and largest freshwater reservoir on Earth, and has a unique ecosystem with numerous endemic animal and plant species. We here identify long-term historical (1938-2009) and projected future hydro-climatic trends in the Selenga River Basin, which is the largest sub-basin (>60% inflow) of Lake Baikal. Our analysis is based on long-term river monitoring and historical hydro-climatic observation data, as well as ensemble mean and 22 individual model results of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, Phase 5 (CMIP5). Study of the latter considers a historical period (from 1961) and projections for 2010-2039 and 2070-2099. Observations show almost twice as fast warming as the global average during the period 1938-2009. Decreased intra-annual variability of river discharge over this period indicates basin-scale permafrost degradation. CMIP5 ensemble projections show further future warming, implying continued permafrost thaw. Modelling of runoff change, however, is highly uncertain, with many models (64%) and their ensemble mean failing to reproduce historical behaviour, and with indicated future increase being small relative to the large differences among individual model results.

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Törnqvist, R., Jarsjö, J., Pietroń, J., Bring, A., Rogberg, P., Asokan, S. M., & Destouni, G. (2014). Evolution of the hydro-climate system in the Lake Baikal basin. Journal of Hydrology, 519(PB), 1953–1962. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.09.074

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