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.
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