Mekong River flow and hydrological extremes under climate change

Research output: Scientific - peer-reviewArticle

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3027-3041
Number of pages15
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Volume20
Issue number7
StatePublished - 29 Jul 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Researchers

  • Long Phi Hoang
  • Hannu Lauri
  • Matti Kummu

  • Jorma Koponen
  • Michelle T H Van Vliet
  • Iwan Supit
  • Rik Leemans
  • Pavel Kabat
  • Fulco Ludwig

Research units

  • Wageningen University & Research
  • EIA Finland Ltd.
  • International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg

Abstract

Climate change poses critical threats to waterrelated safety and sustainability in the Mekong River basin. Hydrological impact signals from earlier Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 3 (CMIP3)-based assessments, however, are highly uncertain and largely ignore hydrological extremes. This paper provides one of the first hydrological impact assessments using the CMIP5 climate projections. Furthermore, we model and analyse changes in river flow regimes and hydrological extremes (i.e. high-flow and low-flow conditions). In general, the Mekong's hydrological cycle intensifies under future climate change. The scenario's ensemble mean shows increases in both seasonal and annual river discharges (annual change between +5 and +16 %, depending on location). Despite the overall increasing trend, the individual scenarios show differences in the magnitude of discharge changes and, to a lesser extent, contrasting directional changes. The scenario's ensemble, however, shows reduced uncertainties in climate projection and hydrological impacts compared to earlier CMIP3-based assessments. We further found that extremely high-flow events increase in both magnitude and frequency. Extremely low flows, on the other hand, are projected to occur less often under climate change. Higher low flows can help reducing dry season water shortage and controlling salinization in the downstream Mekong Delta. However, higher and more frequent peak discharges will exacerbate flood risks in the basin. Climatechange-induced hydrological changes will have important implications for safety, economic development, and ecosystem dynamics and thus require special attention in climate change adaptation and water management.

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