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climate change, evapotranspiration, Budyko equation, climatic elasticity

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Climatic elasticity is a crucial metric to assess the hydrological influence of climate change. Based on the Budyko equation, this study performed an analytical derivation of the climatic elasticity of evapotranspiration (ET). With this derived elasticity, it is possible to quantitatively separate the impacts of precipitation, air temperature, net radiation, relative humidity, and wind speed on ET in a watershed. This method was applied in the Wuding River Watershed (WRW), located in the center of the Yellow River Watershed of China. The estimated rate of change in ET caused by climatic variables is −10.69 mm/decade, which is close to the rate of change inET (−8.06 mm/decade) derived from observable data. The accurate estimation with the elasticity method demonstrates its reliability. Our analysis shows that ET in the WRW had a significant downward trend, but the ET ratio in the WRW has increased continually over the past 52 years. Decreasing precipitation is the first-order cause for the reduction of ET, and decreasing net radiation is the secondary cause. Weakening wind speed also contributed to this reduction. In contrast, regional warming led to an increase in ET that partly offset the negative contributions from other climatic variables. Moreover, reforestation can affect the energy budget of a watershed by decreasing albedo, compensating for the negative influence of global dimming. The integrated effect from precipitation and temperature can affect the energy budget of a watershed by causing a large fluctuation in winter albedo.