This study analyzes long-term (1936–90) monthly streamflow records for the major subbasins within the Ob River watershed in order to examine discharge changes induced by human activities (particularly reservoirs and agricultural activities) and natural variations. Changes in streamflow pattern were found to be different between the upper and lower parts of the Ob watershed. Over the upper Ob basin, streamflow decreases in summer months and increases in the winter season. The decreases in summer are mainly due to water uses along the river valley for agricultural and industrial purposes and to reservoir regulation to reduce the summer peak floods. The increases in winter streamflow are caused by reservoir impacts to release water for power generation over winter months. In the lower Ob regions, however, streamflow increased during midsummer and winter months and weakly decreased in autumn. These increases in summer flow are associated with increases in summer precipitation and winter snow cover over the northern Ob basin. Because of reservoir regulations and water uses in the upper parts of the Ob basin, it is a great challenge to determine hydrologic response to climate change and variation at the basin scale. Discharge records observed at the Ob basin outlet do not always represent natural changes and variations mainly due to impacts of large dams; they tend to underestimate the natural runoff trends in summer and overestimate the trends in winter and autumn seasons. This study clearly demonstrates regional differences in hydrologic response to climate changes and variations within a large watershed such as the Ob River. It also illustrates that, relative to climatic effects, human activities are sometimes more important and direct in altering regional hydrologic regimes and affecting their long-term changes particularly at both seasonal and regional scales. It is, therefore, necessary to consider human activities in regional/global environment change analyses and further examine their impacts in other large northern watersheds.
Earth Systems Research Center
Journal of Hydrometeorology
American Meteorological Society (AMS)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Yang, D., Ye, B., Shiklomanov, A.I., 2004: Discharge characteristics and changes over the Ob River watershed in Siberia. Journal of Hydrometeorology, Vol. 5 No. 4, 2004, 595-610.