Snow cover and precipitation impacts on dry season streamflow in the Lower Mekong Basin



[1] Climate change impacts on dry season streamflow in the Mekong River are relatively understudied, despite the fact that water availability during this time is critically important for agricultural and ecological systems. Analyses of two gauging stations (Vientiane and Kratie) in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB) show significant positive correlations between dry season (March through May, MAM) discharge and upper basin snow cover and local precipitation. Using snow cover, precipitation, and upstream discharge as predictors, we develop skillful regression models for MAM streamflow at Vientiane and Kratie, and force these models with output from a suite of general circulation model (GCM) experiments for the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The GCM simulations predict divergent trends in snow cover (decreasing) and precipitation (increasing) over the twenty-first century, driving overall negligible long-term trends in dry season streamflow. Our study demonstrates how future changes in dry season streamflow in the LMB will depend on changes in snow cover and precipitation, factors that will need to be considered when assessing the full basin response to other climatic and non-climatic drivers.