Articles | Volume 8, issue 4
Research article
03 Nov 2017
Research article |  | 03 Nov 2017

Trends and regime shifts in climatic conditions and river runoff in Estonia during 1951–2015

Jaak Jaagus, Mait Sepp, Toomas Tamm, Arvo Järvet, and Kiira Mõisja

Abstract. Time series of monthly, seasonal and annual mean air temperature, precipitation, snow cover duration and specific runoff of rivers in Estonia are analysed for detecting of trends and regime shifts during 1951–2015. Trend analysis is realised using the Mann–Kendall test and regime shifts are detected with the Rodionov test (sequential t-test analysis of regime shifts). The results from Estonia are related to trends and regime shifts in time series of indices of large-scale atmospheric circulation. Annual mean air temperature has significantly increased at all 12 stations by 0.3–0.4 K decade−1. The warming trend was detected in all seasons but with the higher magnitude in spring and winter. Snow cover duration has decreased in Estonia by 3–4 days decade−1. Changes in precipitation are not clear and uniform due to their very high spatial and temporal variability. The most significant increase in precipitation was observed during the cold half-year, from November to March and also in June. A time series of specific runoff measured at 21 stations had significant seasonal changes during the study period. Winter values have increased by 0.4–0.9 L s−1 km−2 decade−1, while stronger changes are typical for western Estonia and weaker changes for eastern Estonia. At the same time, specific runoff in April and May have notably decreased indicating the shift of the runoff maximum to the earlier time, i.e. from April to March. Air temperature, precipitation, snow cover duration and specific runoff of rivers are highly correlated in winter determined by the large-scale atmospheric circulation. Correlation coefficients between the Arctic Oscillation (AO) and North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) indices reflecting the intensity of westerlies, and the studied variables were 0.5–0.8. The main result of the analysis of regime shifts was the detection of coherent shifts for air temperature, snow cover duration and specific runoff in the late 1980s, mostly since the winter of 1988/1989, which are, in turn, synchronous with the shifts in winter circulation. For example, runoff abruptly increased in January, February and March but decreased in April. Regime shifts in annual specific runoff correspond to the alternation of wet and dry periods. A dry period started in 1964 or 1963, a wet period in 1978 and the next dry period at the beginning of the 21st century.

Short summary
Trends and regime shifts in climatic and hydrological parameters are analysed in Estonia during 1951–2015. The most important finding was the regime shift in the majority of parameters since the winter 1988/1989. The intensity of westerly circulation described by the NAO and AO indices increased, winter mean air temperature and precipitation also increased, and snow cover duration decreased. Consequently, specific runoff of rivers increased in January, February and March but decreased in April.
Final-revised paper