Climate Change Impact - Part 11 - Turkey

Climate Change Impact

Part 11: Example –Turkey


The Yesilirmak Basin in northern Turkey drains into the Black Sea.  The basin is currently highly developed for hydropower and irrigation. The impact of climate change will be to reduce annual flow. Currently snow melt in late spring provides water at the start of the irrigation season; critically, the biggest reduction in flow will be during this period. To maintain current levels of irrigation will require additional storage. 


The Yeşilirmak basin in northern Turkey has a drainage area of around 36,000 km2 and flows into the Black Sea. The basin is mountainous with parts of the basin reaching elevations in excess of 2,000m. The aim of the study was to develop an understanding of the water balance of the basin and then to examine the potential effects of climate change on the basin. The basin is heavily developed, mainly for irrigation and hydropower.

Figure 1 Yesilirmak River Basin

Current situation

Meteorological data were available from two sources. The first source was supplied locally and covered the period 1961 to 2007. The second was from an internationally supported internet site which provided data from 1931 to 2006. There was considerable overlap in data from the two sources and we were able to create a consistent data set from 1931 to 2007. Annual precipitation reaches 1000mm/annum near the coast and is less than 500 mm/annum inland. Average annual temperature is around 14 °C to the north of basin and less than 10 °C in higher areas inland.

From 1931 to 2007 the data showed little trend in annual precipitation or temperature.

Figure 2 Monthly precipitation - Yesilirmak basin
 For both precipitation and temperature there were differences in seasonal values. Winter precipitation and spring temperature both showed increases.

Figure 3 Seasonal temperature - Yesilirmak basin

Reservoirs in the basin play an important part in flow regulation. The total storage is over 5,000 million m3. This is close to the annual average flow of 5,500 million m3/annum. The calculation of the effect of reservoirs was complicated by three factors:

  •         Little information was available on their operating rules.
  •         There are transfers of water between basins
  •         When a reservoir is newly constructed water is used to fill the reservoirs.

Annual irrigation use is 500 million m3/annum and is, of course, concentrated in the summer months when flows are at their lowest.

Climate change

The basin was modelled in two ways. First a water resources model was developed which simulated as far as possible the progressive changes in water use and reservoir storage over the period with data. This model was used to estimate the natural flow in the basin. Secondly the monthly rainfall/runoff model HYSIMM was used to simulate the flows in the basin.

The climate projections were based on the IPCC task force on Data and Scenario Support 2007 report “General Guidelines on the Use of Scenario Data for Climate Impact and Adaptation Assessment”. The SresA1B scenario, which assumes rapid growth and a balanced use of energy sources, was used

As an initial appraisal of the potential impacts of climate change, the simulated flow for the period 1980 to 1999 was compared with simulated flow for projected values for the period 2080 to 2099, i.e. 100 years in the future relative to observed.

The following chart shows three lines. The blue line is the observed average monthly flow – or, more accurately, the estimated natural flows after accounting for storage and abstractions. The red line shows the flow simulated by the hydrological model. The third line, in green shows the projected monthly flow after the impact of climate change. The impact of climate change is represented by the difference between the red and green lines.

Figure 4 Monthly flows - with and without climate change

This shows that two importance changes are projected:

  •         Overall flows will be lower,
  •         Currently the peak of flow is in late spring which coincides with the start of the growing season. In effect, snow in the mountains is acting as a reservoir. In the future, the peak flow will be in winter.

The conclusion is that to maintain current levels of agriculture additional reservoir storage will be needed.


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