Runoff in the Yellow River (YR) of China is steadily declining due to climate change and human activities. In this study, the basic trend and abrupt changes of precipitation at 63 meteorological stations and runoff as measured at six hydrological stations from 1956 to 2010 are analyzed. Results indicate that 38 stations exhibit negative precipitation trends. These stations are mainly located in the lower reaches. All six hydrological stations exhibit declining runoff trends. Abrupt runoff changes were mainly noted in the downstream portion of the basin. These variations then expanded to the middle and upper reaches. A precipitation–runoff double cumulative curve was used to detect the breakpoint of the precipitation–runoff relationship and to identify the impacts of human activities on runoff in the YR. Results show that the relatively uniform precipitation–runoff relationship has changed since 1993 in the upstream reaches and since 1970 in the middle and downstream reaches. Additionally, the relationship was more sensitive in the Lanzhou section. Human activities have become the dominant influencing factor on runoff variation since the 1970s. After the 1990s, the percentages of runoff variations due to human activities were 74.87%, 82.2%, 80.63%, and 88.71% at the Lanzhou, Toudaoguai, Huayuankou, and Lijin stations, respectively.

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