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Table 2 shows the results of partial correlation analysis between ET and other variables. The variation in ET was dominated by precipitation, which accounted for 0.78, followed by soil moisture and runoff, which accounted for 0.38 and 0.14, respectively. Precipitation is the most important input component of both hydrological processes and energy cycles in the study area. Because soil moisture is a physical characteristic at the interface of the atmosphere and the earth, soil moisture influences many land surface and hydrological processes, affecting ET, partitioning of rainfall into infiltration and runoff, and precipitation, although the existence and strength of this influence has been debated. In the Yellow River source region, the soil moisture did not readily impact the ET, with a partial correlation of −0.38. Given the scarcity of long-term observations of runoff and ET in China, the spatiotemporal variation in the hydrological flux and its underlying mechanisms require further investigation. Several studies have discussed the effects of climate change on the water cycle in China; however, they have rarely considered ET in these estimations. According to our research, runoff and ET do not have a strong relationship, with a partial correlation of 0.14.

Table 2

Partial correlation analysis between ET and other variables

VariablesPartial correlation
Precipitation 0.78 
Runoff 0.14 
Soil moisture −0.38 
Albedo −0.77 
Surface solar radiation downwards 0.54 
Sunshine duration −0.35 
Land surface temperature −0.04 
Air temperature 0.44 
Wind speed 0.16 
VariablesPartial correlation
Precipitation 0.78 
Runoff 0.14 
Soil moisture −0.38 
Albedo −0.77 
Surface solar radiation downwards 0.54 
Sunshine duration −0.35 
Land surface temperature −0.04 
Air temperature 0.44 
Wind speed 0.16 

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