Physically, evaporative demand is driven by net radiation (Rn), vapour pressure (ea), wind speed (u2), and air temperature (Ta), each of which changes over time. By analyzing temporal variations in reference evapotranspiration (ET0), improved understanding of the impacts of climate change on hydrological processes can be obtained. In this study, variations in ET0 over 58 years (1950-2007) at 34 stations in the Haihe river basin of China were analyzed. ET0 was calculated by the FAO Penman-Monteith formula. Calculation of Kendall rank coefficient was done by analyzing the annual and seasonal trends in ET0 derived from its dependent climate variables. Inverse distance weighting (IDW) was used to analyze the spatial variation in annual and seasonal ET0, and in each climate variable. An attribution analysis was performed to quantify the contribution of each input variable to ET0 variation. The results showed that ET0 gradually decreased in the whole basin over the 58 years at a rate of -1.0Â mmÂ yr-2, at the same time, Rn, u2 and precipitation also decreased. Changes in ET0 were attributed to the variations in net radiation (-0.9Â mmÂ yr-2), vapour pressure (-0.5Â mmÂ yr-2), wind speed (-1.3Â mmÂ yr-2) and air temperature (1.7Â mmÂ yr-2). Looking at all data on a month by month basis, we found that Ta had a positive effect on dET0/dt (the derivative of reference evapotranspiration to time) and Rn and u2 had negative effects on dET0/dt. While changes in air temperature were found to produce a large increase in dET0/dt, changes in other key variables each reduced rates, resulting in an overall negative trend in dET0/dt.