Monitoring recent lake level variations on the Tibetan Plateau using CryoSat-2 SARIn mode data

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    Lakes on the Tibetan Plateau (TP) are of great interest due to their value as water resources but also as an important indicator of climate change. However, in situ data in this region are extremely scarce and only a few lakes have gauge measurements. Satellite altimetry has been used successfully to monitor lake levels. In this study, Cryosat-2 SARIn mode data over the period 2010–2015 are used to investigate recent lake level variations. The estimated water levels of the 70 largest lakes (> 100 km2) on the TP show that 48 lakes reveal a rising trend (avg. 0.28 ± 0.06 m/yr) while the other 22 show a slightly decreasing trend (avg. −0.10 ± 0.04 m/yr). To compare with the change rates during 2003–2009, ICESat data which cover 42 of the 70 lakes are also used. When combining the data, the results show that during the period of 2003–2015, 28 lakes maintained a rising trend and the change rates are comparable. Lakes in the northern part of the TP experienced pronounced rising (avg. 0.37 ± 0.10 m/yr), while lakes in southern part were steady or decreasing even in glaciated basins with high precipitation. Factor analysis indicates that driving factors for lake change are variable due to high spatial heterogeneity. However, autumn/winter temperature plays an important role in lake level change. These results demonstrate that lakes on the TP are still rapidly changing under climate change, especially in northern part of the TP, but the driving factors are variable and more research is needed to understand the mechanisms behind observed changes.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Hydrology
    Pages (from-to)109-124
    Number of pages16
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • Water Science and Technology
    • Altimetry
    • Cryosat-2
    • Lake level
    • SARIn
    • Tibetan Plateau
    • Lakes
    • Water levels
    • Water resources
    • Cryosat
    • Lake levels
    • Climate change


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