Response of inland lake dynamics over the Tibetan Plateau to climate change

Abstract

The water balance of inland lakes on the Tibetan Plateau (TP) involves complex hydrological processes; their dynamics over recent decades is a good indicator of changes in water cycle under rapid global warming. Based on satellite images and extensive field investigations, we demonstrate that a coherent lake growth on the TP interior (TPI) has occurred since the late 1990s in response to a significant global climate change. Closed lakes on the TPI varied heterogeneously during 1976–1999, but expanded coherently and significantly in both lake area and water depth during 1999–2010. Although the decreased potential evaporation and glacier mass loss may contribute to the lake growth since the late 1990s, the significant water surplus is mainly attributed to increased regional precipitation, which, in turn, may be related to changes in large-scale atmospheric circulation, including the intensified Northern Hemisphere summer monsoon (NHSM) circulation and the poleward shift of the Eastern Asian westerlies jet stream.

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Acknowledgments

This research has been supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program (B) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant no. XDB03030207) and the NSFC project (Grants nos. 41190081 and 41101062). The glacier inventory data is provided by “Cold and Arid Regions Science Data Center at Lanzhou” (http://westdc.westgis.ac.cn). We thank Prof. Yao T.D. and two anonymous reviewers for providing constructive suggestions, and Tek B.C., Hudson A.M., Song C.Q., and Peng P. for the help during preparation of the paper. This is the publication number 6 of the ESMC.

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Correspondence to Yanbin Lei.

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Lei, Y., Yang, K., Wang, B. et al. Response of inland lake dynamics over the Tibetan Plateau to climate change. Climatic Change 125, 281–290 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-014-1175-3

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Keywords

  • Tibetan Plateau
  • ICESat
  • Lake Level Change
  • Lake Evaporation
  • Closed Lake