19 Sep 2022
19 Sep 2022
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Spatio-temporal evolution of glacial lakes in the Tibetan Plateau over the past 30 years

Xiangyang Dou1, Xuanmei Fan1, Ali P. Yunus2, Junlin Xiong1, Ran Tang3, Xin Wang1, and Qiang Xu1 Xiangyang Dou et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Geohazard Prevention and Geoenvironment Protection, Chengdu University of Technology, 610059, Chengdu, China
  • 2Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Mohali, Mohali, Punjab, 140306, India
  • 3School of Architecture and Civil Engineering, Chengdu University, 310106, Chengdu, China

Abstract. As the Third Pole of the Earth and the Water Tower of Asia, Tibetan Plateau (TP) nurtures large numbers of glacial lakes, which are sensitive to global climate change. These lakes modulate the freshwater ecosystem in the region, but concurrently pose severe threats to the valley population by means of sudden glacial lake outbursts and consequent floods (GLOFs). Lack of high-resolution multi-temporal inventory of glacial lakes in TP hampers a better understanding and prediction of the future trend and risk of glacial lakes. Here, we created a multi-temporal inventory of glacial lakes in TP using 30 years record of 42833 satellite images (1990–2019), and discussed their characteristics and spatio-temporal evolution over the years. Results showed that their number and area had increased by 3285 and 258.82 km2 in the last 3 decades, respectively. We noticed that different regions of TP exhibited varying change rates in glacial lake size, most regions show a trend of expansion and increase in glacial lakes, while some regions show a trend of decreasing such as the western Pamir and the eastern Hindu Kush. The mapping uncertainty is about 17.5 %, lower than other available datasets, thus making our inventory reliable for the spatio-temporal evolution analysis of glacial lakes in TP. Our lake inventory data are freely available at (Dou et al., 2021), it can help to study climate change-glacier-glacial lake-GLOF interactions in the Third Pole and serve input to various hydro-climatic studies.

Xiangyang Dou et al.

Status: open (until 14 Nov 2022)

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Xiangyang Dou et al.


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Short summary
This study created a multi-temporal inventory of glacial lake from 1990 to 2019 throughout the Tibetan Plateau . In here, we demonstrated the quantity and size of glacier lakes have grown by 3285 and 258.82 sq km, respectively. The distribution of glacial lakes across the 17 mountains of TP is uneven, and the pace of area change varies per subregion. Most glacial lakes are distributed in the elevation range of 4400–5400 m above sea level, with an obvious expansion tendency in recent decades.