What Controls Lake Contraction and Then Expansion in Tibetan Plateau’s Endorheic Basin Over the Past Half Century?

Wenfeng Chen, Yong Liu, Guoqing Zhang, Kun Yang, Tao Zhou, Jida Wang, C. K. Shum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The evolutions of climate-sensitive lakes on the Tibetan Plateau’s endorheic basin exhibited lake shrinkage before the mid-1990s, but widespread and rapid lake expansions ever since. However, the quantitative contribution of glacier meltwater to lake changes, and the exact mechanisms behind its dominant drivers remain elusive. Here, a comprehensive examination of glacier mass balance since ∼1975 reveals that excess glacier meltwater compensated for net lake volume loss by 21% ± 5% during its contraction period 1975–1995, whereas promoted net volume gain by 9% ± 1% during expansion period 1995–2020 and by 17% ± 2% over the entire period 1975–2020. Further analyses reveal that the interdecadal variations of sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans favor a net moisture inflow to the Tibetan Plateau, leading to increased precipitation since 1995 relative to 1970s–1995, which effectively elucidates the climatic process causing rapid lake volume expansion in the endorheic basin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2022GL101200
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume49
Issue number20
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 28 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • driving mechanism
  • glacier melt
  • lake
  • Tibetan Plateau’s endorheic basin
  • water balance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences

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