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.
- driving mechanism
- glacier melt
- Tibetan Plateau’s endorheic basin
- water balance
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)