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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2019-34
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2019-34
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 15 Mar 2019

Research article | 15 Mar 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth System Science Data (ESSD).

Densified multi-mission observations by developed optical water levels show marked increases in lake water storage and overflow floods on the Tibetan Plateau

Xingdong Li1, Di Long1, Qi Huang1, Pengfei Han1, Fanyu Zhao1, and Yoshihide Wada2 Xingdong Li et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Hydroscience and Engineering, Department of Hydraulic Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing, 100084, China
  • 2Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Laxenburg, 2361, Austria

Abstract. The Tibetan Plateau (TP) known as Asia's water towers is quite sensitive to climate change, reflected by changes in hydrological state variables such as lake water storage. Given the extremely limited ground observations on the TP due to the harsh environment and complex terrain, we exploited multisource remote sensing, i.e., multiple altimetric missions and Landsat archives to create dense time series (monthly and even higher such as 10 days on average) of lake water level and storage changes across 52 large lakes (> 100 km2) on the TP during 2000–2017 (the data set is available online with a DOI: https://doi.org/10.1594/PANGAEA.898411). Field experiments were carried out in two typical lakes to validate the remotely sensed results. With Landsat archives and partial altimetry data, we developed optical water levels that cover most of TP lakes and serve as an ideal reference for merging multisource lake water levels. The optical water levels show an uncertainty of ~ 0.1 m that is comparable with most altimetry data and largely reduce the lack of dense altimetric observations with systematic errors well removed for most of lakes. The densified lake water levels provided critical and accurate information on the long-term and short-term monitoring of lake water level and storage changes on the TP. We found that the total storage of the 52 lakes increased by 97.3 km3 at two stages, i.e., 6.68 km3/yr during 2000–2012 and 2.85 km3/yr during 2012–2017. The total overflow from Lake Kusai to Lake Haidingnuoer and Lake Salt during Nov 9–Dec 31 in 2011 was estimated to be 0.22 km3, providing critical information on lake overflow flood monitoring and prediction as the expansion of some TP lakes becomes a serious threat to surrounding residents and infrastructure.

Xingdong Li et al.
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A high temporal resolution lake data set from multisource altimetric missions and Landsat archives of water level and storage changes on the Tibetan Plateau during 2000‒2017 X. Li, D. Long, Q. Huang, P. Han, F. Zhao, and Y. Wada https://doi.org/10.1594/PANGAEA.898411

Xingdong Li et al.
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Short summary
Lakes on the Tibetan Plateau experienced rapid changes (mainly expanding) in the past two decades. Here we provide a date set of high temporal resolution and accuracy reflecting changes in water level and storage of Tibetan lakes. A novel source of water levels generated from Landsat archives was validated with in situ data and adopted to resolve the inconsistency in existing studies, benefiting monitoring of lake overflow floods, seasonal and interannual variability and long-term trends.
Lakes on the Tibetan Plateau experienced rapid changes (mainly expanding) in the past two...
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