The dynamics of surface water play a crucial role in the hydrological cycle and are sensitive to climate change and anthropogenic activities, especially for the agricultural zone. As one of the most populous areas in China’s river basins, the surface water in the Huai River Basin has significant impacts on agricultural plants, ecological balance, and socioeconomic development. However, it is unclear how water areas responded to climate change and anthropogenic water exploitation in the past decades. To understand the changes in water surface areas in the Huai River Basin, this study used the available 16,760 scenes Landsat TM, ETM+, and OLI images in this region from 1989 to 2017 and processed the data on the Google Earth Engine (GEE) platform. The vegetation index and water index were used to quantify the spatiotemporal variability of the surface water area changes over the years. The major results include: (1) The maximum area, the average area, and the seasonal variation of surface water in the Huai River Basin showed a downward trend in the past 29 years, and the year-long surface water areas showed a slight upward trend; (2) the surface water area was positively correlated with precipitation (p
< 0.05), but was negatively correlated with the temperature and evapotranspiration; (3) the changes of the total area of water bodies were mainly determined by the 216 larger water bodies (>10 km2
). Understanding the variations in water body areas and the controlling factors could support the designation and implementation of sustainable water management practices in agricultural, industrial, and domestic usages.
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