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Impacts of Climate Change on Lake Fluctuations in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya-Tibetan Plateau

School of Geographical Sciences, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China
Rural Non-Point Source Pollution Comprehensive Management Technology Center of Guangdong Province, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China
Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117570, Singapore
Inner Mongolia Key Lab of River and Lake Ecology, Inner Mongolia University, Hohhot 010021, China
Earth Observatory of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore 639798, Singapore
Department of Land, Environment, Agriculture and Forestry, University of Padova, Agripolis, viale dell’Università 16, 35020 Legnaro (PD), Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2019, 11(9), 1082;
Received: 22 March 2019 / Revised: 29 April 2019 / Accepted: 4 May 2019 / Published: 7 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Large Rivers)
PDF [25281 KB, uploaded 13 May 2019]


Lakes in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya-Tibetan (HKHT) regions are crucial indicators for the combined impacts of regional climate change and resultant glacier retreat. However, they lack long-term systematic monitoring and thus their responses to recent climatic change still remain only partially understood. This study investigated lake extent fluctuations in the HKHT regions over the past 40 years using Landsat (MSS/TM/ETM+/OLI) images obtained from the 1970s to 2014. Influenced by different regional atmospheric circulation systems, our results show that lake changing patterns are distinct from region to region, with the most intensive lake shrinking observed in northeastern HKHT (HKHT Interior, Tarim, Yellow, Yangtze), while the most extensive expansion was observed in the western and southwestern HKHT (Amu Darya, Ganges Indus and Brahmaputra), largely caused by the proliferation of small lakes in high-altitude regions during 1970s–1995. In the past 20 years, extensive lake expansions (~39.6% in area and ~119.1% in quantity) were observed in all HKHT regions. Climate change, especially precipitation change, is the major driving force to the changing dynamics of the lake fluctuations; however, effects from the glacier melting were also significant, which contributed approximately 31.9–40.5%, 16.5–39.3%, 12.8–29.0%, and 3.3–6.1% of runoff to lakes in the headwaters of the Tarim, Amu Darya, Indus, and Ganges, respectively. We consider that the findings in this paper could have both immediate and long-term implications for dealing with water-related hazards, controlling glacial lake outburst floods, and securing water resources in the HKHT regions, which contain the headwater sources for some of the largest rivers in Asia that sustain 1.3 billion people. View Full-Text
Keywords: lake fluctuation; remote sensing; climate change; glacier retreat; Hindu Kush Himalayas; Tibetan Plateau lake fluctuation; remote sensing; climate change; glacier retreat; Hindu Kush Himalayas; Tibetan Plateau

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Yang, X.; Lu, X.; Park, E.; Tarolli, P. Impacts of Climate Change on Lake Fluctuations in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya-Tibetan Plateau. Remote Sens. 2019, 11, 1082.

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