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Water Storage Variations in Tibet from GRACE, ICESat, and Hydrological Data

Department of Land Surveying and Geo-Informatics, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China
School of Remote Sensing and Geomatics Engineering, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing 210044, China
Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 200030, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2019, 11(9), 1103;
Received: 28 February 2019 / Revised: 11 April 2019 / Accepted: 16 April 2019 / Published: 9 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental and Geodetic Monitoring of the Tibetan Plateau)
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The monitoring of water storage variations is essential not only for the management of water resources, but also for a better understanding of the impact of climate change on hydrological cycle, particularly in Tibet. In this study, we estimated and analyzed changes of the total water budget on the Tibetan Plateau from the Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission over 15 years prior to 2017. To suppress overall leakage effect of GRACE monthly solutions in Tibet, we applied a forward modeling technique to reconstruct hydrological signals from GRACE data. The results reveal a considerable decrease in the total water budget at an average annual rate of −6.22 ± 1.74 Gt during the period from August 2002 to December 2016. In addition to the secular trend, seasonal variations controlled mainly by annual changes in precipitation were detected, with maxima in September and minima in December. A rising temperature on the plateau is likely a principal factor causing a continuous decline of the total water budget attributed to increase melting of mountain glaciers, permafrost, and snow cover. We also demonstrate that a substantial decrease in the total water budget due to melting of mountain glaciers was partially moderated by the increasing water storage of lakes. This is evident from results of ICESat data for selected major lakes and glaciers. The ICESat results confirm a substantial retreat of mountain glaciers and an increasing trend of major lakes. An increasing volume of lakes is mainly due to an inflow of the meltwater from glaciers and precipitation. Our estimates of the total water budget on the Tibetan Plateau are affected by a hydrological signal from neighboring regions. Probably the most significant are aliasing signals due to ground water depletion in Northwest India and decreasing precipitation in the Eastern Himalayas. Nevertheless, an integral downtrend in the total water budget on the Tibetan Plateau caused by melting of glaciers prevails over the investigated period. View Full-Text
Keywords: water storage balance; leakage effect; lakes; glacier melting; Tibetan Plateau water storage balance; leakage effect; lakes; glacier melting; Tibetan Plateau

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Zou, F.; Tenzer, R.; Jin, S. Water Storage Variations in Tibet from GRACE, ICESat, and Hydrological Data. Remote Sens. 2019, 11, 1103.

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