Inland lake variations are considered sensitive indicators of global climate change. However, human activity is playing as a more and more important role in inland lake area variations. Therefore, it is critical to identify whether anthropogenic activity or natural events is the dominant factor in inland lake surface area change. In this study, we proposed a method that combines the Douglas-Peucker simplification algorithm and the bend simplification algorithm to locate major lake surface area disturbances. These disturbances were used to extract the features that been used to classify disturbances into anthropogenic or natural. We took the nine lakes in Yunnan Province as test sites, a 31-year long (from 1987 to 2017) time series Landsat TM/OLI images and HJ-1A/1B used as data sources, the official records were used as references to aid the feature extraction and disturbance identification accuracy assessment. Results of our method for disturbance location and disturbance identification could be concluded as follows: 1) The method can accurately locate the main lake changing events based on the time series lake surface area curve. The accuracy of this model for segmenting the time series of lake surface area in our study area was 94.73%. 2) Our proposed method achieved an overall accuracy of 87.75%, with an F-score of 85.71 for anthropogenic disturbances and an F-score of 88.89 for natural disturbances. 3) According to our results, lakes in Yunnan Province of China have undergone intensive disturbances. Human-induced disturbances occurred almost twice as much as natural disturbances, indicating intensified disturbances caused by human activities. This inland lake area disturbance identification method is expected to uncover whether a disturbance to inland lake area is human activity-induced or a natural event, and to monitor whether disturbances of lake surface area are intensified for a region.
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