The southeastern Tibetan Plateau, where monsoonal temperate glaciers are most developed, has a huge number of glacial lakes. Based on Landsat Operational Land Imager (OLI) images, 192 glacial lakes with a total area of 45.73 ± 6.18 km2 in 2016 were delineated in the Yi’ong Zangbo River Basin. Glacial lakes with areas of less than 0.1 km2 accounted for 81.77% of the total number, and glacial lakes located above 4500 m elevation comprised 83.33%. Dramatic glacier melting caused by climate warming has occurred, resulting in the formation and expansion of glacial lakes and the increase of potential glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) risk. From 1970 to 2016, the total area of glaciers in the basin has decreased by 35.39%, whereas the number and total area of glacial lakes have, respectively, increased by 86 and 1.59 km2. In that time, 110 new glacial lakes emerged, whereas 24 of the original lakes disappeared. The newly formed lakes have a smaller mean area but higher mean elevation than the lakes that disappeared. Based on five indicators, a first-order method was used to identify glacial lakes that pose potential threats. We identified 10 lakes with very high, 7 with high, 31 with medium, and 19 with low GLOF susceptibility, out of 67 moraine-dammed glacial lakes with areas larger than 0.02 km2. Understanding the behavior of glaciers and glacial lakes is a vital aspect of GLOFs disaster management, and the monitoring of glacial lakes should be strengthened.
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