The alpine lakes on the Tibetan Plateau (TP) are indicators of climate change. The assessment of lake dynamics on the TP is an important component of global climate change research. With a focus on lakes in the 33° N zone of the central TP, this study investigates the temporal evolution patterns of the lake areas of different types of lakes, i.e., non-glacier-fed endorheic lakes and non-glacier-fed exorheic lakes, during 1988–2017, and examines their relationship with changes in climatic factors. From 1988 to 2017, two endorheic lakes (Lake Yagenco and Lake Zhamcomaqiong) in the study area expanded significantly, i.e., by more than 50%. Over the same period, two exorheic lakes within the study area also exhibited spatio-temporal variability: Lake Gaeencuonama increased by 5.48%, and the change in Lake Zhamuco was not significant. The 2000s was a period of rapid expansion of both the closed lakes (endorheic lakes) and open lakes (exorheic lakes) in the study area. However, the endorheic lakes maintained the increase in lake area after the period of rapid expansion, while the exorheic lakes decreased after significant expansion. During 1988–2017, the annual mean temperature significantly increased at a rate of 0.04 °C/a, while the annual precipitation slightly increased at a rate of 2.23 mm/a. Furthermore, the annual precipitation significantly increased at a rate of 14.28 mm/a during 1995–2008. The results of this study demonstrate that the change in precipitation was responsible for the observed changes in the lake areas of the two exorheic lakes within the study area, while the changes in the lake areas of the two endorheic lakes were more sensitive to the annual mean temperature between 1988 and 2017. Given the importance of lakes to the TP, these are not trivial issues, and we now need accelerated research based on long-term and continuous remote sensing data.
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