Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2016, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (4): 415-438.doi: 10.1007/s11442-016-1277-0

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Changes in inland lakes on the Tibetan Plateau over the past 40 years

Yue FANG1,2,3, Weiming Cheng2,4(), Yichi Zhang5(), Nan WANG2,3, Shangmin ZHAO6, Chenghu ZHOU1,2, Xi CHEN1, Anming BAO1   

  1. 1.Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, CAS, Urumqi 830011, China
    2.State Key Laboratory of Resources and Environmental Information System, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    3.University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    4.Jiangsu Center for Collaborative Innovation in Geographical Information Resource Development and Application, Nanjing 210023, China
    5.Key Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    6.Department of Surveying and Mapping, College of Mining Technology, Taiyuan University of Technology, Taiyuan 030024, China
  • Received:2015-01-15 Accepted:2015-10-10 Online:2016-04-25 Published:2016-04-25
  • About author:

    Author: Fang Yue (1986-), PhD, E-mail:

    *Corresponding author: Cheng Weiming (1973-), Professor, E-mail:; Zhang Yichi (1978-), E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    The Major State Basic Research Development of China, No.2015CB954101 National Mountain Flood Disaster Investigation Project, No SHZH-IWHR-57 The National Science and Technology Basic Special Project, No.2011FY11040-2 National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41171332 The Surveying and Mapping Geoinformation Nonprofit Specific Project, No.201512033


Inland lakes and alpine glaciers are important water resources on the Tibetan Plateau. Understanding their variation is crucial for accurate evaluation and prediction of changes in water supply and for retrieval and analysis of climatic information. Data from previous research on 35 alpine lakes on the Tibetan Plateau were used to investigate changes in lake water level and area. In terms of temporal changes, the area of the 35 alpine lakes could be divided into five groups: rising, falling-rising, rising-falling, fluctuating, and falling. In terms of spatial changes, the area of alpine lakes in the Himalayan Mountains, the Karakoram Mountains, and the Qaidam Basin tended to decrease; the area of lakes in the Naqu region and the Kunlun Mountains increased; and the area of lakes in the Hoh Xil region and Qilian Mountains fluctuated. Changes in lake water level and area were correlated with regional changes in climate. Reasons for changes in these lakes on the Tibetan Plateau were analyzed, including precipitation and evaporation from meteorological data, glacier meltwater from the Chinese glacier inventories. Several key problems, e.g. challenges of monitoring water balance, limitations to glacial area detection, uncertainties in detecting lake water-level variations and variable region boundaries of lake change types on the Tibetan Plateau were discussed. This research has most indicative significance to regional climate change.

Key words: inland lake, area variation, glacial retreat, climate change, Tibetan Plateau