Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions ›› 2020, Vol. 12 ›› Issue (6): 430-435.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1226.2020.00430

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A note on the lake level variations of Nam Co, south-central Tibetan Plateau from 2005 to 2019

ShiQiao Zhou1,2()   

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Tibetan Environment Changes and Land Surface Processes, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
    2.University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2020-10-09 Accepted:2020-12-15 Online:2020-12-31 Published:2021-01-14
  • Contact: ShiQiao Zhou
  • Supported by:
    the National Natural Science Foundation of China(41771092);the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences(XDA20020102);the National Key Research and Development Program of China(2017YFA0603101);the Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research Program(2019QZKK0202)


Tibetan lake levels are sensitive to global change, and their variations have a large impact on the environment, local agriculture and animal husbandry practices. While many remote sensing data of Tibetan lake level changes have been reported, few are from in-situ measurements. This note presents the first in-situ lake level time series of the central Tibetan Plateau. Since 2005, daily lake level observations have been performed at Lake Nam Co, one of the largest on the Tibetan Plateau. The interannual lake level variations show an overall increasing trend from 2006 to 2014, a rapid decrease from 2014 to 2017, and a surge from 2017 to 2018. The annual average lake level of the hydrological year (May-April) rose 66 cm from 2006 to 2014, dropped 59 cm from 2014 to 2017, and increased 20 cm from 2017 to 2018, resulting in a net rise of 27 cm or an average rate of about 2 cm per year. Compared to the annual average lake level based on the calendar year, it is better to use the annual average lake level based on the hydrological year to determine the interannual lake level changes. As the lake level was stable in May, it is appropriate to compare May lake levels when examining interannual lake level changes with fewer data. Overall, remote sensing results agree well with the in-situ lake level observations; however, some significant deviations exist. In the comparable 2006-2009 period, the calendar-year average lake level observed in-situ rose by 10-11 cm per year, which is lower than the ICESat result of 18 cm per year.

Key words: Lake Nam Co, lake level change, in-situ measurement, Tibetan Plateau

Figure 1

Locations of the Nam Co station and two lake level gauges, G1 and G2"

Figure 2

Temporal lake level variations of Nam Co by in-situ measurements from July 2005 to May 2019 (black) and satellite radar altimetry from May 2005 to February 2014 (blue; Crétaux et al., 2011). The red dots are the hydrological year-based annual average lake levels. The green dots are the calendar year-based annual average lake levels. The red triangles are the in-situ measured lake levels on May 1 of each year"

Table 1

Monthly lake level variation ranges (cm) during the observation periods. Note that only partial data is available in July 2005 and Decembers 2009-2010, 2012-2013 and 2015-2017"

July9 (~31)1013281313232121166151521
December7817108 (~25)5 (~26)87 (~19)5 (~15)148 (~20)6 (~21)6 (~20)N/A
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