Study reveals daily surface temperature of 160 lakes on Tibetan Plateau for 40 years

The annual surface temperature of 160 lakes on the Tibetan Plateau increased significantly during the period 1978-2017, according to a study on large-scale dynamic monitoring and simulation of lake water temperature.

The study was conducted by researchers from the International Big Data Research Center for the Sustainable Development Goals and the Aerospace Information Research Institute (AIR) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). It was published in Earth system science.

The research team integrated remote sensing and a numerical model to reconstruct the daily series of surface water temperatures of 160 lakes across the Tibetan Plateau from 1978 to 2017.

Lake water temperature is an important variable in the regional water and energy balance and is also a key parameter for lake aquatic ecosystems. However, due to the limitation of conventional ground observations, there is a lack of lake water temperature data on the Tibetan Plateau.

The team took advantage of both remote sensing and numerical simulation technology, and developed a technical framework for reconstructing lake surface water temperature series.

Aiming at the basic characteristics and database of lake water and heat balance in the Tibetan Plateau, the team improved a one-dimensional model of the lake’s energy balance. Then, the daily lake surface water temperature dataset of 160 lakes in the Tibetan Plateau from 1978 to 2017 was reconstructed.

Further validations showed that the product was in good agreement with the lake surface temperature measured on the ground.

Based on the reconstructed time series of lake surface water temperature, the study found that over the past 40 years (1978-2017), the surface water has warmed significantly in most lakes on the Tibetan Plateau, with an increase rate ranging from 0.01 to 0.47. °C per decade, and the upward trend was more evident in winter than in summer.

This data product has wide coverage, long duration and high temporal resolution, which can provide technical and data support to understand the response of lake energy balance to climate change on the Tibetan Plateau.

Moreover, the technical framework developed in this study has high universality and portability. In the future, the framework can be used to monitor water-related ecosystems, reveal the impact of lake water temperature changes on lake water quality and aquatic biota, and provide baseline data and a basis for decision-making for the regulation of lake water quality and aquatic biota.

This research was supported by the Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific and Research Expedition Program and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

The data is available on the “National Tibetan Plateau Third Pole Environment Data Center”.

/Public release. This material from the original organization/authors may be ad hoc in nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author or authors. See in full here.