Lake level elevation and variation are important indicators of regional and global climate and environmental change. Lake Qinghai, the largest saline lake in China, located in the joint area of the East Asian monsoon, Indian summer monsoon, and Westerly jet stream, is particularly sensitive to climate change. This study examines the lake's water level and temporal change using the ice, cloud, and land elevation satellite (ICESat) altimetry data and gauge measurements. Results show that the mean water level from ICESat rose 0.67 m from 2003 to 2009 with an increase rate of 0.11 m/yr and that the ICESat data correlates well (r2 = 0.90, root mean square difference 0.08 m) with gauge measurements. Envisat altimetry data show a similar change rate of 0.10 m/yr, but with ~0.52 m higher, primarily due to different referencing systems. Detailed examination of three sets of crossover ICESat tracks reveals that the lake level increase from 2004 to 2006 was 3 times that from 2006 to 2008, with the largest water level increase of 0.58 m from Feb. 2005 to Feb. 2006. Combined analyses with in situ precipitation, evaporation, and runoff measurements from 1956 to 2009 show that an overall decreasing trend of lake level (-0.07 m/yr) correlated with an overall increasing trend (+0.03°C/yr) of temperature, with three major interannual peaks of lake level increases. The longest period of lake level increase from 2004 to 2009 could partly be due to accelerated glacier/perennial snow cover melt in the region during recent decades. Future missions of ICESat type, with possible increased repeatability, would be an invaluable asset for continuously monitoring lake level and change worldwide, besides its primary applications to polar regions.
Journal of Applied Remote Sensing
- Pub Date:
- January 2011
- Surface water water resources;
- Climatology climate change and variability;
- Water in the atmosphere