Spatio-temporal evolution of glacial lakes in the Tibetan Plateau over the past 30 years

Xiangyang Dou, Xuanmei Fan*, Xin Wang, Ali P. Yunus, Junlin Xiong, Ran Tang, Marco Lovati, C. van Westen, Qiang Xu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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As the Third Pole of the Earth and the Water Tower of Asia, the Tibetan Plateau (TP) nurtures large numbers of glacial lakes, which are sensitive to global climate change. These lakes modulate the freshwater ecosystem in the region but concurrently pose severe threats to the valley population by means of sudden glacial lake outbursts and consequent floods (GLOFs). The lack of high-resolution multi-temporal inventory of glacial lakes in TP hampers a better understanding and prediction of the future trend and risk of glacial lakes. Here, we created a multi-temporal inventory of glacial lakes in TP using a 30-year record of 42,833 satellite images (1990–2019), and we discussed their characteristics and spatio-temporal evolution over the years. Results showed that their number and area had increased by 3285 and 258.82 km2 in the last 3 decades, respectively. We noticed that different regions of the TP exhibited varying change rates in glacial lake size; most regions show a trend of expansion and increase in glacial lakes, while some regions show a trend of decreasing such as the western Pamir and the eastern Hindu Kush. The mapping uncertainty is about 17.5%, which is lower than other available datasets, thus making our inventory reliable for the spatio-temporal evolution analysis of glacial lakes in the TP. Our lake inventory data are publicly published, it can help to study climate change–glacier–glacial lake–GLOF interactions in the Third Pole and serve as input to various hydro-climatic studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number416
JournalRemote sensing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2023


  • glacial lake
  • lake inventory
  • spatio-temporal evolution
  • Tibetan Plateau


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