ICESat derived elevation changes of Tibetan lakes between 2003 and 2009

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    The Tibetan plateau contains thousands of small and big lakes. Changes in the water level of these lakes can be an important indicator for the water balance of the Tibetan plateau, but were until now extremely difficult to monitor: performing continuous in situ measurements at a large number of lakes is not feasible because of their remoteness, while radar altimetry is only capable of monitoring large lakes. Between 2003 and 2009 the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) on board of the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) obtained world-wide elevation profiles during 18 one-month campaigns. Using the GLAS data it is possible to obtain lake levels at decimeter accuracy. Available GLAS data over the Tibetan lakes is selected by means of the MODIS lake mask. As a result, lake level variations between 2003 and 2009 of 154 lakes of over a square kilometer size could be observed. For these lakes, an analysis of annual water level trends is made, and then their yearly gained or lost water volumes are estimated. In total, an area averaged increase in lake level of 0.20 m/year over the Tibetan plateau is observed between 2003 and 2009. Most of the individual lakes considered in this paper have little or no levels apparently documented, and so the ICESat data provide the first baseline measurements of these lakes in the vertical. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)12-22
    Number of pages11
    JournalInternational Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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