Seasonal cycles of lakes on the Tibetan Plateau detected by Sentinel-1 SAR data.


Key Laboratory of Tibetan Environmental Changes and Land Surface Processes, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China; CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth Sciences, Beijing, China. Electronic address: [Email]


The long-term evolution of lakes on the Tibetan Plateau (TP) could be observed from Landsat series of satellite data since the 1970s. However, the seasonal cycles of lakes on the TP have received little attention due to high cloud contamination of the commonly-used optical images. In this study, for the first time, the seasonal cycle of lakes on the TP was detected using Sentinel-1 Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data with a high repeat cycle. A total of approximately 6000 Level-1 scenes were obtained that covered all large lakes (>50 km2) in the study area. The images were extracted from stripmap (SM) and interferometric wide swath (IW) modes that had a pixel spacing of 40 m in the range and azimuth directions. The lake boundaries extracted from Sentinel-1 data using the algorithm developed in this study were in good agreement with in-situ measurements of lake shoreline, lake outlines delineated from the corresponding Landsat images in 2015 and lake levels for Qinghai Lake. Upon analysis, it was found that the seasonal cycles of lakes exhibited drastically different patterns across the TP. For example, large size lakes (>100 km2) reached their peaks in August-September while lakes with areas of 50-100 km2 reached their peaks in early June-July. The peaks of seasonal cycles for endorheic lakes were more pronounced than those for exorheic lakes with flat peaks, and glacier-fed lakes with additional supplies of water exhibited delayed peaks in their seasonal cycles relative to those of non-glacier-fed lakes. Large-scale atmospheric circulation systems, such as the westerlies, Indian summer monsoon, transition in between, and East Asian summer monsoon, were also found to affect the seasonal cycles of lakes. The results of this study suggest that Sentinel-1 SAR data are a powerful tool that can be used to fill gaps in intra-annual lake observations.


Endorheic lake,Glacier-fed lake,Intra-annual lake mapping,Large-scale atmospheric circulation,

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