Date: January 16, 2023
Countries: Central Asia
Keywords: Climate change, Tianshan Mountains, lake area change, elevation gradient

Changes in lake area (water surface area) are often considered accurate and sensitive representations of climate change. However, the role that elevation plays in this dynamic is somewhat unclear; studies remain inconclusive as to whether lake responses are consistent across elevation gradients. Here, we used Landsat and keyhole satellite images to quantify lake area changes from the 1960s to 2020 at different elevations in Central Asia’s Tianshan Mountains and relate them to both climatic and anthropogenic factors. The results revealed that all low-elevation lakes showed a decreasing trend, and the total area of all monitored low-elevation lakes was reduced by 18.50 %. The total area of the mid-elevation lakes decreased by 0.16 %, while the total area of the high-elevation glacial lakes increased by 4.35 %. Lakes are recharged by a variety of influxes including glacial meltwater and precipitation. Notably, human activities (urban and agricultural water consumption) were the dominant factors in the shrinkage of low-elevation lakes. Climatic factors were the main driving factors of mid-elevation lake changes, and these lakes appeared to be more sensitive to temperature changes than lakes at other elevations. In addition, significant warming dominated area changes in high-elevation proglacial and unconnected glacial lakes. Overall, those results emphasized that when using lakes to reconstruct paleoclimates or predict lake evolution, it is necessary to consider how elevation gradients and recharge types may affect lake sensitivity to variations in climatic and anthropogenic activity.

Scroll to Top