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Quantitative comparison of river inflows to a rapidly expanding lake in central Tibetan Plateau

Ding, Jie, Zhang, Yinsheng, Guo, Yanhong, Ma, Ning
Hydrological processes 2018 v.32 no.21 pp. 3241-3253
basins, climate change, cold season, drainage, evaporation, glaciers, hydrologic cycle, hydrologic models, lakes, melting, rivers, runoff, warm season, watersheds, China
The recent rapid expansion of inland lakes on the Tibetan Plateau (TP) are a good indicator of the consequences of climate change. Quantifying the hydrological cycle of the lake basin is fundamentally important to understand the causes of lake growth. However, the hydrological processes of the TP interior are very complex and difficult to investigate because of the lack of observations. This is especially true for estimating the lake changes when run‐off inflows are affected by small lakes located in the flow routes within drainage areas. We used an integrated hydrological model, in combination with glacier melt and lake retention models, to analyse the run‐off inflows to Lake Siling Co, the largest endorheic lake in Tibet. It includes four subdrainage basins: Zhajiazangbu, Zhagenzangbu, Alizangbu, and Boquzangbu. Lake Siling Co was characterized by considerable increases during warm season from 1981 to 2012, due to the increased run‐off from Zhajiazangbu accounting for about 51–62% of the total run‐off inflows. Moreover, the dramatic increases exhibited during cold seasons were related to the increased retention water released from the small lakes within Zhagenzangbu and Alizangbu. Of the studied subdrainage basins, Boquzangbu contributed the least during both warm and cold seasons. On average, the annual amount of evaporation from lakes within the drainage area was about 2 times greater than that of glacier melt run‐off. Our results suggest that the retention effects of lakes on river inflows should receive more attention, because understanding these effects is potentially crucial to improved understanding of lake variations in the TP.