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Title: Glacial lake evolution in the southeastern Tibetan Plateau and the cause of rapid expansion of proglacial lakes linked to glacial-hydrogeomorphic processes
Authors: Song, C
Sheng, Y
Ke, L
Nie, Y
Wang, J
Keywords: Climate change
Glacial lake
Mountain glacier
Tibetan Plateau
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Elsevier
Source: Journal of hydrology, 2016, v. 540, p. 504-514 How to cite?
Journal: Journal of hydrology 
Abstract: Glacial lakes, as an important component of the cryosphere in the southeastern Tibetan Plateau (SETP) in response to climate change, pose significant threats to the downstream lives and properties of people, engineering construction, and ecological environment via outburst floods, yet we currently have limited knowledge of their distribution, evolution, and the driving mechanism of rapid expansions due to the low accessibility and harsh natural conditions. By integrating optical imagery, satellite altimetry and digital elevation model (DEM), this study presents a regional-scale investigation of glacial lake dynamics across two river basins of the SETP during 1988–2013 and further explores the glacial-hydrogeomorphic process of rapidly expanding lakes. In total 1278 and 1396 glacial lakes were inventoried in 1988 and 2013, respectively. Approximately 92.4% of the lakes in 2013 are not in contact with modern glaciers, and the remaining 7.6% includes 27 (1.9%) debris-contact lakes (in contact with debris-covered ice) and 80 (5.7%) cirque lakes. In categorizing lake variations, we found that debris-contact proglacial lakes experienced much more rapid expansions (∼75%) than cirque lakes (∼7%) and non-glacier-contact lakes (∼3%). To explore the cause of rapid expansion for these debris-contact lakes, we further investigated the mass balance of parent glaciers and elevation changes in lake surfaces and debris-covered glacier tongues using time-series Landsat images, ICESat altimetry, and DEM. Results reveal that the upstream expansion of debris-contact proglacial lakes was not directly associated with rising water levels but with a geomorphological alternation of upstream lake basins caused by melting-induced debris subsidence at glacier termini. This suggests that the hydrogeomorphic process of glacier thinning and retreat, in comparison with direct glacial meltwater alone, may have played a dominant role in the recent glacial lake expansion observed across the SETP. Our findings assist in understanding the expansion mechanism of debris-contact proglacial lakes, which facilitates early recognition of potential glacial lake hazards in this region.
ISSN: 0022-1694
DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2016.06.054
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