LI Qingpeng, LIU Wenhui, LIU Hairui, ZHOU Guanghao, SONG Xianteng, LI Qing, LUO Bingnan, SONG Bangxu, ZHANG Qi. 2024: Significant lake expansion has accelerated permafrost degradation on the Qinghai‒Tibet Plateau. Journal of Mountain Science, 21(1): 68-83. DOI: 10.1007/s11629-023-8140-4
Citation: LI Qingpeng, LIU Wenhui, LIU Hairui, ZHOU Guanghao, SONG Xianteng, LI Qing, LUO Bingnan, SONG Bangxu, ZHANG Qi. 2024: Significant lake expansion has accelerated permafrost degradation on the Qinghai‒Tibet Plateau. Journal of Mountain Science, 21(1): 68-83. DOI: 10.1007/s11629-023-8140-4

Significant lake expansion has accelerated permafrost degradation on the Qinghai‒Tibet Plateau

  • In recent years, lakes on the Qinghai‒Tibet Plateau have become more responsive to climate change. In September 2011, Zonag Lake in Hoh Xil experienced sudden drainage, the water eventually flowed into Yanhu Lake, which caused Yanhu Lake to continue to expand. The potential collapse of Yanhu Lake could directly threaten the operational safety of the adjacent Qinghai‒Tibet Highway, Qinghai‒Tibet Railway. To explore the implications of expanding lakes on the surrounding permafrost, we selected Hoh Xil Yanhu Lake on the Qinghai‒Tibet Plateau to study the effect of lake expansion on permafrost degradation. The permafrost degradation in the Yanhu Lake basin from October 2017 to December 2022 was inverted using Sentinel‒1 satellite image data and small baseline subset interferometry synthetic aperture radar (SBAS‒InSAR) technology. Additionally, permafrost degradation from February 2007 and February 2010 was analyzed using advanced land observing satellite phased array‒type L‒band synthetic aperture radar (ALOS PALSAR) satellite images and differential interferometric synthetic aperture radar (D‒InSAR) technique. The results showed that the permafrost around Yanhu Lake experienced accelerated degradation. Prior to the expansion of Yanhu Lake, the average annual deformation rate along the line of sight (LOS) direction was 6.7 mm/yr. After the expansion, the rate increased to 20.9 mm/yr. The integration of spatial‒temporal distribution maps of surface subsidence, Wudaoliang borehole geothermal data, meteorological data, Yanhu Lake surface area changes, and water level changes supports the assertion that the intensified permafrost degradation could be attributed to lake expansion rather than the rising air temperature. Furthermore, permafrost degradation around Yanhu Lake could impact vital infrastructure such as the adjacent Qinghai‒Tibet Highway and Qinghai‒Tibet Railway.
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