Numerical study on the response of the largest lake in China to climate change

Su, Dongsheng; Hu, Xiuqing; Wen, Lijuan; Lyu, Shihua; Gao, Xiaoqing; Zhao, Lin; Li, Zhaoguo; Du, Juan; Kirillin, Georgiy

Lakes are sensitive indicators of climate change. There are thousands of lakes on the Tibetan Plateau (TP), and more than 1200 of them have an area larger than 1 km2; they respond quickly to climate change, but few observation data of lakes are available. Therefore, the thermal condition of the plateau lakes under the background of climate warming remains poorly understood. In this study, the China regional surface meteorological feature dataset developed by the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences (ITPCAS), MODIS lake surface temperature (LST) data and buoy observation data were used to evaluate the performance of lake model FLake, extended by simple parameterizations of the salinity effect, for brackish lake and to reveal the response of thermal conditions, radiation and heat balance of Qinghai Lake to the recent climate change. The results demonstrated that the FLake has good ability in capturing the seasonal variations in the lake surface temperature and the internal thermal structure of Qinghai Lake. The simulated lake surface temperature showed an increasing trend from 1979 to 2012, positively correlated with the air temperature and the downward longwave radiation while negatively correlated with the wind speed and downward shortwave radiation. The simulated internal thermodynamic structure revealed that Qinghai Lake is a dimictic lake with two overturn periods occurring in late spring and late autumn. The surface and mean water temperatures of the lake significantly increased from 1979 to 2012, while the bottom temperatures showed no significant trend, even decreasing slightly from 1989 to 2012. The warming was the strongest in winter for both the lake surface and air temperature. With the warming of the climate, the later ice-on and earlier ice-off trend was simulated in the lake, significantly influencing the interannual and seasonal variability in radiation and heat flux. The annual average net shortwave radiation and latent heat flux (LH) both increase obviously while the net longwave radiation and sensible heat flux (SH) decrease slightly. Earlier ice-off leads to more energy absorption mainly in the form of shortwave radiation during the thawing period, and later ice-on leads to more energy release in the form of longwave radiation, SH and LH during the ice formation period. Meanwhile, the lake–air temperature difference increased in both periods due to shortening ice duration.

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Su, Dongsheng / Hu, Xiuqing / Wen, Lijuan / et al: Numerical study on the response of the largest lake in China to climate change. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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