THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT SAN ANTONIO
DEPARTMENT OF EARTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE
Laboratory for Remote Sensing and Geoinformatics
Remote Sensing The Third Pole: Tibetan Plateau
The Tibetan Plateau (TP) in central Asia has an average elevation of more than 4000 m asl and an area of approximately 2,500,000 km2, and is now called ＾the Third Pole￣ of the Earth and the ＾Asian water tower￣ with the largest ice mass outside the north and south polar regions. The 36,800 glaciers on the TP cover an area of 49,873 km2 (~ 2% of the total area) and are distributed over the major mountain ranges (Fig. 1). These glaciers provide fresh water resources for over 1 billion people through feeding the river systems. As a whole, the TP has undergone warming in the past three decades, especially in winter; the temperature rise of 0.3 ＜C per decade is twice the global warming rate. The environmental influence of global warming on the TP is evident, including accelerating glaciers melt throughout almost the entire TP, permafrost degradation, and increasing temperature extremes. There are more than 1500 lakes in the TP and most of them are glacier lakes, meaning snow/glacier-melt water is the major source of water for those lakes. It is impractical to monitor all glaciers, snow cover, and lake changes over the entire TP using field based point measurements, satellite remote sensing provides a powerful way to monitor and study their changes.
Fig. 1. (upper) Location of Tibetan Plateau with regional outline (black polygon), major mountain ranges (yellow lines), and the largest rivers (blue lines). Elevation data are from NASA's SRTM DEM. Blue polygons represent 261 major (large) lakes delineated from mosackied MODIS snow cover images (kindly provided by Tiangang Liang at Lanzhou University, China). (bottom) 84% of lakes with lake level increase (0.23m/year). (Source: Zhang et al., 2011)
The objective of the LRSG group for the TP study, in collaboration with Lanzhou University, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, China University of Geosciences, and East China Institute of Technology, is:
Sustainable water resources in Tibetan Plateau, through studying change of glacier lakes, glaciers, and snow cover, using remote sensing, field-based measurements, and modeling
SPIE Newsroom highlights our recent works (December 8, 2011):
Rising lake levels indicate accelerated glacier melting
Project Title Funding Source Remote sensing monitoring and early warning system on snow-caused disasters for the pastoral agriculture area in Tibetan Plateau, China Chinese Department of Education and Lanzhou University Lake level and snow cover study of Tibetan Plateau State Key Laboratory Breeding Base of Nuclear Resources and Environment at East China Institute of Technology. China Scholarship Council
(*first author student, **first author postdoc/visiting professor)
*Zhang, G., H. Xie, S. Duan, M. Tian, and D. Yi, 2011. Water level variation of Lake Qinghai from satellite and in-situ measurements under climate change. Journal of Applied Remote Sensing. doi:10.1117/1.3601363. (link)
*Zhang, G., H. Xie, S. Kang, D. Yi, and S.F. Ackley, 2011. Monitoring lake level changes on the Tibetan Plateau using ICESat altimetry data (2003-2009). Remote Sensing of Environment. Vol.115(7): 1733-1742. doi:10.1016/j.rse.2011.03.005 (link)
*Huang, X.D., H. Xie, T.G. Liang, D. Yi, 2011. Estimating vertical error of SRTM and map-based DEMs using ICESat altimetry data in eastern Tibetan Plateau. International J. of Remote Sensing, DOI: 10.1080/01431161.2010.495092 (link).
(Presentations or proceedings)
*Zhang, G., H., Xie, and G. Yang, 2011. Seasonal snow cover variations in the Nam Co basin of of Tibetan Plateau using MODIS data. 2011 19th International Conference on Geoinformatics. doi: 10.1109/GeoInformatics.2011.5980902.(link)
*Zhang, G., H., Xie, and M. Zhu, 2010. Water level changes of two Tibetan lakes Nam Co and Selin Co from ICESat altimetry data. 2010 second IITA International Conference on Geoscience and Remote sensing (IITA-GRS), doi:10.1109/IITA-GRS.2010.5602644 (link)
*Zhang, G., H. Xie, S. Kang, S.F. Ackley, 2010. Lake level changes on the Tibetan. AGU Fall meeting, San Francisco, CA, December 13-17.
Xie, H., Y. Gao, X. Huang, and T. Liang, 2009. MODIS and ICESat-based snow cover and glacier changes across three rivers headstream region of Tibetan Plateau International Workshop on Environmental Change, Glacial and Hydrological Processes, and Related Consequence in the Third Pole Region, August 15-20, 2009, Beijing-Lhasa, China
*Huang, X., H. Xie, T. Laing, and D. Yi, 2008. Accuracy estimation of SRTM and map-based DEMs using ICESat elevation data in Tibetan Plateau. AGU Fall meeting, San Francisco, CA, December 15-19.
Xie, H. and Y. Gao, 2008. Snow cover spatial and temporal variability across three rivers headstream region of Tibetan Plateau based on MODIS and AMSR-E data (2000-2008). AGU Fall meeting, San Francisco, CA, December 15-19.
Last Updated: April, 2011