Qinghai Lake largest in 16 years, boosting ecology: Experts

The Climate Science Research Institute of Qinghai Province said on Oct 8th that from July to September, Qinghai Lake, the largest saltwater later in inland China, had the biggest surface area in 16 years thanks to increased rainfall in the lake region and higher incoming water volume.

Liu Baokang, a senior engineer at the Climate and Remote Satellite Sensing and Monitoring Center of Qinghai Province, said that according to the latest remote satellite sensing data, as of September 26th, Qinghai Lake is at 4,451 square km, which is 52.07 square km more than last year; and 135.80 square km more than historical average; the lake is at its biggest since 2001.

According to Liu, ever since late August, rainfall has continued to rise, leading to a rapid increase in surface runoff, and growth in the lake’s water level and surface area.

Additionally, researchers from the Wuhan Aquatic and Biology Research Institute of China’s Academy of Sciences, along with the Management Bureau of Qinghai Lake National Ecology Protection Zone have conducted water quality inspections at 15 sites at Qinghai Lake and its primary branches. The results showed that the lake’s indices are within a reasonable level of change from last year, proving that the lake’s water quality is staying consistent. 

Estimates from the Climate Science Research Institute of Qinghai Province showed that from early to mid-October, rainfall in the Qinghai Lake region will be less or stay the same from previous years, combined from the rainfall and runoff since September, it is predicted that the lake’s surface area will maintain or increase slightly before early October, and gradually decrease after mid- to late-October.

Liu said the continued increase of Qinghai Lake’s surface area will lead to more water vapor and humidity of the entire lake region, improve its ecological environment, and benefit its ecological recovery as well as the desertification of surrounding areas. However, the continued increase of the lake’s water level could post some problems to nearby meadows and tourism facilities.

Qinghai Lake is a crucial body of water vital to the ecological security of the entire Northeast region of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It serves to curb the eastward expansion of the desert from the west, and is the most important form of climate control for the region.