Shifting Sands

Satellite images from 2010 (left) and 2022 (right) show the changing shape of sand bars in China's Qinghai Lake as the changing climate affects its water levels.

Qinghai Lake sits in western China, where a warmer and wetter climate has been raising the lake’s water level in recent years. These two satellite images, from 2010 and 2022, show the effects of those changes. Sand spits that once separated the smaller Shadao Lake from the surrounding lake have worn away and sunk, rejoining the two bodies of water.

Why is the area’s warmer climate also wetter? The lake has risen due to increased precipitation and river run-off feeding it, but it’s also seen less evaporation. So far the area’s temperature increases have been most notable in winter months, when the lake is covered in ice. In contrast, the summers have been wetter, which means more cloudy days and less chance for evaporation. (Image credit: A. Nussbaum, modified by N. Sharp; via NASA Earth Observatory)

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