ICESat/GLAS; lake level; Himalaya–Karakoram; remote sensing.
Himalaya–Karakoram (H–K) region hosts large number of high altitude lakes but are poorly gauged by in-situ water level monitoring method due to tough terrain conditions and poor accessibility. After the campaigns of ICESat during 2003–2009, now it is possible to achieve lake levels at decimetre accuracy. Therefore, in present study, high altitude lake levels were observed using ICESat/GLAS altimetry in H–K between 2003 and 2009 to generate baseline information. The study reveals that out of 13 lakes, 10 lakes show increasing trend of water levels at different rate (mean rate 0.173 m/y) whereas three lakes unveiled decreasing trend (mean rate −0.056 m/y). Out of five freshwater lakes, four lakes show an increasing trend of their level (mean rate 0.084 m/y) whereas comparatively six salt lakes (out of seven salt lakes) exhibited ∼3 times higher mean rate of lake level increase (0.233 m/y). These observed lake level rise can be attributed to the increased melt runoffs (i.e., seasonal snow and glacier melts) owing to the enhanced mean annual and seasonal air temperature during past decade in north-western (NW) Himalaya. Further, varied behaviours of lake level rises in inter- and intra-basins suggest that the local climatic fluctuations play prominent role along with regional and global climate in complex geographical system of NW Himalaya.