Researchers have observed that Ayakum Lake at the eastern foot of the Kunlun Mountains in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has expanded rapidly, replacing Bosten Lake as the largest lake in Xinjiang.
The result, based on remote sensing observation carried out by the Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, shows that the water area of Ayakum Lake had expanded rapidly over the past 30 years to reach 1,127.7 square km by the end of 2021, surpassing the size of Bosten Lake which was measured at 1,064 square km.
Zhu Chenggang with the institute said Ayakum is a plateau saltwater lake and that its water area was measured at 500 square km in the 1980s. This had increased to 669.16 square km by 1990 and had further expanded by 68.53 percent by 2021.
Researchers from the institute undertook an expedition to investigate glaciers, snow, rivers and lakes on the northern slope of the Kunlun Mountains from April to July last year, and found that it was not only Ayakum Lake that had become bigger.
Zhu, head of the expedition team, said from 1990 to 2020, the number of lakes with a water area above 1 square km in the region had increased from 34 to 113, and the total water area of these lakes had increased from 1,600 square km to about 3,200 square km.
The team members attributed the expansion of the lake water area to intensification of glacier snow melting and an increase in precipitation in the mountainous areas, under the impact of climate change.
"Further study is needed to determine whether the increase in precipitation or the glacier melting contributes more to the increase of the water area of Ayakum Lake," he said.