Sapphire and silver colored the tan Tibetan Plateau in mid-January 2021. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Terra satellite captured a true-color image of freeze-up on the Tibetan Plateau on January 13.
The high-altitude plateau, which is sometimes called “The Roof of the World”, is home to more than 1,500 large and small lakes. The area is also the source of many of Asia’s major rivers, including the Brahmaputra, Indus, Ganges, Salween (Nu Jiang), Mekong (Lancang Jiang), Yangtze (Chang Jiang), and Yellow (Huang He) Rivers. Lakes on the Tibetan Plateau start to freeze between October and December, and some may stay iced-over until May. The rate at which the individual lakes freeze over depends on many things, including water depth, salinity, and location. By January 13, most of the northern lakes carry a silvery sheen of ice while the southern ones remain open and appear sapphire blue.
It is often informative to view the change in ice cover over time. The NASA Worldview app allows a comparison between MODIS images captured different dates. To view the evolution of the ice on the high-altitude lakes between December 28, 2020 and January 13, 2021, click here.