While passing over the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau in January 2020, an astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) looked southwest and shot a photograph of glacial lakes near the Himalayan mountain range. Sitting just northeast of Mount Everest, Lake Puma Yumco and Yamdrok Lake were frozen at the time.
Glacial runoff fills these lakes, which are vital for life in the small villages along their shores. For people in one such village, Tuiwa, the winter ice cover on Puma Yumco creates a walkable surface for herding sheep across to areas where more forage is available.
Puma Yumco and Yamdrok are just two of the many glacial lakes across the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, which spans 2.5 million square kilometers (approximately 965,000 square miles). With an average elevation of 4500 meters (14,800 feet) above sea level, the plateau is one of Earth’s highest geographic features and often called the “roof of the world.”
Astronaut photograph ISS061-E-145772 was acquired on January 26, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 210 millimeters. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 61 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by Amber Turner, Jacobs, JETS Contract at NASA-JSC.