Desertification Leading to More Dust Storms in Aral Sea Region – March 24th, 201346.7N 61.6E
The region around the Aral Sea, whose water levels have dropped 23 meters since the onset of water diversion from its primary sources, has experienced significant desertification. The desertification is characterized by degradation of the land and natural resources to the point that they can no longer be used.
Several factors influence the desertification, including the decline in the groundwater level. By cutting off water supply to a region, the hydrological balance of the area becomes offset as more water leaves the region than is coming into the region.
Frequent low-water periods contributed to the shortfall of needed resources for vegetation. The decline in the groundwater level in the Amudarya and Syrdarya deltas contributed to the piling up of salt at the surface. This increase in salt content was later accompanied by a change in vegetative cover because the plants began to die away as a result of the increased salinity of the sea. As a result, vegetation in the region was reduced by at least 40%. Six million hectares of agricultural land were destroyed as a result of salinization and desertification (click here for more information).
A side effect of the decrease in the protective vegetation cover was intensified winds, which led to more dust storms in the area. Here, dust can be seen blowing across the southwestern basin of the lake and across the northern part of nearby Sarygamysh Lake.