Lake Balqash, Kazakhstan and Lake Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan – December 24th, 2008
In the lower part of the image we can see Lake Issyk Kul, in eastern Kyrgyzstan, navy blue in color and surrounded by the snow-covered Tian Shan mountains.
Although it is surrounded by snow-capped peaks, it never freezes; hence its name, which means “warm lake” in the Kyrgyz language.
It is an endorheic lake (a body of water that does not flow into the sea), the ninth largest lake in the world by volume and the second largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea.
Lake Issyk Kul has a length of 182 km, a width of up to 60 km, and covers an area of 6,336 km². This makes it the second largest mountain lake in the world behind Lake Titicaca in South America.
Located at an altitude of 1,608 m, it reaches 668 m in depth.
In the upper portion of the image, we can see Lake Balqash, in southeastern Kazakhstan. It can be observed more clearly than Lake Issyk Kul as it appears lighter in color.
Lake Balqash is the second largest lake in Central Asia after the Aral Sea. It is a closed basin that is part of the endorheic basin that includes the Caspian and Aral seas.
The lake currently covers 16,996 km² (6,562 sq mi), but, like the Aral Sea, it is shrinking because of the diversion of water from the rivers that feed it.
The lake has a mean depth of 5.8 m, and a maximum of 25.6 m. The western half of the lake is fresh water, while the eastern half is saline. The mean depth of the eastern part is 1.7 times that of the western.
The water pollution of Balkhash is intensified as urbanisation and industrialisation in the area grow rapidly. Extinctions of species in the lake due to its decreasing area, as well as overfishing activities, are cause for alarm among conservationist organisations worldwide.