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Desertification, Water Loss and Temperature Changes in the Aral Sea – June 9th, 2013

45.2N 59.8E

June 9th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Image of the day, Lakes MODISAqua

Aral Sea – June 9th, 2013

The primary effect of the Aral Sea desiccation has been the significant loss of water in the sea. The water level has dropped approximately 23 meters since the onset of its primary sources of water being diverted. Although the water level has fluctuated up to a few meters in the past due to natural variability in the water flow from the rivers, by 1970, the water loss exceeded the limit of natural water level variation that has occurred in the past.

The desiccation of the Aral Sea has been accompanied by the change in the Sea Surface Temperature. We see that the summer SSTs have been increasing, while winter SSTs have been decreasing. This is expected because as the sea loses volume, its heat capacity is reduced, therefore it can warm up and cool off faster than before. The day to night variations in SSTs, which are responsible for the sea breezes, have also increased.

In a sense, Aral sea has started to exhibit a monsoon climate, which is characterized by seasonal climate change due to warming and cooling of the sea. The desiccation period was also characterized by less ice covering of the sea. This can be explained by the fact that increased salt concentration lowers the freezing point of water; therefore the temperature would now need to be lower for the water to turn into ice (click here for more information).

Waters Levels in South Aral Sea Basins

45.0N 60.0E

April 19th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Lakes

Aral Sea – April 18th, 2013

The South Aral Sea is a lake in the basin of the former Aral Sea which formed in 1986 when that body divided in two, due to diversion of river inflow for agriculture.

In 2003 the South Aral Sea itself split into western and eastern basins, the Eastern Sea and the Western Sea, connected by a narrow channel that balanced surface levels but did not allow mixing, and in 2005 the North Aral Sea was dammed to prevent the collapse of its fisheries, cutting off the only remaining inflow to the southern lakes.

In 2008 the Eastern Sea split again, and in May 2009 had completely dried out. In 2010, it was partially filled again by meltwater. The Western Sea has some replenishment from groundwater in the northwest, and so is likely to avoid desiccation. The water levels in the Eastern Sea, however, as can be observed here, are significantly lower.

Thin Veil of Dust Over Aral Sea

46.7N 61.6E

April 5th, 2013 Category: Dust Storms, Lakes

Aral Sea – April 3rd, 2013

A thin veil of dust can be seen blowing across the Aral Sea Basin. The dust is easiest to spot over the bright turquoise waters of the southwestern basin. Dust storms are becoming more frequent in this area due to desertification and the shrinking of the sea due to riverwater diversion.

Desertificatio and the Desiccated South Aral Sea

46.7N 61.6E

April 2nd, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Lakes

Aral Sea – April 1st, 2013

While water is present in the North Aral Sea, the South Aral Sea, which lies in poorer Uzbekistan, has been largely abandoned to its fate. Only excess water from the North Aral Sea is now periodically allowed to flow into the largely dried-up South Aral Sea through a sluice in the dike.

Discussions had been held on recreating a channel between the somewhat improved North and the desiccated South, along with uncertain wetland restoration plans throughout the region, but political will is lacking. Uzbekistan shows no interest in abandoning the Amu Darya river as an abundant source of cotton irrigation, and instead is moving toward oil exploration in the drying South Aral seabed.

Attempts to mitigate the effects of desertification include planting vegetation in the newly exposed seabed; however, intermittent flooding of the eastern basin is likely to prove problematic for any development. Redirecting what little flow there is from Amu Darya to the western basin may salvage fisheries there while relieving the flooding of the eastern basin.

Desertification Leading to More Dust Storms in Aral Sea Region – March 24th, 2013

46.7N 61.6E

March 24th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Dust Storms, Image of the day, Lakes

Aral Sea – March 23rd, 2013

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.