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Climate Change Affecting Mar Chiquita, Argentina

30.4S 62.7W

February 20th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Lakes, Salt Flats

Argentina – January 26th, 2013

Salt lakes are formed when the water’s only exit is evaporation. Over time, the saline compounds left behind turn the water brackish. Apart from supporting local fisheries, salt lakes provide an environmental service by regulating the local climate. But they are very sensitive to changes in the rivers that feed them.

Among the largest salt lakes in the world is Mar Chiquita in Argentina (upper left corner). Thanks to climate change, the lake has been profoundly altered, undergoing several changes in the last few decades. Between 1970 and 2000, rainfall increased by 30 percent, resulting in a 30 foot increase in lake level. This caused the salinity to fall from 23 percent to less than 3 percent.

Due to a severe drought in Argentina, this has been reversed in recent years, with a marked reduction in the area of Mar Chiquita. These facts are certainly influenced by the El Niño Southern Oscillation and exacerbated by the uncontrolled extraction of water from Mar Chiquita’s main tributary, the Dulce River. According to studies, the lake level dropped a foot and salinity increased 10 grams per liter during 2008. Reducing the level of Mar Chiquita leaves salt beaches exposed, which as in the case with the Aral Sea, became dust clouds in strong winds (click here for more information).

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