Friday, September 26, 2014


The The Summer 2014 has sadly marked yet another milestone for the Aral Sea that has been shrinking markedly since the 1960s. For the first time in modern history, the eastern basin of the South Aral Sea has now completely dried. The ast time it dried out was 600 years ago in a  desiccation associated with diversion of Amu Darya to the Caspian Sea in Medieval times.

This image from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectro-radiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite shows the sea without its eastern lobe on August 19, 2014.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the government of the former Soviet Union began large scale diversion of  the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya—the region's two major rivers—to irrigate farmland. The diversion began the lake's gradual retreat. By the start of the Terra series in 2000, the lake had already separated into the North (Small) Aral Sea in Kazakhstan and the South (Large) Aral Sea in Uzbekistan. The South Aral had further split into western and eastern lobes. The eastern lobe of the South Aral nearly dried in 2009 and then saw a huge rebound in 2010. Water levels continued to fluctuate annually in alternately dry and wet years.

The desiccation in 2014 has occurred as there has been less rain and snow in the Parmir and so less water released into the watershed as well as continued high irrigation withdrawals.


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