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Aral Sea in Central Asia Dries Up as Water Diverted, Photo Shows

By    |   Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 11:22 AM

The Aral Sea, once the fourth largest lake in the world, could disappear from central Asia by 2020 thanks to the diversion of two rivers that once fed it, according to NASA.

A NASA Earth photo posted on Twitter last week shows the Aral Sea as it looks now compared to its shoreline in 1960.


According to NASA, the Aral Sea has previously gone through dry cycles since forming an estimated 5.5 million years ago, reported Australia's News.com. Farmers, for example, would take advantage of low water periods to farm on the lake's fertile land, but researchers believe this is probably the driest the lake has been in a long time.

"It is likely the first time it has completely dried in 600 years, since Medieval desiccation associated with diversion of Amu Darya to the Caspian Sea," said Philip Micklin, a geographer emeritus from Western Michigan University, told News.com.

In the 1960s, an agricultural irrigation program by the Soviet Union diverted water from two major rivers – the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya – to grow cotton in the region.

"The diversion began the lake's gradual retreat," noted a NASA Earth Observatory statement. "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 NASA statement said.

NASA scientists told PBS that the lake could likely disappear completely by 2020 if nothing changes and with 60 percent of the its water already gone.

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The Aral Sea, once the fourth largest lake in the world, could disappear from central Asia by 2020 thanks to the diversion of two rivers that once fed it, according to NASA.
aral, sea, dries, up
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2014-22-30
Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 11:22 AM
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