Earth  ID: 10862

Shrinking Aral Sea

In the 1960s, the Soviet Union undertook major water diversion projects on the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers, capturing water that once fed into the Aral Sea. Irrigation projects made the desert bloom, but they spelled doom for the natural freshwater lake. As the Aral Sea dried up, fisheries collapsed, as did the communities that depended on them. The remaining water supply became increasingly salty and polluted with runoff from agricultural plots. Dust blowing from the exposed lakebed eventually degraded the soils, forcing further water diversion efforts to revive them. On a larger scale, loss of the Aral Sea's water influenced regional climate, making the winters even colder and the summers much hotter. Fifty years later, the lake is virtually gone. View the dramatic changes that took place over decades in this collection of satellite images.

For More Information

NASA Earth Observatory

Story Credits

Lead Visualizer/Animator:
Robert Simmon (Sigma Space Corporation)

Jesse Allen (Sigma Space Corporation)

Lead Writers:
Robert Simmon (Sigma Space Corporation)
Rebecca E. Lindsey

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA Earth Observatory
Aral Sea abandoned boats photograph courtesy of Ismael Alonso, Copyright 2011

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