Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Optimism grows for Aral Sea

  • Written by  Olivia Edward
  • Published in Water
Boat stranded in the Aral Sea Boat stranded in the Aral Sea Shutterstock
01 Apr
2014
Short-term prospects for the Aral Sea catchment in Central Asia better than previously thought

Over the past 50 years, the Aral Sea has lost 90 per cent of its water – mostly due to removal for irrigation for cotton growing. Using data from NASA’s GRACE satellites, Kirk Zmijewski and Richard Becker mapped monthly changes in mass within the lake’s 1.5-million-square- kilometre catchment between 2003 and 2012. These changes are directly related to changes in water volume, both on and below the land surface.

The results, obtained by a new study by scientists from the University of Toledo in Ohio, and published in Earth Interactions, indicated that over the study period, the catchment area lost an average of 12–14 cubic kilometres per year. However, this was only about half the rate at which the Aral Sea itself lost water during that period. ‘That means that roughly half the water lost from the Aral Sea has entirely left the watershed, by evaporation or agricultural uses, but half is upstream within the watershed,’ said Becker.

A closer examination of the data indicated that the central part of the catchment, where almost all of the region’s farming takes place, actually increased in mass during the last four years of the study. The researchers suggest that this increase was due to a combination of improvements in water conservation and water seeping out of unlined ditches into aquifers.

This story was published in the April 2014 edition of Geographical Magazine

Related items

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Mapping

A revolution in digital mapmaking is underway and the implications…

Cities

India has pledged $120billion to make its cities ‘smart’. But…

Cities

Buildings made from wood are becoming increasingly common in cities…

Forests

The lead author of a scientific study, which claimed that…

Cities

A team of researchers in Australia are urging urban planners…

Water

An artificial intelligence tool can predict where conflicts related to…

Water

Hundreds of historic landfill sites are at risk from erosion…

Cities

London has officially become the first of a new kind…

Mountains

A new model of the monsoon system, which dispenses with the Himalaya Mountains,…

Places

In the second of his features on the world’s geopolitical…

Water

The discovery a long ‘tongue’ of ice beneath a glacial…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig explains two cartograms which demonstrate the global water…

Places

Get on your bike with this collection of stories to…

Water

The Brown Bank a haven for marine life in the…

Forests

The first payment under the Redd+ scheme to conserve tropical…

Places

In the first of a series on geopolitical curiosities and…

Cities

A socioecological model is predicting the areas of major US…

Mapping

Following the collapse of the upstream tailings dam in Brumadinho,…

Mapping

The domestication of animals for food, secondary products, labour and…

Cities

Strap in for a newer, greener experience in virtual city…