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Google shows Aral Sea dry-out

14 may 2013, 11:28
The Aral Sea in 1984. Image by Timelapse
The Aral Sea in 1984. Image by Timelapse
The Aral Sea in 2012. Image by Timelapse
The Aral Sea in 2012. Image by Timelapse
Google has presented its Timelapse project that shows changes in various parts of the world over the last 28 years, Lenta.ru reports.

The project’s website has several interactive images based on photos made by American satellite Landsat in the period from 1984 to 2012.

For example the images track drying-out of the Aral Sea at the border Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and Urmia lake in Iran, ice melting in Alaska or deforestation of the Amazonian forests.

The project is based on Google Earth Engine platform used to monitor and study the surface of the Earth.

Formerly one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of 68,000 sq.km the Aral Sea has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects. By 2007, it had declined to 10% of its original size, splitting into four lakes – the North Aral Sea, the eastern and western basins of the once far larger South Aral Sea and one smaller lake between North and South Aral Seas. By 2009, the southeastern lake located in Uzbekistan had disappeared and the southwestern lake retreated to a thin strip at the extreme west of the former southern sea.

The shrinking of the Aral Sea has been called "one of the planet's worst environmental disasters." The region's once prosperous fishing industry has been essentially destroyed, bringing unemployment and economic hardship. The Aral Sea region is also heavily polluted, with consequent serious public health problems. The retreat of the sea has reportedly also caused local climate change, with summers becoming hotter and drier, and winters colder and longer.

In an ongoing effort in Kazakhstan to save and replenish the North Aral Sea, a dam project was completed in 2005; in 2008, the water level in this lake had risen by 24 m from its lowest level in 2007. Salinity has dropped, and fish are again found in sufficient numbers for some fishing to be viable.

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