The world's fourth-largest lake is almost completely dry


The once-vast Aral Sea has all but disappeared, a series of shocking new satellite photos released by NASA has shown.

Officials in the Soviet Union began diverting water from the Aral Sea in the 1960s to irrigate desert land in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, according to the space agency. This effort has virtually drained it dry.

Photos taken in 2000 still show a large amount of the water remaining in what was once the word's fourth-largest lake. But drought conditions over the past decade have only helped to worsen the effects of irrigation.

The port cities Aralsk, Kazakhstan, and Moynaq, Uzbekistan, dependent on the lake's 22 varieties of fish, began to crumble, officials claim.

Less water led to higher concentrations of salt and other pollutants, it eventually became a public health hazard.

By 2006, the Aral Sea has separated into two separate bodies of water. In 2009, the right portion of the lake is virtually dry but makes a short-lived comeback in 2010 and 2011. The right half of the lake is once again gone in 2014.

Contaminated soil then blew off the dry lakebed onto neighboring farms and contaminated them, officials said.

A dam by by the Kazakstan's government had little effect on the lake's dwindling water supply.

Less water also led to colder winters since the water's moderating effect on the local climate was all but diminished.

The Aral Sea will never again be what it once was: More than 42,000 square miles of life-giving water.

The Aral Sea Is Drying Up
The Aral Sea Is Drying Up

Related links:
Lake Mead hits new low as drought ravages the western US
California drought causing mountains to grow taller