Lake Urmia in Iran is another closed basin lake that has been shrinking. Continuous declines in water flowing into the lake have caused a general decline in its surface area since 1995.
Water only enters Lake Urmia via rainfall and runoff from rivers flowing into it. As a closed basin lake, its water levels fluctuate with changes in rainfall. Once water reaches the lake, it only leaves via evaporation. When the water that flows into the lake is diverted for human uses, those dynamics are prone to big changes.
The lake’s southern basin is shallower than its northern basin, so recent images show the water disappearing from the southern basin first. These Landsat images use the shortwave-infrared, near-infrared, and green wavelengths of light. Because water absorbs infrared light, water (dark blue to black) contrasts with the surrounding land areas. As the water becomes shallower, light is reflected off of the lakebed in shades of light blue. Lighter blue and bright areas immediately surrounding the lake are where the receding shoreline has exposed the lake bottom.
Data from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service shows a downward trend since the mid-1990s. However, a fresh pulse of water from rains during fall 2018 and spring 2019, along with seasonal snowmelt, increased lake levels. This increase isn’t only evident in the graph data. The 2019 Landsat image shows a rebound in water levels over 2018.
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