Monitoring Change in the Caspian Sea

Landsat satellite data, acquired and processed by the U.S. Geological Survey and drawn from the 38+ year archive, are being used to monitor changes to a major Caspian Sea bay. The Kara-Bogaz-Gol basin on the eastern edge of the sea undergoes periodic, dramatic change in the water level. Because the basin is significantly more shallow than other near shoreline areas, the changes are more visible and affecting.

Human intervention by damming the feeder inlets has, in recent times, increased the magnitudes of change and impacted the salinity and water chemistry. In March 1980, the barrier to the Caspian was blocked. Accelerated evaporation caused a fall in the Caspian Sea water level, and the resulting "salt bowl" caused widespread problems of blowing salt, reportedly poisoning the soil and causing health problems for people hundreds of kilometers downwind to the east. In 1984 the Kara-Bogaz-Gol basin was completely dry.

In 1992, the Caspian Sea levels were rising again after the barrier was breached, and Kara-Bogaz-Gol Bay filled up again. Levels have been fairly stable the past decade

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010