Status Report

NASA MODIS Image of the Day: May 11, 2007 – Dust Storm over the South Aral Sea

By SpaceRef Editor
May 14, 2007
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NASA MODIS Image of the Day: May 11, 2007 – Dust Storm over the South Aral Sea


A dust storm formed over the South Aral Sea on the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan on May 9, 2007. The MODIS on NASA’s Terra satellite took this picture the same day.

As with a larger storm that occurred just two days earlier, this dust storm arose from a few plumes west of the Aral Sea, but primarily from sediments around the Sea itself. Dried-up lakebeds provide material for dust storms, and Aral Sea’s lakebeds can be easily discerned in this image, appearing in a lighter shade of beige than the surrounding land.

The Aral isn’t a real sea but an inland freshwater body. In 1918, it was decided that the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, which supplied it with water, should be diverted for irrigation purposes. Irrigation canals were built in the 1930s for crops like cotton. The cotton crop has been a successful one for Uzbekistan, but the canals were not waterproofed properly and much of the water leaked out or evaporated. By the 1960s, with so much of the sea’s water supply being diverted, it began to shrink. By 1987, its water level had fallen low enough to split it in two: the North Aral Sea and the South Aral Sea.

Thanks to conservation efforts by the Kazakh government, the North Aral Sea has rebounded at least partially, with the water level rising, bringing more positive changes. The South Aral Sea, which lies in poorer Uzbekistan, however, continues to decline. Dry lakebed sediments blown aloft in this image appear to originate primarily from the land surrounding the South Aral Sea. For more information about the Aral Sea, try this Wikipedia entry.

SpaceRef staff editor.