Sunday, February 6, 2011

Let's ride to Majorca Island

The Aral Sea, lying in Central Asia, has suffered one of the most significant ecological catastrophes of human history in the last few years. In the 1960s, when the Soviet Union diverted the rivers that fed this sea for irrigation purposes (Amu Darya river and Syr Darya river, formerly known as Oxus and Laxartes, respectively, where Alexander the Great would stop to water his horses many centuries ago), the sea started shrinking, to the point that in 1987 the sea split into two lakes. The Aral Sea used to have an area of 68,000 square km, whereas in 1993 its surface area was only 26,687 square km and in 2004 it was reduced to 17,160 square km --that is, it shrank to one fourth of its former surface one century ago. At present, the Aral Sea is just a bunch of small salty lakes. Former coastal towns are deserted; hundreds of boats and ships are stranded on the sand; the water is getting saltier and saltier (from 10 grams per litre to 45 grams per litre); steppe winds sweep the salty crust left after water evaporation, causing the nearby lands to turn into a desert…
To get an idea, we can watch videos and pictures of such catastrophe, but we often feel far from these events and we can hardly imagine their extent. The best way to get a real idea of such catastrophe is by extrapolating this event to our closest sea, one which we know well. What would happen if the Mediterranean Sea shrank in the same proportion? It would be reduced to 633,405 square km, instead of its current surface area of 2,510,000 square km. As it is difficult to imagine, we have customized an image from Google Maps in order to get a clear picture. It is just an artistic recreation, but it gives us a good hint to what is going on in the Aral Sea.

Sources

  1. The Aral Sea: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aral_Sea
  2. Location of the Aral Sea: http://maps.google.es/maps?f=q&source=s_ q&hl=ca&geocode=&q=aral+sea&sll=40.396764,3.713379&sspn=4.852408,14.128418&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Mar+d%27Aral&ll=45.644768,56.381836&spn=4.454796,22.5&t=h&z=6
  3. Aral Sea from space in 1989 and in 2003: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_ki8NrKN-eAk/Sm6RfLeX67I/AAAAAAAAGbw/K2zx5KCGX0c/s400/mar+aral+1.jpg
  4. Aral Sea from space in 2004: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/95/Aral_Sea_1989-2008.jpg
  5. Video on Aral Sea catastrophe: http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=ES&feature=related&hl=es&v=2hu0Hr9eS_g
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