The Quiet Chernobyl: NASA Releases Shocking Pictures Of The Loss Of The Aral Sea

1412079277000-aralThese pictures from NASA are being called “the quiet Chernobyl.” It is the Aral Sea as seen in 2000 and as seen this year. The massive decline of water levels is particularly evident from the black line showing the shoreline in the 1960s. In the United States and other cities, the world is facing a water crisis that is being given relatively low amount of attention. However, pictures like these show vividly our self-destructive impact on the environment.


The once vast central Asian lake was devastated during the Soviet period due to a water diversion project in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Now here is the shocker stat: the Aral Sea was once the fourth largest lake in the world. It now hold less than 10% of its original water volume.

The destruction of the lake created in 2000 two separate lakes known the Small and Large Seas. Within 12 months, however, the southern lake was gone. Fisheries and other business have collapsed and the blowing dust from the exposed lakebed is now a health hazard due to the agricultural chemicals that polluted the lake. It has changed the local weather — the loss of the moderating water mass has made the winters and summers harsher.

These pictures are the work of the team for the Terra satellite studies.

It is a cautionary tale for all countries, including this one, of the cascading problems associated with environmental pollution and industrial overuse.

138 thoughts on “The Quiet Chernobyl: NASA Releases Shocking Pictures Of The Loss Of The Aral Sea”

  1. Maxcat, the only time I bring home bottled water is when I’m visiting my sister in NW Wisconsin. I fill a few gallon jugs with her well water. She lives in a pristine area that has had no farming on the land that her house is built on. It’s the coldest best tasting water I’ve had.

  2. maxcat, I hate the duopoly and take shots @ it every chance I get. I voted for Nader twice simply because he is the most ardent supporter or destroying the duopoly’s hold on this country. See, I’ll even vote for a Commie! That’s how strong I feel. I like his background. His family owned a small restaurant in Winsted, Ct. Good food and service. I grew up near there.

    1. @Nick

      When it comes down to the “lesser of two evils”, it’s no surprise that most people don’t vote, but that’s not the answer either.

  3. Maxcat06 and Nick,
    I agree 100%!

    Alarms go off for me when someone defends either party as if they were untouchable.

  4. @ Karen

    The e coli treatment is for those people who are drawing their water from surface sources, rivers and small lakes for drinking. Not that many people do that. Those people out of abundance of caution use the UV filter systems and some even back up with chlorine injectors. Nitrites are a rare issued in some of the lowland farm areas where people in the past centuries used methods that contaminated the ground water. Iron water and swamp gasses are also a problem in some of the mountain lake beds which used to be glacial lakes and have deep layers of sediment and ancient vegetable matter. Sand is an issue there too….also from glacial run off. There is NOTHING to do with those wells than to use them for non potable purposes.

    Water tables are dependent on where you are and the geography below your property. We have some wells that the static water depth is 35 feet and pump 25 to 30 gpm. Others are static water at 180 ft, pump set at 200 and total well depth at 220ft (maybe) and are lucky to get 9 gpm. It just all depends.

    Are any of these wells connected to each other under the ground?. Maybe if you are direct neighbors, but that doesn’t mean anything either. We have one client whose well was dropping like a rock, and her neighbor not more than 50 yards away had a perfectly good well at 45ft static level.

    THIS is why I am so skeptical of the State trying to make regulations on something that is so nebulous and so unknown.

    Our well is pristine, we had the lab test the water for all sorts of things including minerals. The water is cold Cold COLD. Even when it is 100 degrees outside it is like drinking ice water. You can’t put your thumb on the hose to make a spray for very long because it is so cold. Other people across and down the road have undrinkable water.

  5. on 1, October 1, 2014 at 7:09 pmOlly
    “ I’ve actually learned quite a bit from some people I vehemently disagree with. I read and study what they provide as their source material and I’m learning how they think. I’m not any closer to agreeing with them; I’m just better prepared to defend my position.
    ****************************************
    Olly, that is one of the VERY good reasons for providing source material. Some don’t seem to like citing sources.

  6. Olly, An oft heard phrase in my childhood home was, “To each their own.” Little did I know that from my childhood I was being taught to be a libertarian by my parents, two blue collar, old school Dems. They would not even recognize Dems today.

    1. @Nick

      I know my parents wouldn’t recognize the Dems, but the Republicans of 30 years ago wouldn’t recognize their Grand Old Party either. Given that they are really only the two choices, it is discouraging all around.

  7. “Feel free to tell me to go crap in my hat. I can take it.”

    Nick,
    I think you know I would if I felt it necessary. 🙂 I also believe we all make mental notes about who to engage and when there is no value continuing the dialog. I’ve actually learned quite a bit from some people I vehemently disagree with. I read and study what they provide as their source material and I’m learning how they think. I’m not any closer to agreeing with them; I’m just better prepared to defend my position.

    My takeaway from JT’s blog to date is there are a lot of very smart people here that have gathered facts to support their conclusions (feelings). These people are nearly impossible to debate because facts that lead a reasonable mind to a different conclusion are completely dismissed.

  8. How does the comment @ 10:46 AM referencing past disagreements with weekend guest bloggers here and on OTHER threads advance ANY discussion? I think if JT would be consistent in deleting these comments that continuously reference PAST disagreements with weekend guest bloggers, such disruptions in the thread would be nipped in the bud and the nread would have a much better change of being substantive and on topic.

  9. DBQ – you must be intimately aware of the water wars and well challenges. You are so LUCKY you don’t have hard water issues. We don’t have any E coli, parasite, bacterial, or arsenic contamination (although we test regularly), but the hardness is atrocious. If it weren’t for that, we’d never need bottled water. I try to buy the glass bottles, because they taste better and are healthier, but they are so expensive and hard to find.

  10. Karen, Exactly. The duopoly take care of their cronies, just different ones.

  11. DBQ, I took a detour to the Salton Sea a couple years ago on the way out to your state. Wow!! There’s a manmade ecological disaster.

  12. DBQ – I HATE the cronyism, nepotism, special interests, quid pro quo, and pork in government. Unions are infamous for that, but so are large corporations like Monsanto.

  13. And Annie’s comment at 6:53 and 6:55 advances the topic of this post in which way?

    Karen said: I did not get the impression that, in this case, JT was blaming Global Warming:

    Neither did I, which is why I referenced the Owens Valley historical situation and Lake Mead. Both US examples of the same government diversion of a natural resource which….coincidentally enriches those who are cronies of the government. Historical examples of the same situation as in the Aral Sea.

  14. Paulette – does the Nestle spring feed an actual aquifer? From my research, it is contained on their land. I read your Mother Jones article, and it did NOT say that the spring fed into any aquifer.

    It is a valid complaint if bottled water comes from a drought state.

    My question is, if the spring is contained completely on the Morongo reservation (and I do not know if it is) should they be required to give it all to the Department of Water and Power? Does the DWP actually own the water, and not the land owner?

    That very question is in play right now with private land owners with wells all across CA.

  15. on 1, October 1, 2014 at 11:42 amOlly
    Nick,
    I really appreciate your perspective but I have to admit you seem overly preoccupied by the incivility of the past. This is a blog, not a neighborhood where one needs to fear walking down the street. We should continue to set the civil and reason-based example any serious blog should strive to be.

    JT has a choice to make and it appears he has chosen a forum that is not tolerant of mindless trolls. They will pop their heads up but JT will quickly denounce the behavior. He certainly is quite a forgiving person and some on here tend to take advantage of that.

    Most of these discussions should expect civil disagreements and periodic uncivil opinions. I can deal with that. What becomes tiresome for me are discussions where emotion outweighs reason. And if that is what this blog becomes then I’ll simply move along.

  16. on 1, October 1, 2014 at 6:46 pmKaren S
    Annie:

    So, you think your own off topic guesses about other poster’s private lives are OK? Or do you agree that they are not OK?
    ***************************
    Karen again in a word, NO. You seem overly concerned with comments you think I made about other commenters private lives. Perhaps you should address those concerns and the invasion of other’s privacy issues with someone else. I do NOT advocate invading anyone’s privacy, as I’ve had MINE invaded. Now I think you are simply attempting to quarrel, which is strange since you said you don’t like quarrels. Perhaps you should take our OWN advice. I’m done responding to you.

  17. @Karen

    FYI: We own and operate a pump and well service company. So I am very familiar with your situation. We (or I should say my husband) installs pumps into wells, replaces pumps, water systems, bladder tanks, storage tanks with booster pumps, sand settling tanks. The filter systems we refer out. Iron filters and UV filters for those who have coliform bacteria in their water whether out of the river or from their well. An occasional chlorine injection system for the really stubborn systems. E coli and nitrates are also problematic. Most water here does not need to be softened, thankfully. In addition the systems need to be protected from freezing during the winters where it can routinely get to 15 below zero at night and not above 28 during the day for days upon end and we start having permafrost conditions in the ground.

    Now that some wells are failing and the pumps are breaking suction they need to have the pumps pulled and lowered into the aquifer, pump saver systems and variable speed controllers installed……the storage tank system is becoming a bigger part of our business. Some people, like yourself, do buy water for drinking purposes. Some even have had to buy it by the tanker truck load full to fill up their 5000 gal holding tanks.

    You are right urban people do not have any idea on the challenges and the basic realities of life or even physics it seems for those who don’t realize that water will FREEZE and break all your pipes. And YES. The idiot laws passed by people who only think that water comes from the tap on demand and that food magically appears in shrink wrapped packages. Rules made that are if not impossible to comply with are just out and out stupid.

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