Lake Urmia is transforming into a salt flat • Earth.com

Lake Urmia is transforming into a salt flat

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features Lake Urmia in northwest Iran. At its greatest extent, Urmia is one of the largest hypersaline lakes on Earth.

NASA reports that Lake Urmia nearly dried out in the fall of 2023, and continues to gradually transform into a dry salt flat.

“On September 7, 2023, the OLI-2 (Operational Land Imager-2) on Landsat 9 captured this image of the desiccated lakebed,” said NASA.

“The longer-term trend for Urmia has been one toward drying. In 1995, Lake Urmia reached a high-water mark; then in the ensuing two decades, the lake level dropped more than 7 meters (23 feet) and lost approximately 90 percent of its area.” 

“Consecutive droughts, agricultural water use, and dam construction on rivers feeding the lake have contributed to the decline.”

The deteriorating condition of the lake affects the livelihood of the surrounding communities, particularly those dependent on agriculture and fishing. It has also contributed to health problems, as the exposure to airborne salt and dust particles from the dry lake bed can lead to respiratory issues.

Furthermore, NASA noted that the lake, its islands, and surrounding wetlands comprise valuable habitat and are recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. 

“The area provides breeding grounds for waterbirds such as flamingos, white pelicans, and white-headed ducks, as well as a stopover for migratory species. However, with low lake levels, what water remains becomes more saline and taxes the populations of brine shrimp and other food sources for larger animals,” said NASA.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

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