A different planet

Did you know that some big parts of our planet has very different look now then it had in the near past; and that the world atlases need to be changed?

When I was learning geography during 1980s, there was one big lake at the North-East of Caspian Sea. The lake was almost big as Republic of Ireland and around 50% bigger then Denmark. The name of that lake was Aral Sea. I remember that I had to learn that its tributaries were Amu Darya and Syr Darya. It was one of the dominant features of Asia. Not like Himalayas or India, but dominant enough when you look into some (older) atlas of Asia.

When I was learning geography, a classic example of Caspian Sea region looked like on this map. (Note that this map was generated on the basis of USGS and Digital Chart of the World data.)

In 1985 Aral Sea got some islands. In 1987 Aral Sea didn’t exist anymore: it had been divided onto smaller North Aral Sea and bigger South Aral Sea. In 2001 South Aral Sea was almost splitted on the Western and Eastern part. During the most of 2003 both parts of the South Aral Sea exited. But, at the end of November of 2003 — Eastern part dried. Kazakhstan made some efforts to save North Aral Sea.

This map is completely outdated (I think that it is used as the basis for other maps on Wikipedia; cf. Atlas of the Earth). This political map (claimed to be from 2005) is geographically outdated. And this satellite image is almost accurate.

One smaller lake, but still large enough, almost dried, too. In the 1960s Lake Chad had an area of more then 26.000 square kilometers. In 2000 it had less then 1500. When you take a look at the middle-West of Sahel at this topographical map, you will see one not so big, but the biggest lake in Africa outside of the Great Lakes.

It was some other time when Apollo 7 took a shot of this lake in 1968. There is no such lake anymore. Probably, you already saw this satellite image.

And at the end, here is how did I come to this story.

I like to follow Ben Yates’ links to Wikipedia articles. This time he pointed on Al-Jazari’s humanoid robot (early 13th century) and The timeline of the most important inventions. A lot of early inventions had been made in the Fertile Crescent.

From the time when I firstly learned that Sahara was not always desert, I am fascinated with that fact. (Gilgamesh went to Cedar Forest in Lybia to meet Humbaba.) So, I clicked on the link to the Saharan pump theory. As I was interested in the Neolithic age (of course, because of Gilgamesh), I followed the link to Neolithic Subpluvial.

And there I saw that Lake Chad had 400,000 square kilometers. And this was bigger then the size of Caspian Sea. So, I wanted to learn something more about that lake. Also, I clicked on the term desertification. By accident, the first image in that article remembered me about the faith of Aral Sea.


~ by millosh on September 16, 2007.

One Response to “A different planet”

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