(ORDO NEWS) — Iranian salt lake Urmia has changed its color. In satellite images taken by NASA in 2016, it resembles a giant pool of blood.
The endorheic salt lake Urmia is located on the Armenian Highlands in northwestern Iran. The lake is elongated from north to south. Its maximum length is about 140 km, width is about 40-55 km, the area ranges from 5200 to 6000 km². The average depth is 5 m, the maximum is up to 16 m.
Once it was the largest lake in the Near and Middle East, but now it is on the verge of extinction. The results of satellite images showed that the lake loses about 220 square kilometers per year. Thus, over the past 14 years, it has lost almost 70% of its surface area.
Urmia essentially repeats the fate of the Aral Sea: due to global warming, as well as economic activity, less and less water enters it, and the available one is rapidly evaporating. This leads to an increase in the salt concentration, which in turn causes the microorganisms living in the water to “turn red”.
According to experts from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), green algae Dunaliella are responsible for changing the color of the lake.
These microorganisms live in a salty environment and under normal conditions do not manifest themselves in any way.
But in cases where the salt concentration rises, algae, under the influence of intense light, produce protective carotenoids in their cells. Another culprit is the bacterium Halobacteriaceae, which releases the pigment bacteriorhodopsin in saturated salt water.
Water bodies are changing their color all over the planet. A full-flowing river like the Nile and a cold place like the Taylor Glacier in Antarctica can turn red for a while. However, in the case of Urmia, experts give disappointing forecasts: taking into account climatic trends, there are no conditions for the recovery of the lake.
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