“This is what the end of the world looks like,” says Yusup Kamalov, sweeping his hand toward the scrub-covered desert stretching before us. “If we ever have Armageddon, the people of Karakalpakstan are the only ones who will survive, because we are already living it.”
For millennia the Aral Sea reigned as one of the planet’s largest inland bodies of water, straddling what is now Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Today its decline serves as a cautionary tale.
From our perch atop this sandy bluff in northern Uzbekistan, the view could be of just about any desert—that is, if it weren’t for the mounds of seashells and the half dozen marooned fishing boats rusting into the sand. This spot was once the tip of a peninsula jutting into the Aral Sea, which up until the 1960s was the world’s fourth largest inland body of water, covering some 26,000 square miles—an area larger than the state of West Virginia. Behind us lies the town of Muynoq, formerly a thriving fishing village with a sprawling cannery that even as recently as the 1980s processed thousands of tons of fish annually. Fifty years ago the southern shore of the Aral was right where we stand; now it lies 55 miles away to the northwest. Read more
Recent Cassini images of Enceladus at high phase show the fountain-like sources of the fine spray of material that towers above the moon’s south polar region. This image was taken looking more or less broadside at the “tiger stripe” fractures observed in earlier Enceladus images and shows discrete and small-scale plumes above the limb of the moon.
The color-coded image at right was processed to enhance faint signals, making contours in the plume of material even more apparent. The greatly enhanced and colorized image shows the enormous extent of the fainter, larger-scale component of the plume. Read more
Dams, irrigation and now climate change have drastically reduced the once-mighty river. Is it a sign of things to come?
Reservoirs along the river may never rise to previous levels. Utah’s Lake Powell has a “bathtub ring” that rises at least 70 feet above the water.
From its source high in the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado River channels water south nearly 1,500 miles, over falls, through deserts and canyons, to the lush wetlands of a vast delta in Mexico and into the Gulf of California.
Then, beginning in the 1920s, Western states began divvying up the Colorado’s water, building dams and diverting the flow hundreds of miles, to Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and other fast-growing cities. The river now serves 30 million people in seven U.S. states and Mexico, with 70 percent or more of its water siphoned off to irrigate 3.5 million acres of cropland. Read more
Can one person change the world? While this is a complicated question, the short answer is yes. There are many small contributions a single person can make in the course of a day that will better the global community. Here are just a few ideas! Read more
You can drink out of some, you can’t even touch others.
There are hundreds of rivers in the world, coursing through every possible ecosystem. Some rivers cross continents and branch tree-like into dozens of tributaries and lakes, determining the environments of whole countries. Others are as large as football fields and move water and organisms from one place to another.
Despite their varying sizes and paths, all rivers are indispensable to life on earth. Rivers are fundamental to the water cycle, provide food and water, enable ecosystems and agriculture, allow for transportation, and create the conditions for so many other benefits. Read more