The composition below is obtained by processing a PRISMA image over the Aral Sea area. PRISMA is the first European Satellite with an hyperspectral instrument and panchromatic camera on board, developed for the Italian Space Agency (ASI) by a consortium with OHB Italia S.p.A. as Prime Contractor. The panel shows an image in the visible bands and a processing of an infrared channel
The Aral Sea is a salt lake of oceanic origin, located on the border between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Until 50 years ago, the Aral Sea was among the largest lakes in the world, with a total area of 68,000 square kilometers. Now in a large portion (75%), especially in the southern area, it has suffered a significant reduction in water levels due to pollution and to over-exploitation for agricultural purposes in recent decades. While several states are attempting to restore the wetlands in the northern region, the large eastern desert area is arising (called Aralkum Desert).
The consequences of the drying up of the Aral Sea have induced a dramatic climate change that PRISMA is monitoring from space. Before the presence of water mitigated the hot climate of the region, today the absence of water leads to faster and faster evaporation of the remaining water and an increasing drying of the area.
Polluting dust also reaches the surrounding areas from the Aral Sea, due to the frequent and violent sandstorms. The polluted sand is carried away by the wind, making the land on which it is deposited sterile. The Aral Sea represents today one of the worst ecological catastrophes of the recent history.