Central Asia & Russia: Water deficits in Arctic Russia, surpluses in Kyrgyzstan

24 February 2017

The Big Picture
The 12-month map (below) indicates widespread water deficits, including exceptional deficits, forecast in Arctic Russia from the White Sea through the Central Siberian Plateau and east to the Sea of Okhotsk. Surpluses are forecast between the Irtysh and Tom Rivers in Russia, in the Ural Basin in Kazakhstan, in central and northeastern Kazakhstan, and in eastern Kyrgyzstan. 

Climate scientists at Ural Federal University in Russia say that by 2050 global warming and melting permafrost will put parts of eight northern regions under water, flooding cities, oil and gas infrastructure and pipelines. Threatened regions cited were: Arkhangelsk and Murmansk oblasts, the Komi Republic, the Yamalo-Nenets District, Krasnoyarsk Kray and the Sakha Republic. Western Siberia, with its vast oil and gas reserves, is particularly vulnerable due to thin permafrost. 

Seven soldiers were killed in an avalanche during military manoeuvres in the southern mountains of Kazakhstan about 300 miles west of Almaty. Blizzard conditions in East Kazakhstan have also created a heavy accumulation of snowfall, forcing some residents near Prīrechnoe to dig tunnels to escape from their homes.

Russian combat troops stationed at two bases near Dushanbe, Tajikistan have been deployed to help clear snow and debris from the Dushanbe-Khujand highway where thirteen people have been killed by avalanches in the past month. Traffic on the highway remains limited.

The Ministry of Emergency Situations in Kyrgyzstan reports that 17 avalanches hit the country within a 24-hour period in early February, with an estimated total volume of 37,000 cubic meters. Two children died and ten people were hospitalized when an avalanche buried two homes in the Chon-Alai district of Osh region, and eight people were rescued by police from their snow-buried vehicles. A state of emergency was declared in the Chatkal region of Kyrgyzstan due to abnormally high precipitation resulting in heavy snowfall that forced the closure of roads and schools.

Forecast Breakdown
The 3-month composites (below) for the same 12-month period show the evolving conditions in more detail.

The vibrant and complex patchwork visible in each of the 3-month maps for Central Asia indicates that water anomalies – both drier than normal and wetter than normal – blanket the 12-month forecast, with relatively few areas predicted to have normal conditions.

As seen in the February through April forecast map, drier than normal conditions will persist in many parts of northern Russia from the White Sea through the Central Siberian Plateau, with a vast expanse of severe to exceptional deficits reaching from east of the Ob River to beyond the Yenisei River. Both deficits and surpluses – notice the large purple area – are forecast between the Irtysh and Yenisei Rivers and also trace a path along the Ob going north.

Surpluses will continue to emerge in: the Ural Basin in Aktobe Region of northwestern Kazakstan and in neighboring Kostanay Region; in a north/south line down the middle of Kazakstan through Karagandy Region; and along the Ertis River (Irtysh) in the northeast. The forecast for Kyrgyzstan indicates surpluses, which are expected to be more intense in the east. Moderate deficits are forecast for eastern Tajikistan and surpluses in the west. Some moderate deficits are also forecast for western Turkmenistan.

From May through July deficits ranging from moderate to exceptional will continue to emerge in northern Russia and will increase in extent in a vast area southwest of the Yamal Peninsula. Exceptional surpluses will emerge between the Irtysh and Yenisei Rivers, as shown in dark blue. Conditions in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are expected to be much the same as in the prior three months. Mostly moderate deficits will continue to emerge in Turkmenistan and will emerge throughout much of Uzbekistan.

The forecast for the final three months – August through October – indicates a slight decrease in deficits across northern Russia and a slight increase in the severity of deficits in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)


Many analyses reported in ISciences-authored blog posts are based on data generated by the ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM). Other sources, if used, are referenced in footnotes accompanying individual posts. WSIM is a validated capability that produces monthly reports on current and forecast global freshwater surpluses and deficits with lead times of 1-9 months at 0.5°x0.5° resolution. This capability has been in continuous operation since April 2011 and has proven to provide reliable forecasts of emerging water security concerns in that time-frame. WSIM has the ability to assess the impacts of water anomalies on people, agriculture, and electricity generation. Detailed data, customized visualizations, and reports are available for purchase.

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