Central Asia & Russia: Intense water surpluses forecast between the Ob & Yenisei Rivers, Russia

26 October 2018

The 12-month forecast through June 2019 indicates intense deficits in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and western Kazakhstan, particularly around the Caspian Sea. Deficits will also be intense in the Middle Volga River and Upper Don River regions of Russia.

Surpluses are forecast along the Ob River in Russia and will be widespread in the Middle and Upper Ob watershed and exceptional north of Novosibirsk. Surpluses are also forecast in the Vakh River region, an eastern tributary of the Ob. Intense surpluses are expected in the Tom River watershed and moderate surpluses along the Ishim River.

The forecast for northern Kazakhstan and eastern Kyrgyzstan also indicates surpluses. Deficits of varying intensity are expected in central Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

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

The forecast through December indicates that prior exceptional deficits in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, western Kazakhstan, and the North Caucasus region will downgrade considerably. Deficits will be severe, however, along the Harirud River in southern Turkmenistan as well as in eastern Tajikistan. Surpluses will persist in eastern Kyrgyzstan, south of Lake Balkhah in Kazakhstan, and scattered pockets in northern Kazakhstan, though conditions of both deficit and surplus are expected in the north as transitions occur. Moderate surpluses are forecast to re-emerge in Kazakhstan west of the Aral Sea, but moderate deficits will increase in a band across the middle of the country.

In Russia, surpluses will increase between the Ob and Yenisei Rivers, encompassing the Taz River, and will be extreme to exceptional. Deficits are forecast in the Nizhnyaya Tunguska River region, an eastern tributary of the Yenisei. Moderate deficits are forecast in the southern Ural Mountains, with surpluses to the west. Surpluses will re-emerge in the Upper Don River watershed.

From January through March, deficits will increase across much of northern Kazakhstan and will intensify in the Urals in Russia, becoming severe. Surpluses between the Ob and Yenisei Rivers in Russia will diminish and downgrade somewhat but will remain exceptional in some areas including parts of the Yenisei. Surpluses will emerge on the Volga and may be intense in the Volga Uplands. Moderate deficits are forecast for western Uzbekistan, central Turkmenistan, and eastern Tajikistan. Surpluses will persist in eastern Kyrgyzstan and along the Ili River in southeastern Kazakhstan.

The forecast for the final months – April through June – indicates moderate deficits in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, western Kazazkstan, and the Central Russian Uplands; a transition from deficit to surplus in the southern Urals in Russia; and a decrease in surpluses in the Lower and Middle Ob and an increase in the Upper Ob region.

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

A now-dessicated part of the Aral Sea littered with ship skeletons provided the stage for young Uzbeks to host the country’s first electronic music festival. Organizers used the event to raise awareness of the Aral’s man-made environmental disaster and regional water issues. Once fed by the Amu Daria and Syr Daria Rivers, the Aral was depleted by Soviet engineering projects in the 1960s that diverted the rivers to support a growing cotton industry.

Water shortages and pest problems made 2018 a bad year for cotton cultivation in Uzbekistan, according to the country’s president. Over the past two years drought has caused a 50 to 70 percent loss of crops in the nation. The cotton harvest in neighboring Turkmenistan also suffered from this year’s drought.

Radioactive glaciers on the Russian archipelago of Novaya Zemlya are melting at record rates, according to the results of a recent scientific expedition in the Kara Sea. The radioactivity originated in fallout from 86 nuclear bomb tests conducted between 1957 and 1962 in the atmosphere over Novaya Zemlya. The Kara Sea region has experienced the most dramatic increase in average atmospheric temperatures in Russia, contributing to the rapid melting of glaciers, sea ice, and permafrost, which in turn can cause cascading biological effects and infrastructural failures.

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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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