Iran’s Lake Urmia Has Suddenly Turned Blood Red

Posted: Aug 6 2016, 11:12am CDT | by , Updated: Aug 8 2016, 9:31pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Iran’s Lake Urmia has Suddenly Turned Blood Red
Courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory

Iran's famous lake has completely transformed from bright green to blood red color in almost no time.

Iran’s famous Lake Urmia has been drying out rapidly over the past few decades. According to a report, the lake has shrunk by 90% since 1970s and now another problem has been detected in it. NASA’s Aqua satellite has recently captured several sharply defined views of the lake from miles above the surface and has found that Lake Urmia has completely transformed from bright green to blood red. The reason is algae and bacterial blooms (algae called Dunaliella and bacteria known as Halobacteriaceae) across the lake.

As the lake is reducing in size, it is getting more saltier and becoming a playground for the algae and these algae are causing to turn lake water in blood red. This shift in color is not a new thing for Lake Urmia and occurs with seasonal patterns. 

The water levels are usually low in summer and increased evaporation accelerates the saltiness of the lake which ultimately results in more algae blooms and red color. Spring, on the other hand, is the wettest season in northwestern Iran. A combination of rain and melting snow during springs sends the surge of fresh water and stabilize the pristine state of lake. But scientists suspect recurrence of droughts and warming temperatures will make this color shift more frequent. 

“Previous research suggests that Dunaliella salina is responsible for reddening of Lake Urmia. In the marine environment Dunaliella salina appears green; however, in conditions of high salinity and light intensity, the microalgae turn red due to the production of protective carotenoids in the cells,” Mohammad Tourian from University of Stuttgart explains.

NASA has captured the staggering transformation from bright green to dark red color of the lake between April and July. The image taken on April 23 shows lake in beautiful green color while the July 18 image reveals an altogether different color.

Lake Urmia is located in northwestern Iran and was once used to be the largest lake in Middle East. Well-directed efforts are needed to maintain its orginal ecosystem and state.

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The Author

Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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