Some pictures in the science community are just breathtaking for all of the wrong reasons. This is definitely one of those pictures. In a time lapse photo from 2000 to 2014 you can watch the Aral Sea in Central Asia dry up, and nearly disappear.

At one time, this was the fourth-largest lake in the world. Sadly though, it’s been shrinking for a little over 50 years now. In the 60’s the Soviet Union started diverting water from the lake to irrigate deserts, and turn them into farmable crop land.

Nasa-images of-aral-sea

When the time lapse photo started in 2000, it’s easy to see that the body of water had already significantly been reduced, and was really a shell of what it once was. However, the transformation was even more dramatic after the year 2000.

At that point, they were already split into the Northern, and Southern Aral Seas. However, as the time lapse moves, you can see that the Southern Aral Sea kept shrinking, and retreating, eventually reducing itself to two small chunks that were only connected by a narrow channel at the top, and at the bottom of the body of water.

However, a drought from 2005 to 2009, combined with an effort to preserve the northern sea, at the expense of the southern sea, and diverting water from those two aforementioned chunks, ultimately were failures.

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The final shot of the time lapse is from August 2014 and shows just how little remains. All that’s left is a tiny sliver of water along the western edge of the original body of water. The impact has been huge, and it has been devastating.

Communities that previously relied on fishing have been destroyed. Farming lands in the surrounding areas have been reduced to crusty rock, thanks to the extreme heat and cold – due to the water being gone, and illness has boomed in the region since.

Bodies of water, especially large bodies of water like this one do more than just provide jobs in fishing, or keep crops watered. They control the climate. Think of them as an air conditioning system in the summer, and a heater in the winter. In the winter, they can create clouds, which ultimately prevents extreme cold, and in the summer obviously maintains lower temperatures due to the lake air.

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The entire region has been paralyzed by the drying up, of this once extreme body of water.