Climatic Changes or Regional Human Activities? Explaining the Environmental Tragedy of Lake Urmia Desiccation
Sina Khatami: On the topic of climate change, there are two camps of politicians absolving themselves from responsibility. Politicians who deny or cast scepticism about the anthropogenic nature of climate change and/or its substantial implications; and those who blame climate change for the detrimental environmental impacts of their policies.
Posing the very question “climatic or regionally induced by humans?”, we investigated the dramatic drying of Lake Urmia over the past decades. Lake Urmia—a unique aquatic ecosystem and UNESCO designated Biosphere Reserve—has shrunk by around 80% of its volume compared to 1970s. Lake Urmia drying is a quintessential example of environmental tragedies happening around the globe.
Analysing ground and satellite hydro-climatic data over the past five decades, we showed that the lake desiccation has been driven by aggressive and unsustainable expansion of agricultural activities and water withdrawals upstream, and that climatic factors have played only a small or negligible role so far. This seminar is based on our work, published in Journal of Hydrology: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2018.12.004.
Sina received his MSc (summa cum laude) in Water Resources from Lund University, Sweden. His MSc thesis, “nonlinear chaotic and trend analyses of water level at Urmia Lake, Iran”, was awarded Sweden’s Best Master Thesis of the Year (2013) in Environmental Sciences. Sina is currently writing his PhD thesis at the Department of Infrastructure Engineering, University of Melbourne, on “improving conceptual hydrologic modelling under uncertainty”. His main areas of research are model evaluation, uncertainty, and the interaction of hydrology and society (socio-hydrology).