Environmental Deterioration in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe

Environmental Deterioration in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe

Environmental Deterioration in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe

Environmental Deterioration in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe

Excerpt

Philip P. Micklin

The level of the Caspian Sea in the USSR, the world's largest lake, has been steadily declining for four decades (see Map 5.1). By the late 1960s, average sea level was three meters lower than it was in 1929. Pronounced, long-term level changes are not unusual for the Caspian. Historical and archeological evidence augurs that the sea's level has fluctuated at least eight meters over the last two millennia. However, the recent drop is the most severe in five centuries and has occurred against the background of an industrializing society. Consequently, it has caused considerable economic dislocation and raised the utmost concern within the Soviet government and scientific community.

CLIMATIC AND HUMAN CAUSES

The major cause of the level fall is a marked reduction in river inflow, particularly from the Volga, which contributes, on the average, 78 percent of overall surface discharge to the Caspian. Changes in other elements of the water balance -- ground water influx, precipitation on and evaporation from the sea's surface, and outflow to the lower lying Gulf of Kara-Bogaz-Gol -- have not contributed appreciably to the decline. Explaining the reduction of river discharge is more complex. Climatic factors have obviously played a prime role. Winter precipitation over the northern Volga Basin, the chief flow-generating area for the Caspian, has been generally lower since 1930 than in previous years. This departure was most pronounced from 1930 to 1940, the period of the most rapid level drop. Altered atmospheric circulation over the European USSR has been connected with the precipitation diminution.

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