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A.J.Haywood

World’s largest permafrost river dries to a record low

By The Siberian Times reporter
27 August 2019

Lena River fleet cannot sail after abnormal heat causes 2.5 metre water level drop.

In regional capital Yakutsk the water dropped so suddenly that hundreds of cargo ships and smaller boats were left stranded in the sand. Picture: Ruslan Ochirov

The current water level means critical delays in the summer ritual delivering vital supplies to Arctic settlements in Yakutia, Russia’s biggest region. 

Most of its remote corners are only accessible via water, with the lives of thousands of people depending on this traffic flow - which has been halted for weeks due to the low level of the longest river flowing entirely within Russia. 

In regional capital Yakutsk the water dropped so suddenly that hundreds of cargo ships and smaller boats were left stranded in the sand. 

Elsewhere along the river fishermen complained about an extremely low catch, saying that for days they were coming back home with empty buckets. 

‘However many times I tried fishing with spinning and net, I caught nothing. I am now having to buy fish at shops, and many of us anglers fear that fish will die out in such shallow water’, bemoaned local fishermen Alexander Chigmarev. 

World’s largest permafrost river dries to a record low


World’s largest permafrost river dries to a record low


World’s largest permafrost river dries to a record low

This summer’s drought is the worst in more than 30 years, with local farms and villages staying dry, too, as they take irrigation water from the river. Pictures: Ruslan Ochirov, Yakutia24


It was this summer’s unusual heat that caused the record drought, said Moscow geographer Dr Natalia Frolova who visited Yakutia to observe dramatic changes to water level. 

‘The abnormal heat recorded in Eastern Siberia in July and August, combined with lack of precipitation caused extremely shallow waters’, said Frolova, head of Hydrology at Moscow State University. 

This summer’s drought is the worst in more than 30 years, with local farms and villages staying dry, too, as they take irrigation water from the river. 

This in turn might start a vicious circle of villages getting more affected by wildfires, and wildfires speeding a next cycle of draught.

‘I don’t remember the Lena River ever being so low,’ said a 53 year old native of Yakutsk. 

‘It wasn’t so bad even back in 1987 when water dropped to reveal a tail and body of an American bomber which crashed on one of the islands in 1943.' 

World’s largest permafrost river dries to a record low


World’s largest permafrost river dries to a record low


World’s largest permafrost river dries to a record low


World’s largest permafrost river dries to a record low


World’s largest permafrost river dries to a record low

Lena River fleet cannot sail after abnormal heat causes 2.5 metre water level drop. Pictures: Ruslan Ochirov, Georgiy Andreev


The Lena is Russia’s largest Arctic river after the Yenisei, and the 11th longest in the world. 

Most of its catchment it underlined with permafrost, with 77 per cent of it continuous. 

Most of Yakutia's remote corners are only accessible via water, with the lives of thousands of people depending on this traffic flow - which has been halted for weeks due to the low level of the longest river flowing entirely within Russia

World’s largest permafrost river dries to a record low


World’s largest permafrost river dries to a record low


World’s largest permafrost river dries to a record low


World’s largest permafrost river dries to a record low

Comments (4)

Thanks for the water, we had plenty winter rains, dams about full, going to be a bumper wine harvest, though I prefer drought as that makes the wine tastier.

Flown many time over the Sahara and Namibia desert and you can see they had their regular rain once in a blue moon. The Earth natural washing and recycling process does not give a steady river flow but rather : sometimes you win, sometimes you lose character.
Choke, Cape Town
05/09/2019 03:09
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0
The local weather is becoming so volatile, that the planting, growing and harvesting of foodstuffs is being compromised more and more each year. There could well be mass starvation worldwide long before the ice fully melts causing severe coastal migrations. This is a crisis, an emergency and needs to be treated as such. Business as usual = DEATH!
John Otvos, Woodville/NS/Canada
31/08/2019 02:06
1
0
Here has been so much rain, the fields are too wet to plant, and the temperatures are so relatively cold that what is planted does not grow. What does this mean?
PSylGar, Hallsville,USA
29/08/2019 12:45
1
1
Informative pictures. Thank you.
David B. Benson , Pullman wa USA
28/08/2019 17:23
0
0
1

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