Caspian Sea 2011

State of the Environment of the Caspian Sea

1926 and 1990 - 382 and 356 km 3 respectively. The average volume of Volga flow during an observed period is 243 km 3 . However, flows are irregular: 30 per cent of annual water flows usually occur dur- ing the three months of spring, while only 11% is accounted for in the winter months (December- March) (Panin 2006). The Fourth National Commu- nication of the Russian Federation notes that, with projected regional increases in temperature and precipitation, annual water flows in the Volga Ba- sin could increase by 30 to 45% (UNFCCC 2009b). Changes and rapid fluctuations of the mean sea level in the Caspian Sea occurred in the late 1970s when, following a long period of rainfalls, sea levels started to rise rapidly. In 1977, the sea level was -29 m, considered to be the lowest in 400 years. In subsequent years, sea levels rose, rising at the rate of +20.4 cm a year between Oc- tober 1992 and June 1995. Then, in mid 1995, the sea level started to drop abruptly, a trend still

els. The Sea is known to have had peaks and lows ranging from +50 m to -80 m over the last 100,000 years – a fluctuation in levels of some 130 meters during the period. At present, most scientists seem to agree that climate change plays a significant role in sea level fluctuations in the Caspian Sea, since tempera- ture increases and changes in precipitation di- rectly impact the overall water balance – termed total inflow and evaporation (Panin 2006). Water inflows into the Caspian Sea are mainly determined by the Volga River, the largest river in the Caspian Basin, contributing more than 80% of total run off. Water levels in the Volga River also fluctuate, reflecting climate conditions and water demand and also influenced by the numbers of res- ervoirs and dams constructed on the river. The Vol- ga’s lowest levels were noted in 1977 and 1937 - 148 and 161 km 3 respectively; the highest levels were in

Selected impacts of climate change in the Caspian basin


On atmosphere

On sea ice



Boundaries of drifting ice during severe winters, late 1990s Boundaries of drifting ice during moderate winters, late 1990s Ice extent (including drifting ice) as of 01 February 2010

Strong increase in temperature during the cold season (more than 4.5 ºC) for 2070-2099 period



On land and sea

Severe desertification



Precipitation increase recorded in 2010 Precipitation decrease recorded in 2010 Risk of flooding due to storm surges and sea level fluctuation


On water basins

River runoff increasing Reduction of water resources due to temperature increase

Caspian Sea







Note: Precipitation variations indicate the increase or decrease between August-October 2010 and August-October’s mean for 1979-2000.





200 km

Sources: Caspian Environment Programme, Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis Revisit, 2007; Panin, G. N., Climate Change and Vulnerability Assessment Report for the Caspian Basin, 2006; Kuderov, T., Climate Change and Vulnerability Assessment Report for Kazakhstan, 2006, and Sea ice cover in the Caspian and Aral Seas, 2004 ; Elguindi N. and Giorgi F. Simulating future Caspian sea level changes using regional climate model outputs, 2006; Global Forest Watch, on-line database, accessed on May 2010; Philippe Rekacevicz, Vital Caspian Graphics, 2006; International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Cmaps on line, accessed november 2010. .






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