Influence of the Aral Sea negative water balance on its seasonal circulation patterns: use of a 3D hydrodynamic model
A 3D hydrodynamic model of the Aral Sea was successfully implemented to address the complex hydrodynamic changes induced by the combined effect of hydrologic and climatic change in the Aral region. The first barotropic numerical experiments allowed us to produce a comparative description of the mean general seasonal circulation patterns corresponding to the original situation (1956-1960) and of the average situation for the period from 1981 to 1985, a very low river flow period. The dominant anticyclonic circulation suggested by our seasonal simulation is in good agreement with previous investigations. In addition, this main anticyclonic gyre was shown to be stable and clearly established from February to September, while winter winds led to another circulation scenario. In winter, the main anticyclonic gyre was considerably limited, and cyclonic circulations appeared in the deep western basin and in the northeast of the shallow basin. In contrast, stronger anticyclonic circulation was observed in the Small Aral Sea during winter. As a consequence of the 10-m sea level drop observed between the two periods considered, the 1981-1985 simulation suggests an intensification of seasonal variability. Total water transport of the main gyre was reduced with sea level drop by a minimum of 30% in May and up to 54% in September. Before 1960, the study of the net flows through Berg and Kokaral Straits allowed us to evaluate the component of water exchange between the Small and the Large Seas linked with the general anticyclonic circulation around Kokaral Island. This exchange was lowest in summer (with a mean anticyclonic exchange of 222 m 3/s for July and August), highest in fall and winter (with a mean value of 1356 m 3/s from September to February) and briefly reversed in the spring (mean cyclonic circulation of 316 m 3/s for April and May). In summer, the water exchange due to local circulation at the scale of each strait was comparatively more important because net flows through the straits were low. After about 20 years of negative water balance, the western Kokaral Strait was dried up and the depth of Berg Strait was reduced from 15 to 5 m. Simulation indicated a quasi-null net transport, except during the seasonal modification of the circulation pattern, in February and October. A limited, but stable, water exchange of about 100 m 3/s remained throughout the year, as a result of the permanent superposition of opposite currents.