The large eastern embayment of the Caspian Sea, the Zaliv Kara-Bogaz-Gol,
provides astronauts the chance to observe several oceanographic phenomena. This
view taken by the STS-111 crew from the Space Shuttle in June 2002 shows the sun
reflecting off the surface waters that surround the spit that defines the Zaliv
Kara-Bogaz-Gol from the open Caspian Sea. The sunglint reveals the flow of
fresher water through the spit channel and into the bay. Old shorelines and
accretionary features can be seen on the spit, as well as the dam that was
constructed in 1980 to stop the flow into the lower Kara-Bogaz-Gol
The Caspian Sea has experienced dramatic changes in water levels throughout
the past 100 years. From the 1930s until 1978, the water levels in the Caspian
had dropped nearly 3 m. In 1980, in response to the rapidly dropping sea level,
a dam was constructed to prevent water from flowing into the shallow and
restricted Kara-Bogaz-Gol basin, resulting in the drying up of the bay. The dam
was partially opened a few years later, and completely opened in 1992 when
Caspian water levels started to rise quickly. Today, sea levels are more than
2.6 m higher than the 1978 levels, and, as shown here, water flows freely into
the salty waters of the Zaliv Kara-Bogaz-Gol. Astronauts have also been
documenting the coastlines around the Caspian Sea that have been impacted by the
large sea level fluctuations.
This view shows the sun reflecting off the surface waters that surround the spit that defines the Zaliv Kara-Bogaz-Gol from the open Caspian Sea. The sunglint reveals the flow of fresher water through the spit channel and into the bay.
A hazy plume drifted over the northern end of the Caspian Sea in early April 2008. The translucent plume swirling over the water contrasts with the nearby opaque white clouds. The plume might result partly from smoke from springtime agricultural fires in farmland north of the sea.