Articles | Volume 16, issue 1
Research article
03 Jan 2012
Research article |  | 03 Jan 2012

Impact of the European Russia drought in 2010 on the Caspian Sea level

K. Arpe, S. A. G. Leroy, H. Lahijani, and V. Khan

Abstract. The hydrological budgets of the Volga basin (VB) and the Caspian Sea (CS) have been analysed. The components of the water balance for the CS were calculated for the period 1993 to 2010 with emphasis on summer 2010 when a severe drought developed over European Russia.

A drop in precipitation over the VB in July 2010 occurs simultaneously with a decrease in evaporation for the same area, an increase of evaporation over the CS itself and a drop of the Caspian Sea level (CSL). The drop in the precipitation over the VB cannot lead to an instantaneous drop of the CSL because the precipitated water needs some months to reach the CS. The delay is estimated here to be 1 to 3 months for excessive precipitation in summer, longer for deficient precipitation and for winter cases. However, the evaporation over the CS itself is considered to be responsible for a simultaneous drop of the CSL from July to September 2010. The impact on the CSL from the precipitation deficit over the VB occurs in the months following the drought. The water deficit from July to September 2010 calculated from the anomalous precipitation minus evaporation over the VB would decrease the CSL by 22 cm, of which only 2 cm had been observed until the end of September (observed Volga River discharge anomaly). So the remaining drop of 20 cm can be expected in the months to follow if no other anomalies happen. In previous studies the precipitation over the VB has been identified as the main cause for CSL changes, but here from a 10 cm drop from beginning of July to end of September, 6 cm can be directly assigned to the enhanced evaporation over the CS itself and 2 cm due to reduced precipitation over the CS.

Further periods with strong changes of the CSL are also investigated, which provide some estimates concerning the accuracy of the analysis data. The investigation was possible due to the new ECMWF interim reanalysis data which are used to provide data also for sensitive quantities like surface evaporation and precipitation. The comparison with independent data and the consistency between such data for calculating the water budget over the CS gives a high confidence in the quality of the data used.

This investigation provides some scope for making forecasts of the CSL few months ahead to allow for mitigating societal impacts.