Lake Urmia Shrinkage and its Effect on the Settlement of the Surrounding Areas Investigated Using Radar and Optical Satellite Images
Abstract:With a total area of more than 50000 km^2 Lake Urmia basin in northwest of Iran was once one of the biggest salt lakes in the world. The lake has been shrinking in the recent years, losing in turn dramatically its area. A lot of factors have been attributed to this shrinking including construction of dams on the rivers feeding the lake and overexploitation of groundwater for agricultural and industrial purposes. In this study we first utilized time-series analysis of Landsat images to precisely quantify surface changes in the region between 1984 and 2013. We then analyzed a number of SAR images from 2002 to 2014 including 30 ASAR images from Envisat, 10 PALSAR images from ALOS, and more than 35 TerraSAR-X (TSX) in both Stripmap and Spot modes to assess surface ground deformation. Ground deformation was evaluated for both agricultural regions around the lake and Lake Urmia Causeway (LUC), connecting two provinces of East and West Azerbaijan on both sides of the lake. The InSAR results of the LUC embankments is further investigated using Finite Element approach to better understand the relation between soil parameters, lake level changes and settlement of the LUC.
The classification results using optical imagery analysis show that human and anthropogenic activities have resulted in shrinking of Lake Urmia by more than 60% over the past 30 years. The agricultural areas around the lake are dominated by ground subsidence reaching to 10 cm/yr in places. The LUC embankments also show large deformation with peak settlement of more than 5 cm/yr over the last decade. FEM simulation shows that consolidation due to dissipation of excess pore pressure in embankments can satisfactorily explain its surface deformation.