Blog

08.23.2019

Climate Change in Iraq Threatens to Wipe Out Years of Progress after Decades of Conflict

By: Maxar Technologies


Read Time: 3 minutes

War-weary Iraqis are cautiously optimistic that reconstruction and economic diversification are finally on horizon after decades of conflict. But planners, policymakers and citizens alike find themselves up against a formidable new enemy: climate change.

In a nation that’s approximately 30 percent desert, average annual temperatures are expected to increase by about 3.5 degrees F by 2050 while average yearly rainfall and available water runoff are both projected to decline sharply. Desertification and salinization of arable land, water shortages and declines in water quality, decreased agricultural yields, and food shortages are already increasing competition for resources and creating internal strife—and standing in the way of desperately needed progress.

How can you visualize the ways in which a changing climate is contributing to a whole new wave of conflicts in Iraq?

This month’s Maxar Spotlight highlights Iraq’s complex climate-related challenges region by region. By compiling and analyzing 5-year and 30-year temperature and precipitation averages across the desert nation, the Spotlight’s analysis demonstrates how our best-in-class satellite imagery, sophisticated automation and advanced modeling tools can influence water management policies and infrastructure development in a country that desperately needs both.

See the complete picture on the ground and from space with this month’s Maxar Spotlight.

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Sneak Peek: (excerpt from Maxar Spotlight Vol. 15)

Mapping changes in available water resources

Water shortages in Iraq began in the 1970s, when Turkey completed the first series of several dam projects on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Based on 2018 estimates by Iraq’s Ministry of Water Resources, the country has lost approximately 30 percent of water volume previously received from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and should anticipate the loss of up to 50 percent of its riparian resources as soon as 2030.

One particular area that has experienced a significant decline in water availability is Razazza Lake, located west of Baghdad. Along with nearby Tharthar and Habbaniyah Lakes, Razazza has been collecting rainwater and providing irrigation channels to Baghdad’s agriculture for decades. But the effects of climate change have impacted the area’s water availability—and as such, more water is being pulled from the lake system than is input. New channels have been created to try and also preserve the fishing in Razazza Lake, but droughts have been devastating.

Maxar’s Intermittent Water capability demonstrates how satellite observations can be used to measure the impact of climate change over a given area. The Intermittent Water layer (below) displays the severity of water loss over time by providing a measurement of how often water was detected with each ground observation over the past 30 years.

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