Lena Basin, Russia

Data from the GRACE satellites allow scientists to see how fresh water is being redistributed across the continents over time.




AREA: The river basin is 965,255 square miles (2,500,000 km2)

POPULATION: 150,000 (in the region surrounding the river)

GEOGRAPHY: Russia’s Lena River is 2,734 miles (4,400 kilometers) long, making it the tenth longest in the world and the third longest river in Siberia after the Yenisei and Ob rivers. The Lena originates in the Baikal Mountains, south of the Central Siberian Plateau and west of Lake Baikal, and flows northeast until it empties in the Laptev Sea and the Arctic Ocean southwest of the New Siberian Islands. The width of the river valley varies from 1 to 6 miles (2 to 10 kilometers) to about 700 feet (200 meters). The river is covered by ice for much of winter, which dams the river during the spring thaw, causing large-scale flooding.

CLIMATE: Temperatures range from as low as -76° to -94°F (-60° to -70°C), with average air temperatures in January ranging from -22° to -40°F (-30° to -40°C). In July, average temperatures range from 50° to 68°F (10° to 20°C).

ECONOMY: Various crops, including barley, oats, wheat, potatoes and cucumbers, are grown in the lowland regions. There are also large meadows and pastures that support livestock. Large deposits of coal and natural gas as well gold have been mined in the Lena Basin. Rich deposits of diamonds were discovered in 1955 in the western Sakha Republic. A large area of salt beds (about 20 square miles or 52 km2) is found near Olyokminsk, and to the south of Yakutsk there are deposits of iron ore and coking coal. The Lena River also has enormous hydroelectric potential (estimated at some 40 million kilowatts), but only a small part of it has been exploited.

Photo © Landsat 2000


The GRACE data visualization shows changes in total freshwater storage across the landscape for the period January 2007 to March 2009, relative to the average amount of water at that location during this period. The blue colors show regions that are wetter than the average and the red colors show regions that are dryer.


Examine areas in detail: