In Search of Water

In Search of Water


Lut Desert, IranThis March, UCI environmental engineer Amir AghaKouchak headed to Iran’s Lut Desert, where temps can climb to 159 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer (the hottest satellite reading of ground temperature ever).

Many assumed that any form of existence in the Lut would be impossible, but AghaKouchak and fellow researchers from around the world have found a fascinating web of life there, including insects, reptiles and foxes. They think migratory birds felled by the heat may be a key food source and, perhaps most surprisingly, discovered shallow water just beneath the desert’s surface.

Via the fieldwork and satellite data, AghaKouchak, a hydrologist, is exploring the origin of the water and how it contributes to the ecosystem in the desolate Lut. One of the team’s main objectives is to understand how species cope with rising temperatures and extreme environments.

It’s also an amazing part of the planet. “The sky is beautiful, and the landscape is astonishing,” AghaKouchak says, describing the wind-formed pillars known as the Kaluts. “It’s nice and quiet.”