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Sand Dunes in Southern Kazakhstan

May 5th, 2009 Category: Snapshots

Kazakhstan - April 9th, 2009

Kazakhstan - April 9th, 2009

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Close-up 2

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Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world as well as the world’s largest landlocked country, with a territory of 2,727,300 km² (greater than Western Europe).

Vast in size, the land in Kazakhstan is very diverse in types of terrain: flatlands, steppes, taigas, rock-canyons, hills, deltas, snow-capped mountains, and deserts.

This image focuses on such diverse terrain in the southern part of the country. The snow capped mountains at the bottom quickly slope down into a valley containing numerous fields.

This agricultural area suddenly gives way to sandy desert and a large sea of dunes, best observed in the close-ups. Continuing north, the terrain remains arid, finally reaching the bright turquoise southern tip of Lake Balqash.

Lakes in Kazakhstan and Kyrgystan

May 2nd, 2009 Category: Lakes

Kazakhstan - April 9th, 2009

Kazakhstan - April 9th, 2009

This image highlights several of the lakes in the southeastern part of Kazakhstan and in the northeastern area of Kyrgyzstan.

The large, dark blue lake in the lower right quadrant is Lake Issyk Kul. Surrounded by the snow-covered peaks of the Tian Shan Mountains in eastern Kyrgyzstan, it nevertheless is ice free. In fact, Issyk Kul never freezes, remaining true to its name, which translates to “warm lake”.

The large lake in the upper section is Lake Balqash, in southeastern Kazakhstan. It appears covered with some ice. Balqash is part of the same basin that includes the Caspian and Aral Seas.

Like the Aral Sea, diversion of water from the rivers feeding Lake Balqash is causing it to shrink. This is a great cause of environmental concern, as many species living in the lake are becoming extinct due to water pollution, which has intensified due to the lake’s decrease in size.

One such river that has been diverted is the Ili River, which was dammed in 1970 to form the Kapchagayskoye Reservoir, the greenish lake visible between Lake Balqash and Lake Issyk Kul.

Dust Storm over China’s Taklamakan Desert

March 25th, 2009 Category: Dust Storms

Dust storm over Taklamakan Desert, China - March 25th, 2009

Dust storm over Taklamakan Desert, China - March 25th, 2009

Sand from a dust storm blows over the westernmost parts of the Taklamakan Desert in China’s Xinjiang region (click here for more articles on dust storms in this area).

The desert is bounded by the snow-capped Kunlun Mountains to the south, and the Tian Shan Mountain Range to the west and north. The dust storm appears contained by the mountain ranges.

Above the Tian Shan Range, two lakes are visible: the smaller, turquoise Kapchagayskoye Reservoir, and the larger Lake Balqash in southeastern Kazakhstan.

After the basin of the Aral Sea, the Taklaman and Gobi deserts in China represent the second biggest sources of dust on Earth. Blowing sands can reach all the way to China’s east coast, affecting cities such as Beijing. In the past, the Pacific Trade Winds have even carried dust from the Taklaman as far as Washington, DC, and the Alps.

Some environmental scientists believe that the dust problem in China is getting worse, reports C. Edwards from Geographical. Changes in wind and rainfall patterns in the Taklaman and Gobi deserts could be releasing more particles into the atmosphere.