Dust Storm over Pakistan
Pakistan covers 340,403 square miles (881,640 km²), approximately the combined land areas of France and the United Kingdom, with its eastern regions located on the Indian tectonic plate and the western and northern regions on the Iranian plateau and Eurasian landplate. Apart from the 1,046 kilometre (650 mi) Arabian Sea coastline, Pakistan’s land borders total 6,774 kilometres – 2,430 kilometres (1,509 mi) with Afghanistan to the northwest, 523 kilometres (325 mi) with China to the northeast, 2,912 kilometres (1,809 mi) with India to the east and 909 kilometres (565 mi) with Iran to the southwest.
The different types of natural features range from the sandy beaches, lagoons, and mangrove swamps of the southern coast to preserved beautiful moist temperate forests and the icy peaks of the Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountains in the north. There are an estimated 108 peaks above 7,000 metres (23,000 ft) high that are covered in snow and glaciers. Five of the mountains in Pakistan (including Nanga Parbat) are over 8,000 metres (26,000 ft). Indian-controlled Kashmir to the Northern Areas of Pakistan and running the length of the country is the Indus River with its many tributaries. The northern parts of Pakistan attract a large number of foreign tourists. To the west of the Indus are the dry, hilly deserts of Balochistan; to the east are the rolling sand dunes of the Thar Desert. The Tharparkar desert in the southern province of Sindh, is the only fertile desert in the world. Most areas of Punjab and parts of Sindh are fertile plains where agriculture is of great importance.
The climate varies as much as the scenery, with cold winters and hot summers in the north and a mild climate in the south, moderated by the influence of the ocean. The central parts have extremely hot summers with temperatures rising to 45 °C (113 °F), followed by very cold winters, often falling below freezing. Officially the highest temperature recorded in Pakistan is 50.55 °C (122.99 °F) at Pad Idan. There is very little rainfall ranging from less than 250 millimetres to more than 1,250 millimetres (9.8–49.2 in), mostly brought by the unreliable south-westerly monsoon winds during the late summer. The construction of dams on the rivers and the drilling of water wells in many drier areas have temporarily eased water shortages at the expense of down-gradient populations.