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Green Saline Lakes in Hyperarid Qaidam Basin, China

38.3N 91.3E

March 30th, 2011 Category: Deserts, Lakes, Mountains

China - March 26th, 2011

Qaidam Basin is a hyperarid basin, visible in the center of this image, that occupies a large part of the Haixi Mongol and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province, western China.

The basin covers an area of approximately 120,000 km2, of which 35,000 km2 are desert, known simply as the Qaidam Basin Desert. The basin is also home to many saline lakes and playas, many of which are visible here as green areas, best observed in the full image.

The Qaidam Basin forms a sort of shelf on the northeast side of the Tibetan Plateau. The Tibetan Plateau is at least 14,000 feet above sea level, while the Qaidam is about 10,000. It is an intermontane basin, i.e. it is surrounded on all sides by mountain ranges, many of which are capped in snow in this image.

In the south, the Kunlun Mountains separate it from the higher central section of the Tibetan Plateau. In the north, a number of smaller ridges separate the basin from another higher plateau, which is known for its northern escarpment, the Qilian Mountains. In the northwest, the Altyn-Tagh separates the Qaidam Basin from the Kumtagh Desert of southeastern Xinjiang.

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