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Potassium Chloride Factory by Lop Lake Basin, China

40.5N 90.5E

January 9th, 2012 Category: Deserts, Lakes

China - January 6th, 2012

Visible just above the center of this image is Lop Lake or Lop Nur, a group of small, now seasonal salt lake sand marshes between the Taklamakan and Kuruktag deserts in the Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, southeastern portion of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China.

The lake system into which the Tarim River and Shule River empty is the last remnant of the historical post-glacial Tarim Lake, which once covered more than 10,000 km2 (3,900 sq mi) in the Tarim Basin. Lop Nur is hydrologically endorheic—it is landbound and there is no outlet. The lake system has largely dried up from its 1928 measured area of 3,100 km2 (1,200 sq mi) and the desert has spread by windblown sandy loess. This has shifted the lake system 30 to 40 kilometres (19 to 25 mi) westwards during the past 40 years. The rectangular, teal area just above the dry basin is a potassium chloride factory.

 

Lake Nur Between Deserts in China

40.3N 90.8E

October 6th, 2011 Category: Deserts, Salt Flats

China - October 3rd, 2011

This image of China shows the eastern part of the Taklamakan Desert (light tan, left) and the Kuruktag Desert (darker and more orange tan, right). Located between the two is Lop Lake (Lop Nur), a group of small, now seasonal salt lake sand marshes.

The group of lakes appears as an indentation that is slightly darker in color than its surroundings. On the northern edge is a rectangular, teal green area, a Potassium chloride factory on salt pans in Lop Nur.

Salt Pans by Former Lake Lop Nur, China

40.5N 90.5E

March 6th, 2011 Category: Deserts

China - February 13th, 2011

Situated between the Taklamakan and Kuruktag deserts, in the southeastern portion of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China, are the now seasonal salt lake sand marshes of the former Lake Lop Nur.

The teal and green rectangular form in this area is a field of salt pans. While the desert in the basin by the salt evaporation pans and lake bed appears mostly flat, many high vertical rows of sand dunes can be observed to the south.

Salt Fields on Dry Lake Bed of Lop Nur, China

40.0N 90.0E

April 12th, 2010 Category: Lakes, Salt Flats

China - March 5th, 2010

China - March 5th, 2010

The curved indentation towards the center of this image was once home to Lake Lop Nur, between between the Taklamakan (left) and Kuruktag (right) deserts in China.  In the 1950’s, the lake had a surface area of about 2,000 square km (770 square miles); however, all that has remained since the 1970’s is the dry, salt-encrusted lake bed.

Lop Nur is also known as “The Wandering Lake”, since changes in the balance between rainfall and evaporation  used to cause it to change considerably in both size and position. The green, rectangular area in the lake bed is a salt field and salt refining facility, constructed in 2002.

Salt Fields in Former “Wandering” Lake Lop Nur, China – May 13th, 2009

40.2N 90.6E

May 13th, 2009 Category: Climate Change, Image of the day

Lake Lop Nur, China - May 1st, 2009

Lake Lop Nur, China - May 1st, 2009

ASAR image of Lop Nur - May 11th, 2009

ASAR image of Lop Nur - May 11th, 2009

This area between the Taklamakan (left) and Kuruktag (right) deserts in China, was once the location of Lake Lop Nur.

Now, all that remains of this former saline lake is a salt-encrusted lake bed, visible as a curved indentation in the center of the main image.

Lop Nur earned the nickname of “The Wandering Lake” as it used to change greatly in size and position, depending on the balance between rainfall water yield and evaporation. In the 1950s, the lake occupied roughly 2,000 square km (770 square miles).

Salt fields - MERIS image

Salt fields - MERIS image

However, the lake ceased to exist by about 1970, due to climate change and human exploitation of water resources for agriculture, particularly after irrigation works and reservoirs were completed on the middle reaches of the Tarim River, one of its former tributaries.

Salt fields - ASAR image

Salt fields - ASAR image

The close-ups focus on a salt field and salt refining facility constructed in the lake bed in 2002. The ASAR image is sharper as it is magnified by a factor of three, while the color MERIS image by a factor of five.

The bluish color of the salt fields in the MERIS image indicates the presence of water. As many salt rocks remain in the dried-up lake, salt could be refined by the wet-mining (dissolving mining) or gushing-well methods.

Between 1964 and 1996, the area was also used as a nuclear test site, with 45 underground and atmospheric nuclear tests conducted in that period. The first Chinese nuclear bomb test, codenamed “596”, was carried out at Lop Nur in 1964. The first Chinese thermonuclear detonation was performed there on December 27, 1968.

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