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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.

Lakes Near the Taklamakan Desert, China

42.0N 87.0E

October 19th, 2009 Category: Lakes

China - September 24th, 2009

China - September 24th, 2009

Several lakes are visible in this image of western China, despite being near to the arid Taklamakan Desert. Of note on the eastern end of the desert is the dry basin of the former Lake Lop Nur, now containing an area of salt fields that appear as a light yet bright blue rectangle.

Visible just north of the Taklamakan desert is Lake Bosten, a dark blue freshwater lake located 57 km northeast of Korla, Xinjiang in the Bayin’gholin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture. With an area of about 1,000 square kilometers, it is the largest lake in Xinjiang.

Further north, appearing greenish in color, is Lake Ulungur, in Fuhai, Xinjiang. Covering an area of 1,035 square kilometers, the lake is one of China’s ten largest freshwater lakes. Lake Ulungur is divided into two sections: Buluntuo Lake and the smaller Jili Lake.

Finally, the lower end of Lake Zaysan, a freshwater lake in eastern Kazakhstan, can be seen in the upper left corner. The ca. 1,810 km² (700 mi²) lake is located in a hollow between the Altai and Tarbagatai Mountains.

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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