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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.

Tarim River North of Taklamakan Desert Dunes, China

40.9N 86.7E

July 13th, 2009 Category: Rivers

China - June 24th, 2009

China - June 24th, 2009

The Tarim River is the principal river of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China. It gives its name to the arid Tarim Basin.

Formed from the union of the Aksu River and Yarkand River, it flows in an eastward direction around the Taklamakan Desert for most of its length. Here, the tall sand dunes of the desert can be seen below the river.

It is the longest inland river in China, with a total length of 2,030 km (or 1,260 mi) and an annual flow of 4-6 billion cubic meters. However, it is shallow and unsuitable for navigation.

The Tarim River itself actively migrates, meaning its beds and banks shift. Due to its heavy silt load, it forms a braided stream near its terminus at the Godzareh depression.

It used to drain into Lake Lop Nur, China’s “Wandering Lake”, but irrigation works and reservoirs created on the river’s middle reaches, such as those visible as a dark area at the top center, caused the disappearance of the lake around 1970.

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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