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The Natural Environment

Plains and Deserts

Plains occupy more land area in Asia than any other type of physical feature. Most of the western and northeastern parts of Russian Asia consist of plains. Other large plains include those of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Southwest Asia, the Ganges River in northern India, the Mekong River in Southeast Asia, and the Yangtze River in China.

Deserts are a feature of the Asian interior north of the Himalayas and large parts of Southwest Asia, especially the Arabian Peninsula. There the Syrian Desert, a plateau strewn with rock and gravel, spreads through southern Syria, northeastern Jordan, and western Iraq. Farther to the south, in southern Saudi Arabia, lies the Rub‘ al Khali (Empty Quarter). It is the largest continuous body of sand in the world.

Large deserts are also spread throughout Central Asia. The Garagum (Turkic for “black sand”) occupies most of Turkmenistan. Southern Kazakhstan and northern Uzbekistan share the Qyzylkum (Turkic for “red sand”), which lies southeast of the Aral Sea.

Stretching east across Mongolia and into China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region is the Gobi, a cold, high plateau with an average elevation of 900 m (3,000 ft). Southwest of the Gobi is the Takla Makan Desert in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China. Both deserts are in the rain shadow of the Himalayas, which blocks the movement of moist air from the Indian Ocean.

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