Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Gobi's expansion due to rising mountains

Gobi Desert Ranges Gobi Desert Ranges Shutterstock
01 Feb
2014
The expansion of the Gobi desert in Central Asia was caused by the emergence of the Hangay and Altai ranges, according to a new study

Previously, it was thought that uplift of the Himalaya and the Tibetan plateau about 45 million years ago was responsible for the desert’s dry climate, as they blocked the flow of moisture-laden air from the Indian Ocean. However, newly analysed soil samples suggest that much of the desert dried out more recently.

A team of scientists from Stanford and Rocky Mountain College in Montana measured the relative level of carbon isotopes in samples collected in Mongolia, using the results as a proxy for past rainfall. The data showed a decline 30 million years ago when the Hangay mountains emerged, and a further dip five to ten million years ago during the formation of the Altai range. ‘What these smaller mountains did was expand the Gobi north and west into Mongolia,’ said Jeremy Caves, who was involved in the study.

The study suggests that the two ranges, which are located to the north of the Gobi, created a rain shadow, blocking wetter air from entering Central Asia. ‘As a result, the northern and western sides of these ranges are wet,’ said Caves, ‘while the southern and eastern sides are dry.’

This story was published in the February 2014 edition of Geographical Magazine

Related items

Subscribe to Geographical!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • Natural Capital: Putting a price on nature
    Natural capital is a way to quantify the value of the world that nature provides for us – the air, soils, water, even recreational activity. Advocat...
    The Human Game – Tackling football’s ‘slave trade’
    Few would argue with football’s position as the world’s number one sport. But as Mark Rowe discovers, this global popularity is masking a sinister...
    Essential oil?
    Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many circles it is considered the scourge of the natural world, for the deforestation and habita...
    Mexico City: boom town
    Twenty years ago, Mexico City was considered the ultimate urban disaster. But, recent political and economic reforms have transformed it into a hub of...
    Hung out to dry
    Wetlands are vital storehouses of biodiversity and important bulwarks against the effects of climate change, while also providing livelihoods for mill...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Water

Glacial melt is increasing  land instability in mountainous regions, with huge tsunamis…

Mapping

A large-scale terrain mapping project makes Antarctica the best-mapped continent…

Water

New research reveals that microplastics can survive in mosquitos from…

Cities

New research measures the ability of major cities to re-use…

Deserts

Biosphere 2 was one of the most ambitious experiments in…

Forests

High-quality, affordable drones can revolutionise the way that landscape and…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig charts the impact of volcanoes on nearby human…

Mapping

A volunteer-led digital mapping project is at the heart of…

Cities

As the planet urbanises, attention is turning towards the most…

Forests

Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many…

Cities

A rising number of cruise ships and their ‘overlooked’ diesel…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig charts the growth and impact of the world’s…

Deserts

Long-term studies reveal the Sahara desert has expanded substantially over…

Water

South America’s wealthiest economy is at a crossroads between environmental…

Forests

The European Court of Justice finds the logging of a…

Mountains

In this extract from his new book, Tides, mountain climber…

Cities

New data from the World Health Organization reveals that nine…

Water

In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan,…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig maps out the global production and distribution levels…