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

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe to Geographical!

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

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

  • 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...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The green dragon awakens
    China has achieved remarkable economic success following the principle of developing first and cleaning up later. But now the country with the world's...
    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...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...

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...

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…

Water

Millions of Americans are living in areas at high-risk of…

Mapping

New interactive maps combine precipitation and temperature to show climate…

Cities

Public transport in India could be on the verge of…

Water

To retrace the route of the fur voyageurs on the waterways…

Cities

IPCC Cities and Climate Change Conference: Alberta host dresses non-renewable…

Water

Increased carbon dioxide is affecting freshwater ecosystems

Forests

The latest laser scanning technology reveals new insights into the…

Forests

Deforestation is having an unexpected effect in the Amazon: fewer…

Forests

The iconic Douglas fir tree, familiar to fans of the…

Forests

Rocky Mountain forests are not regenerating after wildfires