One of the most fascinating deserts in the world can be found in East Asia.
In this post, you’ll discover our top 10 list of interesting facts about the Gobi Desert!
1. The desert is located within the borders of 2 countries
The Gobi Desert is a massive desert located in East Asia. It’s located within the borders of both China and Mongolia.
It covers large parts of Northern and Northeastern China and runs all across the southern border of Mongolia with China.
The capital of Mongolia is Ulaanbaatar and is located just to the north of the eastern part of the desert.
2. The Gobi Desert covers a huge area
As the desert stretches all across the southern part of Mongolia, a fairly large country in Asia, it reaches a maximum length of 1,500 kilometers (930 miles).
The desert is at its widest point in the central part and reaches a maximum width of 800 kilometers (500 miles).
Altogether, the Gobi Desert covers an area of 1,295,000 square kilometers (500,000 square miles) a huge area!
3. It’s the second-largest desert in all of Asia
As it covers such a large area, the desert is the 6th-largest desert in the world. One of the most amazing facts about the Gobi Desert is that it’s also the 2nd-largest desert in all of Asia as only the Arabian Desert is larger with an area of 2,300,000 square kilometers (almost 900,000 square miles).
Only the following deserts are larger in size than the two largest in Asia:
- Antarctic Polar Desert
- Arctic Polar Desert
- Sahara Desert
- Australian Desert (which includes the Great Victoria Desert)
4. It’s referred to as a rain shadow desert
The desert is bounded by several other natural features, including:
- The Altai Mountains on the north.
- The grasslands and steppes of Mongolia on the north.
- The Taklamakan Desert to the west.
- The Tibetan Plateau to the southwest.
- The North China Plain to the southeast.
The reason why the area of the Gobi Desert is so arid is that the precipitation coming from the Indian Ocean is blocked by the Tibetan Plateau, an area that contains the highest mountain ranges on the planet.
Because of this, the Gobi Desert is defined as a rain shadow desert in which the mountains literally cast a “shadow of dryness” in a particular region.
5. The desert is divided into 5 distinct ecoregions
Based on the geography and topography of the desert, we can divide it into 5 distinct ecoregions:
- Eastern Gobi desert steppe – The eastern part of the desert that covers an area of 281,800 square kilometers (108,804 square miles).
- Alashan Plateau semi-desert – A low mountainous area to the west and southwest of the Eastern Gobi desert steppe.
- Gobi Lakes Valley desert steppe – The area to the north of Alashan Plateau semi-desert.
- Dzungarian Basin semi-desert – A desert basin lying between two mountain ranges, the Altai Mountains to the north and the Tian Shan range to the south.
- Tian Shan range – A mountain range referred to as the “Mountains of Heaven” which separates the Dzungarian Basin semi-desert from the Taklamakan Desert to the west of the Gobi Desert.
The Eastern Gobi desert steppe used to be a very important area consisting of many trade routes that existed for thousands of years going from China to Ulaanbataar. We can also find remains here of the Great Wall of China.
6. The Gobi Desert is expanding because of desertification
One of the most fascinating facts about the Gobi Desert is that it’s actually expanding rapidly because of desertification. This is a process that turns fertile land into an arid desert landscape.
The loss of the biological productivity of an area is certainly not a good thing. The grasslands going into China from the southern border of Mongolia are overtaken at a rate of 3,600 square kilometers (1,390 square miles) per year, which is quite an alarming rate.
The reason that the desertification process is accelerating is mostly because of human behavior. To counter this, the Chinese government has started a program called the “Three-North Shelter Forest Program,” alternatively known as the “Green Great Wall,” which consists of planting trees at the edges of the desert to stop the desertification process.
7. A controversial gold and copper mine is located within the desert
The desert is extremely rich in natural resources such as gold and copper. These are now actively being mined by a company called the “Rio Tinto Group,” an Anglo-Australian multinational.
This company is the world’s second-largest metal and mining corporation. Multiple members of the Mongolian parliament feel that the conditions in which the company is allowed to mine the resources in their country aren’t fair.
The company invested about $12 billion and earns as much as 30% of Mongolia’s entire gross domestic product.
The main controversy revolves around the question of whether or not Mongolia actually benefits enough from the mine or not, and whether or not the company will pay adequate taxes.
8. The temperatures in the desert can change rapidly
One of the most remarkable facts about the Gobi Desert is that the temperatures can change rapidly over the course of 24 hours. The desert is overall cold, but some areas can have temperatures of up to 45 °C (113 °F) in the summer.
Most of the desert is located on a plateau at a height of between 910 and 1,520 meters (2,990 and 4,990 feet) above sea level and relatively far north. Frost and snowfall aren’t uncommon in the desert, even though the annual precipitation is only about 194 millimeters (7.6 inches) on average.
The winter months can be extremely cold when the wind from the Siberian Steppes sweeps across it, lowering the temperatures to down to −40 °C (−40 °F)!
9. The first dinosaur eggs were found in the Gobi Desert
The Gobi Desert is famous in history because the first-ever dinosaur eggs were found here in the year 1923 by an American Museum of Natural History crew. This archaeological discovery consists of 26 eggs which had a length of almost 23 centimeters (9 inches) each.
These eggs were originally mistaken for eggs of a herbivore called Protoceratops, an animal that abundantly lived in the area. They were later identified, however, as oviraptor eggs, a bird-like land animal with the size of the average dog.
Apart from dinosaurs millions of years ago, a lot of animals still live in the desert today. These include but are not limited to snow leopards, Gobi bears, and even wolves!.
10. It’s the venue for a popular new sporting event
The so-called “The Gobi Desert Cup” is an endurance race with a total length of 480 kilometers (300 miles) and completed in 6 days. It’s a sporting event as well as a chance to learn the culture of Inner Mongolia.
The competitors don’t have the run but actually, complete the distance on the back of Mongolian horses. The Gobi Desert Cup is described as “being surrounded by the magic of Mongolia while making lifelong friends during a life-changing experience.”