Geography and Landscape
Turkmenistan is located in Central Asia. It borders the Caspian Sea and lies between Iran and Kazakhstan. The other countries that border Turkmenistan are Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. The surface area of Turkmenistan is 488,100 square kilometres.
Turkmenistan Satellite photoPhoto: Public Domain
The central and largest part of the country coincides with the huge Karakum or (Black Desert), with a lunar landscape of sand dunes and dry clay. The rest of Turkmenistan has grassland peaks and mountains. The desert sands are below two hundred metres and the coastal area on the Caspian Sea is even below sea level. Only the mountains along the southern and eastern borders are higher than five hundred metres, with Airy-Baba (3730 m) as the highest point.
Kopetdag mountain range, TurkmenistanPhoto: Kharchenko CC 3.0 Unportedno changes made
Extensive and uncontrolled irrigation of the dry, saline land for cotton cultivation brought salt to the surface. The land thus became even saltier, bringing in even more water for irrigation. From the Amu Darya River in north-east Turkmenistan runs the longest irrigation canal in the world (1100 km) through Asgabat to the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan is also involved in the regional problem of the now lifeless Aral Sea. The drying up of this lake, to which Turkmenistan also contributed by extracting irrigation water, is considered a major ecological disaster.
Climate and Weather
Turkmenistan has a continental climate with extremely wide temperature differences. Summers are very hot and in the desert it can get 50 °C or hotter. In the winter it is bitterly cold and freezing. Rainfall is scarce, with the exception of the mountainous areas.
Plants and Animals
In the dry hot climate of the Karakum, only dry desert forests and grasses survive. In the green valleys of the Kopet Dag, grapes, figs and walnuts are harvested, and on the slopes juniper and pistachio trees grow. The national plants of Turkmenistan are cotton and wheat.
The mountains are home to large mammals such as caracals (Persian lynx), mountain goats, porcupines, cheetahs and snow leopards. On the steppes, gazelle, fox, jackal and wildcat can be found, and small, semi-wild dromedaries and herds of caracal sheep roam there. Their lambs are the suppliers of astrakhan wool. Reptiles, such as the Central Asian cobra and the giant monitor lizard (Caspian monitor lizard), rodents, spiders and scorpions are common in the desert. The national animal of Turkmenistan is the akhal-teke horse.
CIA - World Factbook
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