ASIA: GEOGRAPHICAL AND NATURAL ENVIRONMENT

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Introduction

Asia, the world’s largest continent, covers an area of 16,838,365 sq miles (43,608,000 s km). There are 49 separate countries. This continent occupies about one-third of he total land area of the world. About 60% of the world’s population lives in Asia. A very outstanding feature of Asia is the great variety and diversity in physical, cultural and economic characteristics. This is the reason why Asia is known as “The continent of contrast”.

Pic: Geographical Map Of Asia

Location

 Except the island chain in the South Asia lies almost completely in the Northern hemisphere and Eastern hemisphere. It is separated from Europe by Ural Mountains and Caspian Sea in the West. It is bounded by the Arctic Ocean in the North, Pacific Ocean in the East, Indian Ocean in the South respectively. The longitudinal extension of Asia is 25°E to 180°E and latitudinal extension is 10°S to 80°N. The highest mountain peak in the world, Mt. Everest (8,848 m above sea level) and world’s lowest part, Dead Sea (394 m below sea level) also lie in Asia. The world’s largest lake, Caspian Sea (371,000 sq km) and the world’s deepest lake, Lake Baikal (1,620 m deep) also lie in Asia.

Physical Features

Asia can be broadly divided into six physical regions.

1. The Northern Lowlands: The Northern Lowlands extend from Ural Mountain in the West to the Bering Strait in the North-West. It is a vast stretch of low lying lands towards the Northern flanks of Asia. These plains have been formed by the Ob, Yenisey and Lena rivers which flow Northwards into the Arctic Ocean. It is also known as the Great Siberian Plain. The temperature is extreme cold. It reaches up to -30°C in winter.

Pic: Ural Mountains

2. The Central Mountains and Plateaus: The Central Mountains lie toward the South of Northern Lowlands of Asia. It is a complex system of fold mountain ranges. The Himalayas, The Kunlun and Tien Shan, The Karakoram, The Suleiman, The Elburz, etc are some of the important mountain ranges of this region. The world’s highest peak Mt. Everest (8,848 m) lies in the Himalayas of Central Mountains. This region also comprises of plateaus in between the mountain ranges known as the intermountain plateaus. The plateau of Tibet is the world’s highest plateau which is also known as the “Roof of the World”, lies between the Kunlun and the Himalayas. As it lies in the rain shadow region and far from sea, it is like semi-desert.

Pic: Karakoram Mountains

3. The Southern Plateaus: These plateaus lie to the South of the Central Mountains. Some of the important plateaus of this region are the Arabian Plateau, the Deccan Plateau and the Shan and Yunan Plateaus. They are formed of old hard rocks.

4. The Great River Valleys: Asia is known for the many large rivers that rise from the high mountain ranges. The valley of these rivers are very fertile and therefore, densely populated. Infact, these river valley plains are known for the growth and development of many great civilizations in the past. Some of the large and important river valleys of this region are the ones made by Tigris, Euphrates, Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Menam, Yangtse and Hwang Ho rivers.

Pic: Tigris River

5. The South Eastern Island Chains: To the East and South-East of mainland of Asia lies a chain of islands. These groups of island are also known as the archipelago of Asia. Some of the island of this region includes the Japanese Island, the island of Philippines, Indonesia, etc. There is tropical and temperate monsoon climate in this region

6. South West Desert Region: There is a dry region in the South West Asia. There are hot deserts in this region. Middle-East Asia and Thar Desert are located there. Tropical desert climate is found in this region.

Pic: Thar Desert

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CLIMATE

Asia is the largest continent having a great East-West extent. It also has a great latitudinal extension that stretches it from the torrid, temperate and frigid zones of the Earth. Many parts of Asia are far from the influence of seas and oceans. These areas experience extreme conditions and continental climate. Places lying close to the coasts experiences a more pleasant and equable climate. The high mountain ranges of Asia running almost East-West forms a barrier to the on-shore moisture bearing winds and brings rainfall to most parts of Asia. It also prevents the icy cold winds from penetrating from the North and keeps most of South Asia warmer.

Pic: Winter In China

The climate of Asia is diverse, ranging from hot-wet equatorial to cold and dry tundra climate. The countries like Indonesia and Malaysia of South-East Asia lie close to the equator. They have equatorial climate which is hot and wet throughout the year. While, most parts of South Asia experiences tropical monsoon climate. The South-West Asia has tropical desert climate, whereas, the Central Asia has extreme climate as there is no influence of any sea or oceans. The temperate desert or the cold deserts of Asia are found in Central Asia. The Northernmost part of Asia lies in the frigid or the cold zone. It is very cold in winter and warm in summer.

NATURAL VEGETATION

 Due to a diverse climate experienced all over Asia, a great variety of vegetation and wildlife are found here. The countries of quatorial belt of Asia Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines have dense evergreen forests. These forests have evergreen hardwood and broad-leaved trees such as mahogany, ebony, rosewood, etc with thick under growths like grasses, creepers, climbers, etc. The monsoon forests of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam have deciduous forests. These trees shed their leaves in dry season (winter).

Pic: Tropical Rainforest Of Malaysia

Trees like teak, sal, shisham and mango are some common species found here. The hot desert of Arabia, Iran and Thar (Pakistan and India) have nominal vegetation. Thorny bushes, shrubs, cactus and dry grass are found scattered in these region. Date palms are found in Oasis. The temperate grassland or steppes of Russia and Mongolia receive very little rainfall. It supports only short grasses and low bushes. Most of the land is used for animal rearing. The Northern part of Asia and in the North of Siberia has a continuous strip of coniferous forest, called the Taiga. Evergreen softwood trees such as pine, fir, larch and cedar are found here.

Pic: Tundra Of Russia

The region beyond the Arctic Circle in the extreme Northern shores of Asia bordering Arctic Ocean is the tundra. The tundra or the vast treeless plains can support only a few stunted shrubs, mosses and lichens. In summer, a few short flowering plants bloom and die within a short period.

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