Earth from Space – Sand dunes

Dunes in the Burqin-Haba River-Jimunai Desert

Huge dunes dot the Burqin-Haba River-Jimunai Desert near the borders of China, Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan.

A SAND DUNE FIELD within the Burqin-Haba River-Jimunai Desert near the borders of China, Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan, is seen in this photograph taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station.

The dune field (approximately 32 kilometres long) is located immediately west-northwest of the city of Burqin (not shown), and is part of the Junggar Basin, a region of active petroleum production in northwestern China.

The Irtysh River—with associated wetlands and riparian vegetation (appearing grey-green in the image) —flows from its headwaters in the Altay Mountains towards Siberia (right to left across the image).

Tan, linear dunes at image centre (on the south side of the Irtysh River) dominate the view. The dunes are formed from mobile barchan (crescent-shaped) dunes moving from left to right in this view. The barchans eventually merge to form the large, linear dunes, which can reach 50 to 100 metres in height.

Sand moving along the southern edge of the field appears to be feeding a southeastern lobe with a separate population of linear dunes (image lower right).

The Burqin-Haba River-Jimunai Desert area also includes darker gravel-covered surfaces that form pavements known locally as gobi. At the resolution of an astronaut photograph, these are somewhat indistinguishable from the vegetated areas arresting some of the dunes. But gobi tend to be located on the flat regions between the dunes.

See the full-size image of the Burqin-Haba River-Jimunai Desert dunes.

Astronaut photograph provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Centre. Text adapted from information issued by William L. Stefanov and M. Justin Wilkinson, Jacobs/ESCG at NASA-JSC.

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