Uzbekistan’s natural world is very diverse. It is composed of desert areas and snowy mountains, rivers and completely dry lands.
The most part of its territory lies in the Turon plain, where there are no sudden steep-drops and hills. The Turon plate and mainland, which later became the Tian Shan and Pamir – Alai Mountains, were formed in the Paleolithic period. Later, the sea covered the plate for a long time. The mountain chains are thought to have fully developed during the Alps orogenesis.
The mountain ranges blocked the humidity from the Indian Ocean. It caused considerable climatic change: the weather became dry and huge desert areas appeared. As rivers and winds kept changing their directions, the upper layer of soil was continuously displaced from one place to another. It led to the formation of the Kyzyl Kum and Kara Kum deserts.
Mountains and foothills make up about one-fifth of the territory of Uzbekistan. The highest point is 4,643 meters. Mountains cover the east of the country. Uzbekistan embraces western parts of the Tian Shan and Pamir-Alai mountain ranges, respectively. The mountain ranges are very different: there is a sharp contrast of heights, foothills, canyons, and watersheds. There are also small mountains such as Aktau, Karakchitau, and the western pan of the Zarafshon mountain range with their smooth shape. Rather big depressions stretch between the mountains: Kashkadarya, Surkhandarya, Zarafshon, and Samarkand. The largest depression is the Ferghana Valley – 370 km long and 190 km wide. It is surrounded by mountain ranges on three sides except on the western face. On the border with Afghanistan, there is the huge Amu Darya depression.
Numerous deposits of oil and gas have been discovered on the plains such as Gazli, Shakhpakhti, and others, of naturally formed salt in Borsakelmas, and materials used in construction elsewhere.
Deposits of coal (Angren, Shargun, and Boysun), precious, non-ferrous and rare metals, fluorite, and construction materials go back to the early stage of orogenesis.
A distinctive feature of Uzbekistan’s natural conditions is that the country is located in a seismologic zone. In the last two centuries the country has experienced numerous of disastrous earthquakes, including in Ferghana (1823), in Andijan (1889 and 1902), and Tashkent (1866, 1868, and 1966). Seismologic movement is more active in mountain areas than in plains. Special construction models are used in buildings in active seismological zones.
Uzbekistan does not have direct access to the sea or ocean. This makes the country’s climate very hot, dry, and sharply continental. Temperate climatic conditions prevail in the north, while subtropical – in the far south.
The most part of the year is quite dry and hot. The daylight in summer is 15 hours and in winter it is no less than 9 hours. The annual average sunlight is 2,500-3,000 hours in the north, and 2,800-3,130 hours – in the south. For comparison, the same amount of sunlight share is typical for California, US. The winters are rather cold and summers are quite hot in Uzbekistan. The coldest month is January. The temperature goes down to 25 and 30 degrees Celsius below zero in the south, and it could much colder in the northwest of the country – 35 and 38 degrees Celsius below zero. However, there are enough warm days throughout the country in wintertime. Heavy and long-lying snowfall is not usual for the country. The average snowfall is 5-15 cm, and in foothills – it ranges from 10 to 12 cm.
In southern provinces of the country, the spring usually in February, but it reaches the Aral Sea region only in April In spring, the weather is very variable; the warm days may be followed by chilly and cold days.
In the south, the summer starts somewhere in May, and it usually lasts from four to five months. The hottest month is July when the temperature reaches 42-47 degrees Celsius. In mountainous areas the summer temperature is about 22-30 degrees Celsius. In summer the ground surface temperature could go up to 60 degrees Celsius, and in desert areas – up to 70 degrees Celsius.
The rainfall distribution is quite different. On the plains the annual rainfall is on average 100-200 mm and in mountains it reaches 900 mm. Most of the precipitation falls in spring and winter periods. From one to six percent out of the total annual precipitation falls during summer and from 10 to 20 percent -autumn.
The winter starts at the end of October on the Usturt plateau, late December – in the south. During this period the weather is very changeable with a combination of cold and warm days. The average humidity is about 70-80 percent in wintertime. In summer, this figure goes down to 35-50 percent. But in desert areas, the humidity is 20-30 percent.