Gobi gō´bē [key], Mandarin Yintai shamo, great stony desert of N central Asia, c.500,000 sq mi (1,295,000 sq km), extending c.1,000 mi (1,610 km) from east to west across SE Mongolia and N China from the Da Hinggan (Great Khingan) Mts. to the Tian Shan; one of the world's largest deserts. The Gobi, located on a plateau from 3,000 to 5,000 ft (910–1,520 m) high, consists of a series of shallow alkaline basins; the western portion of the desert is entirely sandy. The Kerulen River is the Gobi's largest permanent stream; intermittent streams flow into small salt lakes or disappear into the sand. Nearly all the region's soil has been removed by the prevailing northwesterly winds and deposited in N central China as loess; fierce sand- and windstorms are common. The Gobi has cold winters and short, hot summers. Precipitation is in the form of widely spaced cloudbursts. The Gobi's grassy fringe supports a small population of nomadic Mongolian tribes engaged in sheepherding and goatherding. The Gobi is crossed by a highway and by the Trans-Mongolian RR, which links Ulaanbaatar with Jining, China. The railway shortens the Moscow-Beijing run by c.700 mi (1,130 km). Coal is mined at Tawan-Tolgoi, Mongolia; oil fields are located at Saynshand, Mongolia, and Yumen, China; and there are copper and other mineral deposits. Many paleontological finds, including early mammal and dinosaur fossils, have been made in the Gobi. Prehistoric stone implements, some c.100,000 years old, have also been excavated.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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