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1UpTravel - Geography Info and Facts of Countries : . - Mongolia

Mongolia Geography and Facts

Location: Northern Asia, between China and Russia

Geographic coordinates: 46 00 N, 105 00 E

Map references: Asia

total: 1.565 million sq km
land: 1.565 million sq km
water: 0 sq km

Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Alaska

Land boundaries:
total: 8,114 km
border countries: China 4,673 km, Russia 3,441 km

Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims: none (landlocked)

Climate: desert; continental (large daily and seasonal temperature ranges)

Terrain: vast semidesert and desert plains; mountains in west and southwest; Gobi Desert in southeast

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Hoh Nuur 518 m
highest point: Tavan Bogd Uul 4,374 m

Natural resources: oil, coal, copper, molybdenum, tungsten, phosphates, tin, nickel, zinc, wolfram, fluorspar, gold

Land use:
arable land: 1%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 80%
forests and woodland: 9%
other: 10% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 800 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: dust storms can occur in the spring; grassland fires

Environment - current issues: limited natural fresh water resources; policies of the former communist regime promoting rapid urbanization and industrial growth have raised concerns about their negative effects on the environment; the burning of soft coal in power plants and the lack of enforcement of environmental laws have severely polluted the air in Ulaanbaatar; deforestation, overgrazing, the converting of virgin land to agricultural production have increased soil erosion from wind and rain; desertification and mining activities have also had a deleterious effect on the environment

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note: landlocked; strategic location between China and Russia

Mongolia is situated, Central Asian nation bounded by Russia and China. It has a total area of 1,566,500 sq. km (604,830-sq. mi). The capital and largest city is Ulaanbaatar.

Mongolia is an arid plateau region with mountains in the north and the Gobi dominates west, its center and southeast.

Temperatures are very cold in winter and warm to hot in summer. Annual rainfall seldom exceeds 380 mm (15 in) in the mountains and 125 mm (5 in) in the desert. Mongolia's primary resources are its stock-raising prairies, its fur trade, and its mostly unexploited minerals.

Mongolia's climate is harsh, with temperatures ranging in winter from a high of -21 C (-5 F) to a low of -30 C (-22 F) and in summer between 10 and 27 C (50 and 80 F).

Winters are dry, and summer rainfall seldom exceeds 380 mm (15 in) in the mountains and 125 mm (5 in) in the desert.

Mongolia is a country that lies between China and Russia in east-central Asia. Mongolia is a rugged land. Plateaus and towering mountain ranges cover much of the country.

        The bleak Gobi Desert blankets much of southeastern Mongolia. Temperatures are usually very cold or very hot. Mongolia's little rainfall occurs in a few summer storms.

Long a province of China, Mongolia won its independence in 1921 with Soviet backing. A communist regime was installed in 1924.

During the early 1990s, the ex-communist Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) gradually yielded its monopoly on power. In 1996, the Democratic Union Coalition (DUC) defeated the MPRP in a national election and has attempted to establish a number of reforms to modernize the economy.

However, many former communists retain key posts and implementation has been difficult.



Size: Total 1,565,000 square kilometers.

Topography: Mountains and rolling plateaus; vast semidesert and desert plains, 90 percent pasture or desert wasteland, less than 1 percent arable, 8 to 10 percent forested; mountains in north, west and southwest; Gobi, a vast desert in southeast; Selenge river system in north.

Climate: Desert; high, cold, dry, continental climate; sharp seasonal fluctuations and variation; little precipitation; great diurnal temperature changes.


Population: 2,125,463 in July 1989; in 1989, birth rate 35.1 per 1,000; death rate 7.6 per 1,000. Approximately 51 percent live in urban areas; nearly 25 percent in Ulaanbaatar in 1986. In 1987 population density per square kilometer 1.36; sex ratio 50.1 percent male, 49.9 percent female as of 1986.

Ethnic Groups: Nearly 90 percent Mongol. Rest Kazakh (5.3 percent), Chinese (2 percent), Russian (2 percent); Tuvins (see Glossary), Uzbeks (see Glossary), Uighurs (see Glossary), and others (1.5 percent).

Languages: Khalkha Mongol (official language), 90 percent; minor languages include Turkic, Chinese, Russian, and Kazakh.

Religion: Predominantly Yellow Sect of Tibetan Buddhism (Lamaism); about 4 percent Muslim (primarily in southwest), some shamanism. Limited religious activity although freedom of religion guaranteed in 1960 Constitution.

Health: Life expectancy in 1989 sixty-three for males, sixty-seven for females. Infant mortality 49 to 53 per 1,000; 112 hospitals in 1986 with a ratio of 110 hospital beds and 24.8 doctors per 10,000 population. Overall free medical care; medical specialists and facilities concentrated in urban areas; close cooperation with Soviet Union in medical research and training.

Education: Four years compulsory elementary school overall and four years compulsory secondary school in all but most remote areas; two-year noncompulsory general secondary. Higher education: one university, seven other institutes of higher learning. In 1985 primary and secondary education: 28 specialized secondary schools, 40 vocational schools, 900 general education schools enrolling 435,900 students; many Mongolian students at universities and technical schools in the Soviet Union and East European countries--approximately 11,000 studied abroad in 1986-87. In the late 1980s, educational reform plans announced for 11-year system of general education with traditional emphasis. In 1985 national literacy rate estimated at 80 percent; 100 percent claimed by government.

Media: Thirty-five newspapers and thirty-eight magazines published in 1986.

Data as of June 1989




The terrain is one of mountains and rolling plateaus, with a high degree of relief . Overall, the land slopes from the high Altai Mountains of the west and the north to plains and depressions in the east and the south. Hutyen Orgil (sometimes called Nayramadlin Orgil--Mount Friendship) in extreme western Mongolia, where the Mongolian, the Soviet, and the Chinese borders meet, is the highest point (4,374 meters). The lowest is 560 meters, an otherwise undistinguished spot in the eastern Mongolian plain. The country has an average elevation of 1,580 meters. The landscape includes one of Asia's largest freshwater lakes (Hovsgol Nuur), many salt lakes, marshes, sand dunes, rolling grasslands, alpine forests, and permanent montane glaciers. Northern and western Mongolia are seismically active zones, with frequent earthquakes and many hot springs and extinct volcanoes.

Mongolia has three major mountain ranges. The highest is the Altai Mountains, which stretch across the western and the southwestern regions of the country on a northwest-to-southeast axis. The Hangayn Nuruu, mountains also trending northwest to southeast, occupy much of central and north-central Mongolia. These are older, lower, and more eroded mountains, with many forests and alpine pastures. The Hentiyn Nuruu, mountains near the Soviet border to the northeast of Ulaanbaatar, are lower still. Much of eastern Mongolia is occupied by a plain, and the lowest area is a southwest-to-northeast trending depression that reaches from the Gobi region in the south to the eastern frontier. The rivers drain in three directions: north to the Arctic Ocean, east to the Pacific, or south to the deserts and the depressions of Inner Asia. Rivers are most extensively developed in the north, and the country's major river system is that of the Selenge-Moron, which drains into Lake Baykal. Some minor tributaries of Siberia's Yenisey River also rise in the mountains of northwestern Mongolia. Rivers in northeastern Mongolia drain into the Pacific through the Argun and Amur (Heilong Jiang) rivers, while the few streams of southern and southwestern Mongolia do not reach the sea but run into salt lakes or deserts.

Data as of June 1989



Mongolia is high, cold, and dry. It has an extreme continental climate with long, cold winters and short summers, during which most precipitation falls. The country averages 257 cloudless days a year, and it is usually at the center of a region of high atmospheric pressure. Precipitation is highest in the north, which averages 20 to 35 centimeters per year, and lowest in the south, which receives 10 to 20 centimeters . The extreme south is the Gobi, some regions of which receive no precipitation at all in most years. The name Gobi is a Mongol meaning desert, depression, salt marsh, or steppe, but which usually refers to a category of arid rangeland with insufficient vegetation to support marmots but with enough to support camels. Mongols distinguish gobi from desert proper, although the distinction is not always apparent to outsiders unfamiliar with the Mongolian landscape. Gobi rangelands are fragile and are easily destroyed by overgrazing, which results in expansion of the true desert, a stony waste where not even Bactrian camels can survive.

Average temperatures over most of the country are below freezing from November through March and are about freezing in April and October. January and February averages of -20° C are common, with winter nights of -40° C occurring most years. Summer extremes reach as high as 38° C in the southern Gobi region and 33° C in Ulaanbaatar. More than half the country is covered by permafrost, which makes construction, road building, and mining difficult. All rivers and freshwater lakes freeze over in the winter, and smaller streams commonly freeze to the bottom. Ulaanbaatar lies at 1,351 meters above sea level in the valley of the Tuul Gol, a river. Located in the relatively well-watered north, it receives an annual average of 31 centimeters of precipitation, almost all of which falls in July and in August. Ulaanbaatar has an average annual temperature of -2.9°C and a frost-free period extending on the average from mid-June to late August.

Mongolia's weather is characterized by extreme variability and short-term unpredictability in the summer, and the multiyear averages conceal wide variations in precipitation, dates of frosts, and occurrences of blizzards and spring dust storms. Such weather poses severe challenges to human and livestock survival. Official statistics list less than 1 percent of the country as arable, 8 to 10 percent as forest, and the rest as pasture or desert. Grain, mostly wheat, is grown in the valleys of the Selenge river system in the north, but yields fluctuate widely and unpredictably as a result of the amount and the timing of rain and the dates of killing frosts. Although winters are generally cold and clear, there are occasional blizzards that do not deposit much snow but cover the grasses with enough snow and ice to make grazing impossible, killing off tens of thousands of sheep or cattle. Such losses of livestock, which are an inevitable and, in a sense, normal consequence of the climate, have made it difficult for planned increases in livestock numbers to be achieved .

Data as of June 1989


Environmental Concerns

After many years of uncritical fostering of industrial and urban growth, Mongolia's authorities became aware in the late 1980s of the environmental costs of such policies. Belated Soviet concern over the pollution of Lake Baykal encouraged Mongolian actions to preserve their counterpart Hovsgol Nuur, which is linked to Lake Baykal through the Selenge Moron. A wool-scouring plant that had been discharging wastes into Hovsgol Nuur was closed; truck traffic on the winter ice was banned; and the shipping of oil in barges on the lake was stopped. Deforestation in the Hangayn Nuruu, had reduced the flow of northern Mongolia's rivers, which were polluted by runoff from the fertilized and pesticide-treated grain fields along their banks, by industrial wastes, and by untreated sewage from growing settlements. Ulaanbaatar--located in a valley--with factories and 500,000 inhabitants who depend on soft coal, had severe air pollution, especially when the air was still and cold in winter. Deforestation, overgrazing of pastures, and efforts to increase grain and hay production by plowing up more virgin land had resulted in increased soil erosion, both from wind and from heavy downpours of the severe thunderstorms that bring much of Mongolia's rain. In the south, the desert area of the Gobi was expanding, threatening the fragile gobi pasturelands. The government responded by founding the Ministry of Environmental Protection in 1987 and by giving increased publicity to environmental issues.

Data as of June 1989

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