navigation image map

Asia’s landmass area is the largest of the continents. It’s landscapes are also extremely diverse as its climates range from arctic through arid to tropical humid. Asia contains the most extensive mountain systems on any continent. The Landsat images shown on this page well illustrate this diversity. References to images in other Sections confirm this.


In addition to the already shown subscene images of Tokyo (page Intro-23) and Beijing (page 4-4), other images (mostly Landsat) of Iran (page 2-6) and China (page 2-7), Iran-Pakistan-India (page 7-3), and Iran, Pakistan, the Ganges in India, South China, and Java, (first part of Section 17) can be found in the pages specified.

The largest expanse of land in the world that is a single political unit is Siberia, the huge tract that makes up most of Russia. Siberia is sparsely populated relative to European Russia, owing mainly to its harsh winter climate. It is, however, one of the richer sections of the Earth’s crust in mineral wealth and timber. Three types of landscape/ecosystem are predominant: the lowlands steppes, the subarctic tundra, and vast stretches of mountains. Because of its size, we will show two examples.

The first scene shows the westward flowing stretch of the Ob River, in the western Siberian Lowlands, about 500 km (300 miles) east of the Urals; as it moves further west it will turn north into the Kara Sea above the Arctic Circle. Its overall length is more than 4000 km (2500 miles). This meandering river now is in flood (June) after spring snow melt. The myriad of lakes in the upper half are formed as sinks owing to poor drainage in the underlying glacial tills. The entire region lies within the taiga forest zone, consisting of Siberian fir, stone pine, larch, and spruce. Surgut is the only town of any size in the image.

The Ob River valley that flows across the glaciated steppes of western Siberia.

In the far eastern reaches of Siberia, mountainous terrain predominates. Here are mountain-like hills and divides on a rolling plateau surface etched by past glaciation and current stream erosion; these extend from the Chersogo Mtns just to the south. Already, by this October 28th, 1972 date, the entire region is snow covered. The main drainage path is the Indigirka River (lower left), into which flow the Ulakhan (mid-left) and Nera (upper left) rivers. Only a large village, Oymyakon on the Indigirka, is show on the regional map.

Snow-covered mountainous terrain in eastern Siberia.

The image below is part of the Kyzul Kum desert region of Uzbekistan, one of the Muslim countries loosely tied to Russia. The region is north of Afghanistan, in southwest Asia. The major river, running up through the center of the image, is the Amu Dar’ya, the longest (2300 km; 1440 miles) in this part of Asia, and is noted for carrying the heaviest sediment load (derived from the Tian Shan mountains) of any major river in the world. This load is carried into the Aral Sea (top) which actually is a large lake, slowly evaporating so that its maximum depth now is about 25 m (80 ft). The river has built a very large delta on which cane thickets and woody brushlands are widespread. Marshlands are indicated by the deep reds. Some farming occurs on the delta but is isolated owing to frequent flooding and is most prevalent where irrigation ditches have been dug. The swarm of sandy "islands" in the upper right are dunes now dissected and submerged by locally rising waters.

The Aral Sea (a lake) in Uzbekistan, north of Afghanistan, with a large delta formed by inflow of the sediment-laden Amu-Dar’ya River.

This next scene includes literally "The Top of the World". The Himalaya Mountains, highest on Earth, and the highest flatlands on our planet making up the Tibetan Plateau to the north. This Terra MISR image shows much of both topographic features:

MISR image of the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalaya Mountains to its south.

The grandeur of these mountains has been captured in this photo taken looking south from the International Space Station from a height of 120 miles. The seventh tallest mountain in the Himalayas, Dhauchagriri, lies second from the left in this stretch; the Tibet Plateau is in the middle ground.

The north side of the Himalayas, photographed by an astronaut on the International Space Station.

The Himalayas occupy nearly all of the country of Nepal (a bit of India is present at the bottom of the next image). Its capital, Katmandu, is visible in the valley above the left center edge. Going northward from the bottom, one passes across the High Plains of the Ganges to a line of dissected gravel deposits, known as the Siwalik Hills (elevations up to 1300 m [4300 ft], carried down from the high mountains during active uplifts in the later Tertiary. Their deeper red color indicate subtropical forests of bamboo and other vegetation. The relief becomes strikingly rugged in the Lesser Himalayas (3000 m [10000 ft]), that continue to rise towards the crest region of the High Himalayas (6000-8800 m [20000 to 29000 ft) marked by snow cover in this December image. Mt. Everest (8848 m [29028 ft]) does not stand out from neighboring peaks; it is near the upper right corner. Surprisingly, snow is largely absent from the intermediate heights, owing to the drying out of monsoonal rain clouds that have crossed the Indian subcontinent.

Landsat image of the High Himalayas, and their foothills, in Nepal and northern India; Mt Everest, in the scene, does not stand apart and is hard to find.

This is a good time to introduce an odd-shaped image, made by the Large Format Camera (LFC) flown on one of the Space Shuttle missions (the camera and mission will be reviewed in more detail on page 12-4). What you see below includes the area in the above Landsat scene (find it) but also goes much farther west and north.

Large Format Camera photo (taken from the Shuttle) extending (on the southeast) from the Siwalik Hills across the Himalayas to the edge of the Tibetan Plateau (on the northwest).

When one thinks of the Himalayas, often the name "Mount Everest" flashes through the mind. This tallest (28030 ft) peak on Earth is the ultimate goal of intrepid mountain climbers. It lies on the border between eastern Nepal and Tibet (annexed by China). Here is a photograph of Everest, looking southward at the North Face which shows the mountain at its most challenging:

Mount Everest, a ground photo from Kallapattar.

The best reason for trying this daring feat was given by Mallory's famous (and profoundly simple) dictum: "Because it is there". More than 1400 have since scaled it following the first successful try by Sir Edmund Hillary (July 3, 1953) and his scherpa, Tenzing. Here are two views: the top a SIR-C radar image that brings out the rugged topography; the bottom a Landsat view:

Two views (SIR-C; Landsat) of the same stretch of the Himalayas containing Mt. Everest.

Recently, the IKONOS multispectral sensor made a notable image at 4 meter resolution that includes Mount Everest. It is the triangular-shaped feature just above the center; with this pattern, go back to the previous figure to locate the peak, keeping in mind that the IKONOS image is "upside-down" relative to the SIR-C and Landsat images.

IKONOS image of the Mt. Everest area; the peak lies near the arrow associated with the South Face; note that north points downward.

Before entering India again, lets first look at much of Pakistan and western India as imaged by Terra's MODIS. The fertile valley of the Indus River is bright green. Note the mountain structures of Pakistan to the west which we will see again in a mosaic in Section 7.

MODIS image of much of Pakistan and adjacent western India.

The Gulf of Kutch (lower left) in western India (State of Gujarat) is surrounded by the Kutch lowlands on the north and the Kathiawar Peninsula on the south. The region is also known as the Rann of Kutch. Vast tidal and saline marshes, with little vegetation, are distributed both in the upper left (the Great Rann) and at the head of the Gulf. (the Little Rann). These mudflats are superposed on alluvial plains, possibly developed when the Indus River to west once emptied further east into the Indian Ocean. The dark brown areas on land are low rises capped by part of the Deccan basalt flows that extend over much of western India. Only the area in the lower right is notably populated.

The Rann of Kutch, in western India; landscape consists both of weathered basalts and alluvial sediments.

South of the Rann, on India's west coast, is one of its famed cities - Bombay (now renamed Mumbai, to detach it from its English colonial history). Here it is in a Landsat-7 ETM+ image.

Bombay, India.

Moving north, then east we see two PROBA images of India's capital, New Dehli, and then its most crowded city, Calcutta.

New Dehli; PROBA image.

Calcutta; PROBA image.

The Brahmaputra River northeast of Calcutta, noted for its huge load of sediments, begins where several feeder rivers from the mountains of Tibet and the easternmost State of India, Assam meet. The river flows through Assam (right half of image) past the Shillong Plateau and the Garo Hills (a Precambrian crystalline complex) and upper Bangladesh (left), and finally into the Lower Ganges at Dacca (below this scene). In this view, it is joined by several rivers from the foothills of Sikkim and Bhutan. The Brahmaputra during rainy season can be greater than 8 km (5 miles) wide. Here, more than a month after the end of the monsoons, most of the water has flowed on, leaving choked stream beds and numerous small channels, a condition known as a braided stream.

The braided Brahmaputra River, as it flows across Assam in eastern India and a bit of Bangladesh, enroute to the Bay of Bengal (south, out of the picture).

Images of Bangkok, Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo and several other parts of Asia appear elsewhere in the Tutorial. Here we show two more cities. One is now a discrete nation: Singapore. Below is an astronaut photo of part of the island on which the city of Singapore is located:

Photo of Singapore; much of the city has retained its trees.

Further east lies the Korean Peninsula northwest of Japan. Here is a satellite image that shows the capital of South Korea (pinkish-red) inland from the port of Inchon (site of MacArthur's bold amphibious landing during the Korean War).

Part of South Korea extending to the North Korean border.

This ASTER image shows a part of Seoul on the right:

ASTER image that includes the western half of Seoul, Korea.

The confederation of thousands of islands makes up the nation of Indonesia. This metsat view shows most of Sumatra, Java, and part of Borneo. The majority of the islands are an "island arc" - a series of uplifts in the ocean on the continental plate side of a tectonic zone undergoing subduction (here, to the south) the lower part of which remains submerged by the ocean.

Meteorological satellite image of part of Indonesia.

Jarkata is the capital of Indonesia. It lies against the ocean near the northwest corner of the Island of Java. Here is a Landsat-2 view:

Landsat-2 subscene that includes Jakarta, on the Island of Java, in Indonesia.

The city is the uniformly blue area next to the sea about 1/3rd left of the right margin. The prominent volcano at the left (west) edge is Merat. Jakarta is a sprawling modern city, as evident in this ground photo.

Part of Jakarta with its tall buildings.

The most extraordinary single meal ever consumed by the writer (NMS) was at the Hotel Indonesia during his mission for the U.S. State Department in 1974. It was a super Javanese "smorgasbord" spread over a 60 foot long line of tables with dozens of tasty entree's. A 20 piece Gamelin orchestra, and 12 dancing girls provided entertainment. The entire cost, including drinks, was $10 U.S. Unforgettable!

navigation image mapnext pageprevious page

Primary Author: Nicholas M. Short, Sr. email: