What is the terrain and geography like in Kyrgyzstan?
The Kyrgyz Republic is a Central Asian country of natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions. Occupying a strategic location on the Silk Road, its territory is one of the most ancient centers of human civilization, as documented in Chinese, Arabic, Iranian, and Turkish written sources. Bishkek (formerly Frunze), the capital, and Osh are the principal cities.
The Kyrgyz Republic is a country of sunshine, high, snow-covered mountains, deep gorges cut by swift rivers and 1,923 mountain lakes. In the summer months, travelers can spend part of a single day in a sunny valley, in a flowering meadow high in the mountains, and in glaciers above the clouds. Extensive mountain ranges featuring ridges, deep gorges, wide valleys, and virgin forests are complemented by more than 40,000 rivers and streams that provide irrigation and a vast potential for hydroelectric production.
The Tien Shan and Pamir mountain ranges dominate 65% of the country, and the average elevation is 2,750 meters, ranging from 394 meters in the Fergana Valley to 7,439 meters (24,409 feet) at Pik Pobedy (Mount Victory). It is estimated that the Kyrgyz Republic’s 6,500 distinct glaciers hold more than 650 billion cubic meters of water. The alpine regions provide rich pastures for sheep, goats, cattle, horses, and yaks. The main agricultural regions are the Chui River valley in the North and the Fergana Valley in the South. Over half of the cultivated area is irrigated, and cotton, sugar, beets, silk, tobacco, fruit, grapes, and grains are among the main crops. There are gold, coal, antimony, lead, tungsten, mercury, uranium, petroleum, and natural gas deposits, and industries include food processing and the manufacture of agricultural machinery and textiles. The country is lightly forested with woods covering about 3.5% of the country. However, forests in the south of the Kyrgyz Republic include the largest wild nut (walnut) groves on earth.
Geography - note:
landlocked; entirely mountainous, dominated by the Tien Shan range; 94% of the country is 1,000 m above sea level with an average elevation of 2,750 m; many tall peaks, glaciers, and high-altitude lakes
The Kyrgyz Republic is positioned near the middle of the Eurasian landmass, and there is no body of water large enough to influence weather patterns. Those factors create a distinctly continental climate that has significant local variations. Although the mountains tend to collect clouds and block sunlight (reducing some narrow valleys at certain times of year to no more than three or four hours of sunlight per day), the country is generally sunny, receiving as much as 2,900 hours of sunlight per year in some areas. The same conditions also affect temperatures, which can vary significantly from place to place. In January the warmest average temperature (24.8°F, -4°C) occurs around the southern city of Osh, and around Lake Issyk-Kul. The latter, which has a volume of 416 cubic miles (1738 cubic kilometers), does not freeze in winter. Indeed, its name means "hot lake" in Kyrgyz. The coldest temperatures are in mountain valleys. There, readings can fall to -22°F (30°C) or lower; the record is -64°F (-53.6°C) . The average temperature for July similarly varies from 81°F (27°C) in the Fergana Valley, where the record high is 111°F (44°C) , to a low of 14°F (-10°C) on the highest mountain peaks. Precipitation varies from 79 inches per year in the mountains above the Fergana Valley to less than 4 inches per year on the west bank of Issyk-Kul. Bishkek's weather is fairly mild. In Bishkek, nighttime temperatures in January can be in the teens (Fahrenheit), but daytime temperatures often rise to above freezing, enough for snow and ice to begin melting. Summer temperatures can rise above 90°F (32°C) by the end of May. The air is dry year round.