Kazakhstan IS located in Central Asia at the center of the Eurasian continent. With 1.05 million sq. mi. (2.72 million sq. km.), the country is the ninth largest nation of the world, and the largest landlocked country of all. The population of Kazakhstan was 16.7 million in 1990, and the population density of 3.9 people per sq. mi. (6.3 people per sq. km.) is one of the sparsest in the world. 280,200 people live in the capital city of Astana. The city with the largest population is Almaty, with 1,185,900 inhabitants.
The climate is continental; precipitation varies from less than 5.9 in. (150 mm.) in the central desert areas to more than 59 in. (1,500 mm.) in mountainous regions. Average temperatures in January range from minus 0.4 degrees F (minus 18 degrees C) in the north to 27 degrees F (minus 3 degrees C) in the south. Spatially averaged seasonal and annual air temperatures increased about 2.3 degrees F (1.3 degrees C) 1984-97, manifested especially in spring. Four major landscapes are the forest-steppe, steppe, semi-desert, and desert. The river network has had only limited development. However, it is important for irrigation and power generation.
Temperature rises caused the recession of glaciers in the mountains and changed mass water balances from positive to negative, threatening water supply and with it the farming economy and peace of the region, since many rivers are transboundary. Even more dangerous, resulting glacial lakes dammed by unstable moraines drain in an uncontrolled way. One of the most powerful recent debris flows to affect the northern valleys of the Tian Shan occurred in July 1973 in the Malaya Almatinka Valley.
Kazakhstan has about 57,000 lakes and more than 4,000 artificial water reservoirs, some of them drying out, like the Balkash lake and the Aral Sea, with disastrous ecological impacts in the south of the country.
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