Asia – World Geography for UPSC IAS (Notes)

In this Article of World Geography, I want to walk you through the Asia continent – World Geography For UPSC.

Asia

Asia is the world largest continent, having an area of 44,444,100 sq km.

It covers 8.8% of the Earth’s total surface area with a population of 4.4 billion which is 60 % of the world’s total population.

It is a continent of contrast in relief, temperature, vegetation and people also.

Asia is to the east of the Suez Canal, the Ural River, and the Ural Mountains, and south of the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian and Black Seas.

It is bounded on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the south by the Indian Ocean and on the north by the Arctic Ocean.

The earth’s highest and lowest places are both in Asia:

  • The highest place on earth: Mount Everest
  • The lowest place on earth: Dead Seashore
map of Asia

Regional Divisions of Asia

Asia can be divided into six physiographic divisions:

Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

Eastern Asia: China, Hong Kong, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Macau, Mongolia, Taiwan

Northern Asia: Russia

South-eastern Asia: Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Vietnam.

Southern Asia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka.

Western Asia: Armenia, Azerbaijana, Bahrain, Cyprus, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, State of Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Yemen.

list of countries in Asia

Major Physical Divisions of Asia

  • The Northern Lowlands
  • The Central Mountains
  • The Central and Southern Plateaus
  • The Peninsulas
  • Deserts
  • The Great River Plains
  • Island Groups

1. The Northern Lowlands

The Northern Lowlands are the extensive plain areas that comprise of several patches of lowlands of this large continent.

The major lowlands are:

Great Siberian plain

  • It extends between the Ural Mountains in the west and the river Lena in the east. It is the largest lowland in the world covering an area of 1,200,000 square miles approx.
Great Siberian plain

Manchurian Plain

  • It is the area adjoining Amur river and its tributaries of the northern part of China with an area of 135,000 square miles approx.
Manchurian Plain

Great Plains of China

  • It is contributed by two major rivers of China, Hwang Ho and Yangtze river which covers an area of 158,000 square miles approx.
Great Plains of China

Tigris-Euphrates plains

Tigris-Euphrates plains

Ganga plains

Irrawaddy plains

2. The Central Mountains

  • These are the prominent and extensive mountain ranges that cover the parts of Central Asia.
  • They consist of Pamir and Tian Shan ranges and extending across portions of Afghanistan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • These mountain ranges are designated as biodiversity hot spots by Conservation International which covers several montanes and alpine ecoregions of Central Asia.
  • It encompasses several habitat types, including montane grasslands and shrublands, temperate coniferous forests, and alpine tundra.
  • A mountain knot is a junction of two or more mountain ranges. The two main mountain knots in Asia are:
    • The Pamir Knot is the junction of five mountain ranges they are the Sulaiman, the Hindu Kush, the Kunlun, the Karakoram, and the Himalayan ranges. Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world in the Himalayan range.
    • The Armenian Knot is connected to the Pamir Knot by the Elburz and the Zagros Ranges that originate in the Armenian Knot. The Tien Shan and the Altai are other mountain ranges in Asia.
Central Mountains
Armenian Knot UPSC

Peaks of Asia

  • Mount Everest (8848 m), Nepal-Tibet, China border
  • K2 (8,61,1 m), Pakistan-China
  • Kangchenjunga (8,586 m), Nepal-Sikkim (India).
  • Lhotse (8,516 m), Nepal-Tibet, China
  • Makalu (8,462 m), Nepal-Tibet, China
  • Cho Oyu (8,201 m), Nepal
Mountains-Ranges
Mountains-Ranges

3. The Central and Southern Plateaus

Plateaus are the land areas having a relatively that surface considerably raised above adjoining land on at least one side, and often cut by deep canyon.

Major Plateaus of Asian Continent

PlateauLocationTypes
LadakhBetween Karakoram and Himalaya mountain rangesIntermontane
TibetBetween Kulun and Himalayan Mountain rangeIntermontane
YunanSituated on the southeast of the Tibet Plateau and separated from Szechuan Basin extensive fertile land by the range of MountainsPiedmont
PamirWell connected to the range of mountains such as The Himalayas with the Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun, and the Hindu Kush ranges on all sidesIntermontane
ArmenianPresent in between Caspian and the Black SeaPiedmont
IranianPresent in between Zagros Mountains, Caspian Sea, Turkmen-Khorasan Mountain RangePiedmont
MongolianSurrounded by the Greater Hinggan Mountains in the east, the Yin Mountains to the south, the Altai Mountains to the west, and the Sayan and Khentii mountains to the northIntermontane
ShanStretched in the Pegu Yoma and Arkan Yoma in the eastern part of Myanmar,Intermontane
DeccanExtended in between the Western Ghats in the west and the Eastern Ghats in the east of
Indian Subcontinent, it almost touches the southern tip of India and in north covered by the Satpura and Vindhya Ranges
Intermontane
AnatolianEnclosed between Pontic mountain ranges in the South and Taurus in the southwestVolcanic
Major Plateaus of Asian Continent

4. Peninsulas

A peninsula is a mass of land surrounded by water but attached to the mainland. The Deccan plateau region is also a peninsula. The major peninsulas of Arabia, India, and Malay are in southern Asia. The Kamchatka peninsula lies in northeastern Asia.

peninsulas in asia
malay peninsula

5. Deserts

Asia has some big deserts such as the Gobi, the Takla Makan, the Thar, the Kara-Kum, and the Rub-al-Khali Deserts.

The Rub’ al Khali desert, considered the world’s largest sand sea, covers an area larger than France across Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

deserts in asia

6. (a) Islands of Asia

Asia also has a cluster of islands, also called an archipelago. An archipelago sometimes called an island group or island chain, which is formed close to each other in large clusters. Indonesia, Philippines, Japan, Andaman, and Nicobar are some examples of archipelagos.

 Islands of Asia

6. (b) Drainage of Asia

The drainage of Asia consists of mighty oceans, extensive seas, lengthy rivers, and their tributaries and distributaries, major lakes, etc.

Oceans: Asian continent is surrounded by three major ocean from three sides such as

The Pacific Ocean – It covers the eastern part of Asia where major rivers of eastern Asia drain, such as Menam Mekong, Xi Jiang, Chang Xiang, Huang Ho, and Amur.

The Indian Ocean – It covers the southern part of Asia and the major rivers that flow into the Indian Ocean are Tigris, Euprates, the Indus, the Ganga, Brahmaputra, Irrawaddy, Salween.

The Arctic Ocean – It covers the Noth east part of Asia and consists of three major rivers such as Ob, Yenisey, and Lena.

Drainage of Asia

Seas:

As the continent is covered by sea from its three sides, It has also characterized by the long stretch of bay and gulf.

Major seas contributing to Asian Drainage are Andaman Sea, Arabian Sea, Banda Sea, Barents Sea, Bering Sea, Black Sea, Caspian Sea, East Siberian Sea, Java Sea, Kara Sea, Laccadive Sea, Sea of Japan, Sea of Okhotsk. The South China Sea and the Yellow Sea.

Seas of Asia
NameLocationPart of Ocean
Kara Sea, Laptev Sea, and East Siberian SeaNorth of RussiaArctic Ocean
Bering SeaNortherst of RussiaPacific Ocean
Sea of OkhotskEast of RussiaPacific Ocean
Sea of JapanWest of JapanPacific Ocean
Yellow SeaWest of KoreaPacific Ocean
East China SeaEast of ChinaPacific Ocean
South China SeaSouth of ChinaPacific Ocean
Sulu SeaWest of the Philippines IslandPacific Ocean
Celebes SeaNorth of Celebes IslandPacific Ocean
Banda SeaEast of Celebes IslandPacific Ocean
Flores SeaSouth of Celebes SeaPacific Ocean
Molucca SeaEast of Celebes IslandPacific Ocean
Java SeaNorth of JavaPacific Ocean
Timor SeaNorthwest of AustraliaPacific Ocean
Arafura SeaNorth of AustraliaSouth Pacific Ocean
Bay of BengalEast of the Indian PeninsulaIndian Ocean
Arabian SeaWest of the Indian PeninsulaIndian Ocean
Red SeaSeparates Asia from AfricaIndian Ocean

Lakes:

Major lakes of Asia are

  • Lake Baikal, Onega, Ladoga, and Peipus in Russia;
  • Lake Akan, Mashu, Biwa, Shikotsu in Japan;
  • Qinghai Lake, Lake Khanka in China;
  • Dal Lake, Chilka, Vembanada, Pullicat and Sukhna in India;
  • Lake Matano and Toba in Indonesia, etc.

Baikal is the deepest lake in the world. It is in Southern Siberia, Russia.

lakes of Asia

Freshwater

  • Lake Baikal, located in southern Russia, is the deepest lake in the world, reaching a depth of 1,620 meters (5,315 feet). The lake contains 20 percent of the world’s unfrozen fresh water, making it the largest reservoir on Earth. It is also the world’s oldest lake, at 25 million years old.
  • The Yangtze is the longest river in Asia and the third-longest in the world (behind the Amazon of South America and the Nile of Africa). Reaching 6,300 kilometers (3,915 miles) in length, the Yangtze moves east from the glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau to the river’s mouth on the East China Sea. The Yangtze is considered the lifeblood of China.
  • The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers begin in the highlands of eastern Turkey and flow through Syria and Iraq, joining in the city of Qurna, Iraq, before emptying into the Persian Gulf. The land between the two rivers, known as Mesopotamia, was the center of the earliest civilizations, including Sumer and the Akkadian Empire.

Saltwater

  • The Persian Gulf has an area of more than 234,000 square kilometers (90,000 square miles). It borders Iran, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Iraq. The gulf is subject to high rates of evaporation, making it shallow and extremely salty.
  • The Sea of Okhotsk covers 1.5 million square kilometers (611,000 square miles) between the Russian mainland and the Kamchatka Peninsula.
  • The Bay of Bengal is the largest bay in the world, covering almost 2.2 million square kilometers (839,000 square miles) and bordering Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Burma. Many large rivers, including the Ganges and Brahmaputra, empty into the bay.

Straits:

The important straits in Asia are the Strait of Malacca, Bering Strait, etc.

important facts about straits
NameSeparatesConnects
Bering StraitAsia and North AmericaEast Siberian Sea with Bering Sea
La Parouse StraitSakhalin Island and Hokkaido IslandSea of Okhotsk with Sea of Japan
Tata StraitEastern Russia and SakhalinSea of Okhotsk with Sea of Japan
Korea StraitSouth Korea and Kyushu (Japan)Yellow Sea with Sea of Japan
Formosa Strait (Taiwan Strait)Taiwan and ChinaEast China Sea with South China Sea
Luzon StraitTaiwan and Luzon (Philippines)South China Sea with Pacific Ocean.
Makassar StraitBorneo (Kalimantan) and Celebes IslandCelebes Sea with Java Sea.
Sundra StraitJava and SumatraJava Sea with India Ocean
Malacca StraitMalaya Peninsula and SumatraJava Sea with Bay of Bengal
Strait of JahoreSingapore and MalaysiaSouth China Sea with strait of
Malacca
Strait of HormuzUAE and IranPersian Gulf with Gulf of Oman.
Strait of BosporusAsia and EuropeBlack Sea with Sea of Marmara.
Strait of DardanellesAsia and EuropeSea of Marmara with Mediterranean
Sea
major straits of the world

Resources

Asia’s climate can be most generally divided into three zones:

  • North/central,
  • Southwest
  • Southeast

North/central Zone

  • The continent’s north/central zone is affected by cold and dry Arctic winds, especially the Siberia region of Russia.
  • Hardier grains, such as barley, buckwheat, millet, oats, and wheat, are grown in the central and southern areas of this zone, where permanent frosts inhibit plant growth.
  • Animal husbandry is also very important in this zone. In Mongolia, for example, 75 percent of agricultural land is allocated to the rearing of livestock, such as sheep, goats, and cattle.

Southwest

  • The southwest zone is a dry, hot region that stretches from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia through Pakistan, Iran, and into the Arabian Peninsula.
  • This zone has very few areas with enough moisture and precipitation to produce crops. Grains, such as barley and corn, are the principal irrigated crops of some countries.
  • Dates, figs, apricots, olives, onions, grapes, and cherries are the most important of these fruit and vegetable crops.

Southeast

  • The southeast zone is greatly affected by the summer monsoon season.
  • Rice is one of Asia’s most important agricultural commodities and a major food staple of the entire continent.
  • Many regions where rainfall is less, grow a large amount of wheat.
  • Southeast Asia is also a major producer of tropical fruits, such as mango, papaya, and pineapple. India is the world’s largest mango-producing nation, accounting for roughly 40 percent of total global output.

Mining:

  • China, India, Russia, and Indonesia are the continent’s most productive mining economies. These countries extract many of the same minerals.
  • China is the world’s largest producer of aluminum, gold, tin, and coal.
  • India is also a major producer of aluminum and iron ore, along with other minerals such as barite (used in drilling fluids), chromium (used in steel production and dyes), and manganese (used in steel production).
  • Russia is a major producer of coal, tungsten (used in steel production), diamonds, iron, and steel.
  • Indonesia is a major producer of coal, gold, copper, and tin.

Drilling:

  • Countries on the Arabian Peninsula have the world’s largest deposits of oil and natural gas. These fossil fuels are drilled for energy and fuel.
  • The oil found throughout the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East is of the highest quality: light sweet crude.
  • Light sweet crude oil is used to make gasoline, kerosene, and diesel fuels.
  • In 2010, Saudi Arabia was the world’s largest manufacturer of petroleum liquids, producing 10.07 million barrels of liquid fuels every day. (An oil barrel is 159 liters or 42 gallons.) It also has the world’s largest oil reserves, at roughly 250 billion barrels.
  • Russia has oil reserves in Siberia and massive natural gas reserves throughout the Arctic.
  • Russia and Iran have the world’s largest reserves of natural gas, while the US produces the most.

Quiz:

Q1. The Gaza Strip is a self-governing territory of:

(a) Israel
(b) Jordan
(c) Lebanon
(d) Palestine

Solution: (d)

Hamas is a Palestinian Islamist political organization and militant group that has waged war on Israel since the group’s 1987 founding, most notably through suicide bombings and rocket attacks. It seeks to replace Israel with a Palestinian stateIt also governs Gaza independently of the Palestinian Authority.

Gaza Strip

Q2. Which of these water bodies witnesses sun rise at the earliest?

a) Red Sea
b) Black Sea
c) Caspian Sea
d) Mediterranean Sea

Solution: c)

Caspian sea lies the easternmost among all of the options. Black Sea lies to the west of Caspian Sea.

Which of these water bodies witnesses sun rise at the earliest?

Q3. The Red Sea is a strip of water and an inlet of the Indian Ocean occupying the area separating the continent of Africa from Asia. The countries bordering the Red Sea are –

  1. Saudi Arabia
  2. Yemen
  3. Ethiopia
  4. Egypt
  5. Djibouti

Select the correct answer code:

 a) 1, 2, 3, 4
b) 1, 2, 3, 5
c) 2, 3, 4, 5
d) 1, 2, 4, 5

Solution: d)

The six countries that border the Red Sea are the following: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, and Djibouti.

Red Sea

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