The last week of May there was a terrible sand and snow storm in Khentii Province which killed dozens of people and thousands of livestock. Two days ago I returned from a faculty development tour through Khentii in which our group visited some of the more important sites in the life of Temujiin/Chinggis Khaan and the founding of the Great Mongol State. What we found to our surprise was an ecological disaster. Most of the areas we visited looked more like the Gobi than northern Mongolia, a thought driven home by our visit to Khangal Nuur. This is a lake large lake, or at least it was a large lake, running along a narrow valley in the hills. It was completely dry. The picture shows the extent of the disaster. Check out the lake from a satellite image during a good year:
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It has been a relatively dry spring in the area around Ulaanbaatar and Khentii this year. I have heard from two sources, however, that the central part of Mongolia around Arkhangai province are much greener this year than the last few years. In fact, the area has been described as "normal." Traveling around Mongolia one quickly gets the sense how fragile the ecosystem is, and yet one also sees how quickly it can recover given the right conditions.