Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Xymena. Xymena Wonders, “What is happening in Siberia?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Xymena!
What comes to mind when you think of Russia? Moscow? The Kremlin? Those big fuzzy fur hats? How about a vast, frozen expanse with large bears, exotic tigers, and very few people?
For many people, the image that comes to mind when they hear "Russia" is the part of Russia known as Siberia. Siberia does have large bears, Siberian tigers, and relatively few people per square mile. But it offers so much more than you've probably ever imagined.
By any standard, Siberia is big. In fact, it's downright humongous. Extending from the Ural Mountains in the west all the way to the Pacific Ocean and from the Arctic Ocean in the north down into northern Kazakhstan and the borders of Mongolia, and China, Siberia makes up all of the northern part of the continent of Asia.
In total, Siberia covers approximately 5.2 million square miles. That's about nine percent of all the dry land on Earth! Roughly the size of Canada, Siberia constitutes the majority of Russian territory.
With that much land area, it's no surprise that Siberia features many different types of geography and climates. The northern parts of Siberia closest to the Arctic Ocean consist mostly of frozen tundra and permafrost with temperatures that stay frigid year-round.
The farther south and west you travel in Siberia, though, the milder the climate gets. Much of Siberia's climate in these areas consists of long, cold winters followed by warm, mild summers.
As you move away from the cold north, you'll find evergreen pine forests, black earth steppes, rugged mountains, expansive grasslands, large swamps, and even subtropical forests near the Pacific Ocean. Siberia is also home to four of the ten longest rivers in the world: the Ob, Amur, Lena, and Yenisei.
Today, Siberia is home to about 36 million people. Most people live in large cities in western and southern Siberia. Novosibirsk, Siberia's largest city, has over 1.3 million residents.
Many of Siberia's residents work in the many mining, industrial, and manufacturing jobs that can be found in the large cities. In fact, many of Siberia's largest cities grew up around areas that feature one or more of Siberia's enormous natural resources, which include coal, petroleum, natural gas, diamonds, iron ore, gold, and other minerals, such as manganese, lead, zinc, nickel, and cobalt.
One other interesting feature you'll find in Siberia is Lake Baikal. It's the largest, oldest, and deepest freshwater lake on Earth. Estimated to be roughly 30 million years old, Lake Baikal holds approximately 20% of Earth's supply of non-frozen water. Its deepest point is 5,387 feet!
Based upon its surface area, Lake Baikal is about the size of the Netherlands. Since the Angara River is the only river that flows from Lake Baikal, its waters are quite clean. On a sunny day, you can see objects nearly 165 feet below the surface of Lake Baikal!