According to the world's map, the Mongolian plateau is almost entirely covered by a desert and I just have discovered that it is north of the Xinjiang deserts, the Tibetan plateau and the even higher Himalayas, which is where monsoon winds stop by due to the elevation. I am asking if removing the Himalayas would be sufficient in order to make most of the desert (including Xinjiang's) fertile enough to support a large population and if a similar process could make central Asia more fertile as well.

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    $\begingroup$ If only there was a large continent with broad flat plains that weren't separated by mountains from its rainy coast. Maybe somewhere in the northern hemisphere... $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 19:02

1 Answer 1


Not as much as you might think, but enough to suspend disbelief for a story

If memory serves, the Mongolian plateau is part of the Himalayas. In other words, "realistically" (which isn't really what we do here, but just to point it out), you can't remove the mountains without removing the plateau.

But, fantastically, if you did, you'd get more rain - but not as much as you might think. The average altitude of the plateau is 1.6 km. That's still a lot of vertical climb for storms, which begin at sea level. To give you a comparison, the U.S. Great Plains region has an average elevation of only 450 m, which happens to be close to the lowest elevation on the Mongolian Plateau (Lake Huhk at 560 m).

Consequently, I would expect that you'd see increased fertility as shown on the following map (courtesy Google, click to enlarge):

enter image description here

As one travels toward the central Mongolian plateau (northeast of the purple area), the land becomes less fertile. Those deserts of the high plateau would remain. Part of the problem is that bringing rain across India is a long distance to travel only to have to move uphill onto the plateau.

The only way to make the entire plateau fertile would be to lower the plateau much closer to sea level. It, and the land between it and the sea. (I'm exaggerating that a bit, rain gets over mountains, but the lower the mountains, the more rain gets past them.)


I believe the idea would allow me to suspend my disbelief to allow most of the Mongolian Plateau to become fertile.

If where you're going with this is a story about a massive engineering project to remove the plateau's protective mountains... Yowzah! That's a project worthy of the Chinese culture! Keep in mind that you can't just build more beaches with the removed dirt as that would have a consequence for rain as well (it's a LOT of dirt). That's assuming, of course, that I'm right in guessing your plans. I could be wrong. But, yowzah....

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    $\begingroup$ Yes I actually wanted to set this in the future, when the mountains are artificially removed. Well I actually am trying to find a geographic location where to put my new country, either Beringia, Australia or in this case, what corresponds to the region people once called "Tartaria" or at least Inner and Outer Manchuria, I actually am not sure which location would be the most realistic to put my it in as I want a continental climate. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 20:39
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    $\begingroup$ Th Mongolian Plateau is not part of the Himalayas. It might have association with the collision that formed those mountains, but is geologically distinct. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ @KeithMorrison Really? Well, I'm an electrical engineer, not a geologist. What formed the Mongolian Plateau? I'll happily improve the answer. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 0:12
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    $\begingroup$ The Mongolian Plateau was formed by crustal extension as a result of the collision with India and Asia and a subsequent uplift, but again, not part of the Himalayas. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ I'd imagine that absent the Himalayas (i.e., without India smushing into Asia), much of that area would still be either Tethys Sea floor or else its northern shores. Probably not much uplift. Far enough in the future, should India retreat, the Himalayas and the associated highlands will eventually erode, ending up with old and worn down mountains like the Appalachians. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 10:41

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