Dabusun Lake

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Dabusun Lake
Dabusun Lake (2006)
Dabusun Lake is located in Qinghai
Dabusun Lake
Dabusun Lake
LocationGolmud City
Haixi Prefecture
Qinghai Province
Coordinates37°01′27″N 95°08′20″E / 37.024081°N 95.1389253°E / 37.024081; 95.1389253Coordinates: 37°01′27″N 95°08′20″E / 37.024081°N 95.1389253°E / 37.024081; 95.1389253
TypeEndorheic saline lake
Native name
  • 达布逊湖 (in Chinese)
  • ᠵᠡᠭᠦᠨ ᠳᠠᠪᠤᠰᠤᠨ ᠨᠠᠭᠤᠷ (in Mongolian)
Primary inflowsGolmud River
Basin countriesChina
Max. length30 km (19 mi)
Max. width4–7.5 km (2–5 mi)
Surface area184–334 km2 (71–129 sq mi)
Average depth0.5–1.02 m (1 ft 8 in–3 ft 4 in)
Max. depth1.72 m (5 ft 8 in)
Surface elevation2,675 m (8,776 ft)
Dabusun Lake
Qarhan Playa.png
A map of Dabusun Lake in the central Qarhan Playa (1975)
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese達布遜鹽湖
Simplified Chinese达布逊盐湖
PostalDabasun Nor
Literal meaningDabusun Salt Lake
Mongolian name
Mongolian script(ᠵᠡᠭᠦᠨ) ᠳᠠᠪᠤᠰᠤᠨ ᠨᠠᠭᠤᠷ
Former names
The Sanhu Depression in 2014, with Dabusun in the southeast (ESA)
Mongolian name
Mongolian scriptᠳᠠᠯᠠᠢ ᠳᠠᠪᠤᠰᠤᠨ

Dabusun or Dabuxun Lake, alternately known as Dabasun Nor, is a lake beside the town Qarhan, just north of Golmud in the Haixi Prefecture of Qinghai Province in northwestern China. Fed by the main course of the Golmud River, it is the largest present-day lake in the Qarhan Playa. Like the other lakes of the surrounding Qaidam Basin, it is extremely saline, with 307–338 grams of salt per liter of water (2.5 lb/gallon).


Dabusun[1][2] or Dabasun Nor[3][4][5] is a romanization of its Mongolian name, which means simply "Salt Lake".[6] In Mongolian, the name is sometimes designated "eastern", to distinguish it from West Dabusun Lake.[6] It is sometimes misspelled Dabsun[7] or Dabsan.[8][9] It was formerly known as the Dalai Dabasun,[10] meaning "Sea" or "Ocean of Salt".

Dabuxun[7] is the pinyin romanization of the Chinese name 達布遜 (Dábùxùn), a transcription into characters of the Mongolian name.


Dabusun lies in the Dabusun subbasin in the central Qarhan Playa.[11] It is one of the many saltwater lakes in the endorheic Qaidam Basin,[7] bound by the Qilian Mountains to the north, the Altun to the west, and the Kunlun to the south.[12] Lying at an elevation of 2,675 m (8,776 ft) above sea level, it has a mean annual temperature of 0.1 °C (32.2 °F) despite lying on the same latitude as Greece, Algeria, and Virginia in the United States.[8] Dabasun is the largest present lake in the Qarhan Playa.[7] It is fed by the main course of the Golmud River from the south and, to a lesser extent, by mineral springs[2] from the north.[13] In Qaidam's hyperarid climate, there is generally only 28–40 mm (1–2 in) of annual rainfall but about 3,000 mm (120 in) of annual evaporation.[8] Its area is thus variable by season and year,[14] usually 184–334 km2 (71–129 sq mi) but increasing in the wetter winter and spring and decreasing through the summer and fall. The lake is elongated, stretching from the northwest to the southeast. Its length is usually about 30 km (19 mi) east to west, and its width is usually about 4–7.5 km (2–5 mi) north to south. The maximum depth is 1.72 m (5 ft 8 in), and the average depth varies from 0.5 to 1.02 m (1 ft 8 in to 3 ft 4 in).


Although the northern springs contribute much less volume, their waters carry far greater concentrations of solutes and are important to the chemical composition of the lake.[15] Below, the alternating beds of mud and halite extend at least 40 m (130 ft) in some places.[7] In addition to common salt, it also has an abundance of carnallite[1] (potassium magnesium chloride) in an area of 2 km × 35 km (1 mi × 22 mi) and magnesium sulfate. The known beds are exposed at the surface or buried by 3–4 m (10–13 ft) of sedimentation.[7]


Paleoclimatologists believe that between 770,000 and 30,000 years ago Dabusun formed part of a much larger Qarhan Lake, which alternated nine times between being a fresh- and saltwater lake.[16] Pollen studies suggest that the area of the lake bed which now underlies Dabusun was raised around 700 m (2,300 ft) in just the last 500,000 years.[17] Tectonic activity also varied sedimentation in the lake by shifting its tributaries and basins, although it remained in the Qarhan Playa during this period.[18] At around 30,000 years ago, this great freshwater lake spread over at least 25,000 km2 (9,700 sq mi) with a surface 50–60 m (160–200 ft) above the present levels of its successors. It was cut off and became saline again around 30,000 years ago and began precipitating salts about 25,000 years ago.[19] It has been shrinking in size by evaporation for most of that time,[10] although it was only about 42 km (26 mi) in circumference in the mid-19th century, when it was visited by the Polono-Russian explorer Przhevalsky.[10][a]

Until the recent commercial exploitation of the salts and other minerals, the district has remained largely unpopulated, as the salt deposits made it difficult for the nomads of northwestern China to use the area for their herds.[10] The area's potassium deposits were accidentally discovered in 1957[21] and exploratory wells found the Yanhu Gas Field north of the lake the next year.[22]


The lake lies just west of the G3011 Liuge Expressway. It is also serviced by the Dabusun and Qarhan railway stations on the Qingzang Railway.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Note that Przhevalsky's text (but not map) confused the name of this lake with Djaratai Dabas,[10] which lay in Alxa[20] to the northeast.



  1. ^ a b Casas & al. (1992).
  2. ^ a b Lowenstein & al. (1994), p. 20.
  3. ^ Geogr. Journ. (1908), p. 442.
  4. ^ Stanford (1917), p. 21.
  5. ^ Chambers Encyclopaedia (1968), Vol. XV, p. 189.
  6. ^ a b Jia (2019).
  7. ^ a b c d e f Garrett (1996), p. 177.
  8. ^ a b c Yu & al. (2001), p. 62.
  9. ^ Zhang & al. (1990).
  10. ^ a b c d e Ward (1878), p. 250.
  11. ^ Du & al. (2018), pp. 2–3.
  12. ^ Casas & al. (1992), p. 882.
  13. ^ Spencer & al. (1990), pp. 397–399.
  14. ^ Zhou & al. (2016), pp. 4 & 6.
  15. ^ Spencer & al. (1990), pp. 398–399.
  16. ^ Huang & al. (1997), p. 277.
  17. ^ Jiang & al. (2000), pp. 96 & 106.
  18. ^ Kong & al. (2018), §2.
  19. ^ Zheng (1997), p. 149.
  20. ^ Ward (1878), p. 251.
  21. ^ Shan (2010).
  22. ^ Yang & al. (2012), p. 33.


External links[edit]