Uzbekistan's natural world is very diverse. It is composed of desert areas and snowy mountains, rivers and completely dry lands.
The most part of its territory lies in the Turon plain, where there are no sudden steep-drops and hills. The Turon plate and mainland, which later became the Tian Shan and Pamir -Alai Mountains, were formed in the Paleolithic period. Later, the sea covered the plate for a long time. The mountain chains are thought to have fully developed during the Alps orogenesis.
The mountain ranges blocked the humidity from the Indian Ocean. It caused considerable climatic change: the weather became dry and huge desert areas appeared. As rivers and winds kept changing their directions, the upper layer of soil was continuously displaced from one place to another. It led to the formation of the Kyzyl Kum and Kara Kum deserts.
Mountains and foothills make up about one-fifth of the territory of Uzbekistan. The highest point is 4,643 meters. Mountains cover the east of the country. Uzbekistan embraces western parts of the Tian Shan and Pamir-Alai mountain ranges, respectively. The mountain ranges are very different: there is a sharp contrast of heights, foothills, canyons, and watersheds. There are also small mountains such as Aktau, Karakchitau and the western part of the Zarafshon mountain range with their smooth shape. Rather big depressions stretch between the mountains: Kashkadarya, Surkhandarya, Zarafshon, and Samarkand. The largest depression is the Ferghana Valley - 370 km long and 190 km wide. It is surrounded by mountain ranges on three sides except on the western face. On the border with Afghanistan, there is the huge Amu Darya depression.
Minerals. Numerous deposits of oil and gas have been discovered on the plains such as Gazli, Shakhpakhti, and others, of naturally formed salt in Borsakelmas, and materials used in construction elsewhere.
Deposits of coal (Angren, Shargun, and Boysun), precious, non-ferrous and rare metals, fluorite, and construction materials go back to the early stage of orogenesis.
A distinctive feature of Uzbekistan's natural conditions is that the country is located in a seismologic zone. In the last two centuries the country has experienced numerous of disastrous earthquakes, including in Ferghana (1823), in Andijan (1889 and 1902), and Tashkent (1866, 1868, and 1966). Seismologic movement is more active in mountain areas than in plains. Special construction models are used in buildings in active seismological zones.