The sparsely populated Karakum Desert occupies about 80 to 90% of the total area of the Republic of Turkmenistan. Not surprisingly sandstorms and dust storms are very common in the country. The karakum possesses large reserves of oil, natural gas, and the third largest deposits of sulphur in the world. Compared to other deserts it has limited but adequate rainfall for ephemeral vegetation growth, a factor that allows for nomadic pastoralism. Moreover, ample irrigation water, allowing even the growing of Cotton, is provided by the Murghab and Hari rivers flowing into the desert, as well as by the soviet constructed Karakum Canal, the largest irrigation canal in the world which connects the Amu Darya River with the Caspian sea. Seepage from the Karakum canal has led to the creation of numerous lakes and ponds along its course, a source of natural beauty but also increasing salinization due to rising groundwater levels.
Average air temperatures range from 26 to 34 °C in summer, and −4 °C to 4 °C in winter, however extreme seasonal fluctuations are common with ranges from −20 °C in winter to +50°C in summer, and day temperatures may differ sharply between daylight and nighttime.