Physical Geography of Saskatchewan

Physical

Geography of Saskatchewan

Introduction

Saskatchewan is situated in the central

Prairie between Alberta on the west and Manitoba on the east. Its neighbour
on the north is the North West Territories, and on the south it borders
with the United States. Saskatchewan is rectangular in shape--it is the
only Canadian province none of whose borders was determined by the landform
feature like river or mountain range. The province is located in the Central

Standard Time and doesn't switch on Daylight Saving Time in summer. The
population of Saskatchewan is around one million people with the area of

651 900 km2.

Physical and Natural Description

Geologic History--Land Formation, Types
of Rocks, and Minerals

The northeastern part of Saskatchewan is
a part of the Canadian Shield that was formed during Precambrian era and
features some of the oldest rocks in the world. The border that separates
the Canadian Shield from the rest of the province runs across Saskatchewan
from south-east to north-west. This part of the province was formed during

Precambrian era and contains igneous and metamorphic rocks. From the minerals
found in that part of the Shield the most abundant and the most important
for Saskatchewan is the metallic mineral uranium that can be used for building
the nuclear reactors or exported to the other countries.

The rest of the province, except for the
extreme southwest which is occupied by the Hills, is situated on the Saskatchewan

Plain which is a part of the Interior Plains that are, in turn, part of
the Great Plains of North America. This part was formed under water when
the mountains of the Canadian Shield eroded and deposited on the bottom
of the shallow seas that it was surrounded by. The process was completed
during the Mesozoic era. This part is relatively flat with gently rolling
hills and occasional valleys. The most important minerals that are found
in this area composed of soft and hard sedimentary rock are the non-metallic
minerals like potash which is widely used as a fertilizer and some oil.

Major Landform Features

The major landform feature of the province
is the escarpment created by erosion that separates Saskatchewan Plain
from Alberta Plain and Manitoba Plain. Except for the Cypress Hills near
the U.S. border, Saskatchewan lies on a plain. Its landscape is not absolutely
flat--Saskatchewan is the province of gently rolling rounded hills.

Climate

Saskatchewan is a part of the two climatic
regions: Prairie on the south and Boreal on the north. The climatic characteristics
of both are somewhat similar, but there are certain differences. For example,
being situated farther north the Boreal region has colder winters and cooler
summers. Both regions receive little precipitation, but the Prairie region
tends to be drier than Boreal.

Saskatchewan climate is sharply continental.

Since there is no mountain range on the north or on the south, the province
is open to both cold Arctic air masses and warm air coming from the Gulf
of Mexico. This results in long cold winters and hot summers. The annual
temperature range in Saskatchewan, therefore, is one of the highest in

Canada.

There is very little precipitation in Saskatchewan
because the air that is brought to the province from the Pacific coast
is dry--it loses all its moisture before it crosses the mountain range
in form of relief precipitation. The air that comes from the other directions
is also dry. Thus, not only does Saskatchewan have little precipitation,
it also receives more sunshine than any other province. The Saskatchewan
town of Estevan--a "sunshine capital" of Canada --gets 2540 hours of sunshine
per year.

No description of Saskatchewan climate
will be complete without mentioning of the blizzards--prairie storms with
winds of ~11m/s that can last for six hours or more. It is most likely
to occur in February, in southwestern Saskatchewan. Right after those storms
the transportation and communication systems are disrupted, so the whole
cities can be paralyzed for several days.

Soil and Natural Vegetation.

Vegetation Regions.

Saskatchewan has three natural vegetation
regions--the grassland, the parkland, and the boreal forest. Each one has
different soil and different natural vegetation.

The very south of Saskatchewan is occupied
by the grassland--the driest area of the province and one of the driest
in the country--where only grass can grow. The general trend is that the
more precipitation the area receives the taller the grass that can grow
in that area. The trees can only grow near the rivers so that they can
get enough moisture.

Another vegetation region of the province
is the parkland that separates the grassland and the boreal forest. This
area is covered with trees--deciduous trees grow in the southern part,
while the coniferous trees occupy the north of the region. Parkland is
a transitional