Precipitation increases with elevation and latitude, with annual amounts ranging from less than 4 inches (100 mm) in some of the low-lying desert areas of the south and west to about 14 inches (350 mm) in the northern mountains; Ulaanbaatar receives about 10 inches (250 mm) annually.
The precipitation, which typically occurs as thunderstorms during the summer months, is highly variable in amount and timing and fluctuates considerably from year to year.
In summer the steppes are carpeted with brightly coloured wildflowers.
In addition, the higher mountains have bands of coniferous forest (taiga) and, higher yet, an alpine zone.
The steppes (grasslands) predominate, covering more than three-fourths of the national territory.
Dust storms are common in areas where human activity has broken up the surface of the steppes.
The varied natural conditions, the interior location, and the sparse human population of Mongolia all contribute to a rich and diverse wildlife that has attracted international attention and has commercial importance.