The Tibetan Plateau. The plateau itself is covered in irregular hills, and its western half has no river drainage, so rainfall forms large lakes. They are called jewel-toned lakes for the colors of the minerals that collect in them. In this Cloudless Atlas imagery we see them uninterrupted by clouds and image seams, just as bright as they are in real life.

This view covers an enormous region of south-central Asia, about the same area as the contiguous United States. We’re looking at the highest area in the world, the Tibetan plateau. It’s raised by the collision of the Indian subcontinent into Asia – a process that’s been happening for 40 million years so far and has created what geologists believe may be the largest plateau in earth’s history. Its southern edge is the Himalaya range, including Mount Everest (near the centerline of this view), which is still rising by several millimeters per year. On its northwest, it borders the Taklamakan desert, a huge sea of sand dunes visible as a bright oval. At the eastern edge of the Taklamakan is Lop Nur, a famously inhospitable lakebed where China conducted nuclear-weapons testing. Along the bottom right of this view, the plateau merges with the Southeast Asian highlands.