The Pliocene appears only in the coast region of the Black and Azov Seas, but it is widely developed in the Aral-Caspian region, where, however, the Ust-Urt and the Obshchiy Syrt rose above the sea.
The coastline of the Gulf of Mortvyi Kultuk on the north-east is, on the other hand, formed by a range of low calcareous hills, constituting the rampart of the Ust-Urt plateau, which intervenes between the Caspian and the Sea of Aral.
The eastern shore of this section of the sea is also formed by the Ust-Urt plateau, which rises 550 ft.
The Ust-Urt recedes from the Caspian and circles round the Gulf of Kara-boghaz or Kara-bugaz (also called Aji-darya and Kuli-darya).
Ust-Urt), which divided it into an eastern and a western portion, communicating by one or two narrow straits only, such as on the south the Sary-kamysh depression, and on the norththe line of the lakes of Chumyshty and Asmantai.
But the winter extremes go far below this range: during the prevalence of north-east winds the thermometer drops to -20°, or even lower, on the surrounding steppes, while on the Ust-Urt plateau a temperature of -30 is not uncommon.
The lake is surrounded on the north by steppes; on the west by the rocky plateau of Ust-Urt, which separates it from the Caspian; on the south by the alluvial district of Khiva; and on the east by the Kyzyl-kum, or Red Sand Desert.
The present writer is even inclined to think that, besides this southern communication with the Caspian, Lake Aral may have been, even in historical times, connected with the Mortvyi Kultuk (Tsarevich) Gulf of the Caspian, discharging part of its water into that sea through a depression of the Ust-Urt plateau, which is marked by a chain of lakes (Chumyshty, Asmantai).
The Ust-Urt plateau and the Mugojar Mountains prevented it from spreading north-westward, and a narrow channel connected it along the Uzboi with the Caspian, which sent a broad gulf to the east, spread up to the Volga, and was connected by the Manych with the Black Sea basin.