30+ Interesting Facts About Deserts

  1. Any area that receives less than 250 mm (10 in) average yearly precipitation is called a desert. Deserts and semi-desert areas cover nearly 33% of the earth’s land surface.
  2. Apart from the earth, there are desert planets in the solar system and other parts of the universe due to the absence or scarcity of precipitation. These include Mercury, Venus, and Mars in the solar system, and nearly 900 extrasolar planets. (Source)
  3. Deserts have several unique features. They can be hot (Sahara desert), cold (Gobi Desert), sandy (Arabian Desert), or rocky (Great Basin Desert).
  4. The Namib desert is the oldest in the world. This desert in southwestern Africa is at least 55 million years old. The other oldest deserts are the Kalahari and the Gobi. (Source)
  5. There is a vast underground water reservoir present in the Judean desert. According to estimates, the average yearly volume of this rain-fed aquifer is around 100 million cubic meters, of which very little is consumed. (Source)
  6. Antarctica and the Arctic are Ice Cap regions. However, they are also called cold (or polar) deserts because they receive very little average annual precipitation.
  7. Antarctica is the largest cold desert (14,200,000 km2), covering the whole Antarctica continent. Apart from polar areas (Antarctica and Arctic), the largest cold desert is the Gobi Desert (1,300,000 km2), located in Mongolia and China.
  8. The Atacama Desert in Chile is the driest place on earth, having an annual rainfall of 0.03 inches. It is the only true desert that receives less precipitation than the polar deserts (Antarctica and the Arctic). (Source)
    Image of Atacama Desert
    Atacama Desert is the driest place on earth

  9. Despite being the world’s driest place, more than 1 million people live in the Atacama Desert. More than 36,000 tourists also visit this desert annually.
  10. The Sahara is the largest hot desert (9,100,000 km2). It covers the entire northern part of Africa. The population in this inhospitable place is around 2.5 million (less than 1 person per square mile). 
  11. The size of the Sahara is increasing continuously due to global warming. Since 1920, the area of this desert in North Africa has increased by 10%. (Source)
  12. The Arabian desert is the largest desert in Asia (2,600,000 km2), which covers Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Arabian Peninsula.
  13. In 1971, Soviet engineers burned a gas field in the Karakum desert when the ground beneath their equipment collapsed. This step was taken to prevent the escape of poisonous methane gas, which was expected to extinguish on its own in a few weeks. But this place in the desert, known as “Darvaza Gas Crater” or “The Door to Hell,” is still on fire due to the abundance of natural gas. (Source)
  14. There are large deposits of diamonds in Kalahari, which is a bone of contention between Botswana’s government and native settlers of the desert. (Source)
  15. There are large deposits of copper and gold in the Mongolian part of the Gobi Desert. A structure like the Statue of Liberty can be made 800,000 times using the amount of copper beneath the Gobi Desert. (Source
  16. Rub Al Khali (the empty quarter) in the Arabian desert is the world’s largest continuous sand desert. It covers an area of around 650,000 km2 in the southern part of the Arabian Desert.
  17. Deserts cover around 35% area of the Australian continent. There are ten major deserts present in the inner part of Australia.
  18. Patagonian desert is the largest (670,000 km2) in South America. This cold desert covers southern area of  Argentina, and parts of Chile and Falkland Islands (UK).
  19. The largest desert in North America is the Great Basin Desert (490,000 km2), located in the western USA.
  20. Despite water scarcity, the desert plants have modified themselves according to the difficult conditions. It enables them to live for hundreds of years or even more. (Source)
  21. In January 2018, scientists found dinosaur fossils in the Sahara desert. The fossil belongs to a new species of dinosaur. (Source)
  22. Desert-dwelling animals have light and sandy-colored skin, which helps them to reflect solar radiation.
  23. Camels are suitable for the desert climate. They can live without water for several days, even above 50 C.
  24. Addax is another animal native to Sahara. This white antelope can live for a long duration without drinking water. It fulfils its water requirement through the liquid present in the desert plants it eats.
  25. Iran’s Lut Desert (Dasht-e-Loot) has the world’s hottest land surface, reaching above 70 oC. It had the highest surface temperature in five of the seven years (2003-09) measured by a satellite. (Source)
    Lut Desert in Iran
    Lut Desert has the hottest land surface

  26. Hot Deserts receive so much solar energy in six hours that can fulfill the energy requirement of the whole world for one year. (Source)
  27. Apart from solar energy, deserts also provide a perfect location for producing geothermal and wind energy. (Source)
  28. Most of the world’s oil and gas reserves are present in deserts. Plate tectonics played a vital role in transferring these hydrocarbons from wet and mild climates to deserts and arctic areas. (Source)
  29. Europe is the only continent without any true desert. However, there are semi-arid places in some parts of this continent (Italy, Spain, Romania, etc.).
  30. According to research, parts of Europe (Spain, Portugal, Turkey, and Italy) will change into deserts at the end of the 21st Century due to global warming. (Source)
  31. Badain Jaran desert in China is known for its numerous and colorful lakes. More than 140 lakes (both salty and fresh) in the southern part of this desert look beautiful between large dunes.
  32. The Great Victoria Desert, the largest desert in Australia, is mostly populated by indigenous Australians. These people have been residing here for the past 15,000 years. (Source)
  33. The ancient desert civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia (Iraq) are very famous. However, several other ancient civilizations also flourished in other deserts around the world. A few of these lost civilizations are in the areas of Taklamakan desert (China), Karakum Desert (Turkmenistan), Kalahari Desert (southern Africa), Atacama Desert, Mojave desert (USA), and others. (Source)

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