Last Updated on February 10, 2023
Deserts are fascinating ecosystems that are often perceived as barren wastelands. However, deserts are much more than just sand dunes and cacti. These unique ecosystems have a range of interesting characteristics and features that make them truly captivating.
Deserts are defined as areas that receive less than 10 inches of precipitation per year, and they cover approximately one-third of the Earth’s land surface. From the scorching heat of the Sahara Desert to the frigid temperatures of the Gobi Desert, these diverse ecosystems are full of surprises.
Below, some of the most interesting facts about deserts.
1# Some Deserts are Cold – or even Freezing
Contrary to popular belief, not all deserts are hot and dry. Some deserts, like the Gobi Desert, can experience sub-zero temperatures in the winter, making them characterized by cool climates yet with low enough amounts of precipitation that they are classified as deserts. The Gobi Desert is located in northern China and Mongolia, and it is the fifth largest desert in the world.
Additionally, there are two polar deserts located on the planet – the Antarctic Desert and the Arctic Desert. These two polar deserts are the coldest deserts in the world, with temperatures averaging well below freezing. The Antarctic Desert is the largest desert on earth, covering over 14 million square kilometers, while the Arctic Desert covers an area of over 5 million square kilometers.
2# Deserts Can Bloom With Tons of Flowers all at Once
Deserts may seem barren and lifeless, but they are actually home to a variety of unique draught-adapted flora. One of the most fascinating aspects of deserts is the phenomenon known as “desert blooming“. This is when the deserts come to life with a burst of colorful flowers.
Desert blooming occurs in response to heavy rainfall, and it can suddenly turn the desert into a carpet of flowers. This phenomenon can last for several weeks and is a sight to behold. Some of the most famous deserts that experience blooming include the Namib Desert in southern Africa and the Sonoran Desert in the southwestern United States.
3# There Are No Clouds in the Desert Most of the Time
Deserts are characterized by their clear skies, which are often free of clouds. This is because the hot air rises and creates a low pressure system that sucks in air from surrounding areas. This incoming air is typically humid, and as it rises, it cools and condenses into clouds.
In deserts, however, the hot air rises so rapidly that it creates a strong inversion layer that acts as a barrier, preventing the formation of clouds. This results in the clear skies that are so iconic of deserts.
4# There are Sand Dunes that “Sing”
Singing sand dunes are a rare and fascinating phenomenon that occurs in deserts. When the wind blows over the dunes, it creates a low-pitched humming or singing sound.
This is because the wind causes the sand particles to vibrate and rub against each other, producing a unique sound.
Singing sand dunes can be found in deserts all over the world, including the Rub’ al Khali Desert in Saudi Arabia and the Taklamakan Desert in China.
5# Deserts are Expanding
Climate change, deforestation, and other human activities are causing deserts to spread, which is having a significant impact on the environment. As deserts expand, they are encroaching on previously fertile lands, reducing the amount of available farmland and putting pressure on food supplies.
One example of a desert that is experiencing rapid expansion is the Mauritanian Desert. This desert, which covers a large portion of the country of Mauritania in West Africa, has been growing at an alarming rate due to various human activities and changing climate patterns. Human activities, such as overgrazing and deforestation, have led to soil erosion and the loss of vegetation, which has contributed to the spread of the desert. Additionally, the increasing temperatures in the region have caused the desert to expand further. The consequences of this expansion are severe, as it has forced many local communities to migrate and has led to food and water shortages.
6# Animals Have Adopted Some Incredible Adaptations to Survive in the Desert
Deserts can be extremely harsh environments, but many animals have adapted to survive in these conditions.
For example, camels have adaptations such as humps on their backs to store water and wide feet to help them navigate sand dunes. Other animals, like the sand gazelle and the desert tortoise, have also developed adaptations to help them survive in the desert.
The two polar deserts are also home to unique and resilient forms of life, including penguins, seals, and whales. The harsh conditions in these frozen environment have forced animals to develop adaptations such as thick fur, blubber, and insulating feathers, to help them survive in the cold.
7# Antarctica is the Largest and Driest Desert Yet Holds 90% of the World’s Fresh Water
The Antarctic Desert is the largest and driest desert on earth, yet it holds about 90% of the world’s fresh water. This water is found in the form of a permanently frozen ice sheet. Despite being the driest place on earth, the presence of such large amounts of fresh water make the Antarctic Desert a unique and important part of the world.
As a matter of fact, the ice sheet plays a critical role in regulating the earth’s climate, serving as a massive store of carbon and influencing the ocean currents that circulate around the globe.
8# It Can Snow in Hot Deserts (Even in the Sahara!)
Despite being one of the hottest deserts on earth, it can snow in the Sahara Desert. This may come as a surprise to many, but it is a testament to the extreme and diverse conditions that can be found in deserts. Snow in the Sahara is rare, but it does occur and can be a truly spectacular sight, as it often covers the tallest sand dunes in the desert as if they were mountains.
9# Dinosaur Eggs were First Discovered in a Desert
The first dinosaur eggs were discovered in the Gobi Desert in 1923. The Gobi Desert is located in parts of northwestern China and southern Mongolia, and is one of the fastest growing deserts in the world. The discovery of dinosaur eggs in the Gobi was a major milestone in our understanding of the history of life on earth.
10# The Most Extreme Foot Race in the World is the Marathon des Sables
The most extreme ultramarathon on earth is the Marathon des Sables, which is held annually in the Sahara Desert. This race has been christened “The Toughest Footrace on Earth” and involves a 156-kilometer trek through the desert over a period of six days. The Marathon des Sables is a true test of physical and mental endurance, and attracts runners from all over the world.
While the Marathon des Sables is today the toughest and most demanding marathon on Earth, there are plenty of smaller desert runs held yearly all over the globe.
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