A map reflecting the generalised location that Earth"s ten biggest deserts and also a table of over 20 significant deserts.

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World desert map: This map shows the generalised location that Earth"s ten largest deserts top top the communication of surface ar area. The table at the bottom the this page provides the names, generalised locations, and surface locations of over twenty significant deserts. Base map through NOAA.


What is a Desert?

A desert is a see or region that receive very little precipitation - much less than 250 mm every year (about ten inches). Roughly 1/3 that Earth"s land surface ar is a desert. Over there are four different species of deserts based upon their geographical situation: 1) polar deserts, 2) subtropical deserts, 3) cold winter deserts, and 4) cool seaside deserts. As presented on the map above, deserts take place on all of Earth"s continents.

The biggest Desert

The two largest deserts on planet are in the polar areas. The Antarctic Polar Desert consist of the continent of Antarctica and also has a dimension of about 5.5 million square miles. The second-largest desert is the Arctic Polar Desert. That extends over components of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and also Russia. It has actually a surface ar area of about 5.4 million square miles.


McMurdo dry Valleys: The largest deserts on planet are in the polar regions. This is among the McMurdo "dry valleys" close to Lake Hoare, Antarctica. The Canada Glacier is in the background. Photograph by Peter West, national Science Foundation.

Non-Polar Deserts

The remainder of Earth"s deserts are external of the polar areas. The largest is the Sahara Desert, a subtropical desert in north Africa. That covers a surface area of around 3.5 million square miles. A list of much more than twenty of the biggest non-polar deserts have the right to be found below.


The Desert Environment

When most people think that a desert, castle imagine a landscape covered with sand and also sand dunes. Although many deserts space sand-covered, many are not. Countless desert landscapes room rocky surfaces. They space rocky because any type of sand-size or smaller particles ~ above the surface ar are conveniently blown away. Rocky deserts space barren wind-swept landscapes.

Most deserts receive so small precipitation that surface ar streams usually only flow automatically after rainfall - uneven the stream has a resource of water exterior of the desert. Streams that get in a desert usually suffer major water losses before they exit. Few of the water is lost to evaporation. Some is shed to transpiration (taken up by plants and then exit to the environment from the plants). And, part is shed to infiltration (water soaking right into the ground through the bottom the the present channel).

Desert Fauna and also Flora

The plants and animals the live in a desert need to be adapted to the environment. Plants have to be an extremely tolerant to intense sun, an extensive periods there is no precipitation, and have an ability to protect against moisture lose to conditions of major temperature ranges, dried winds, and also low humidity.

Animals must have the ability to tolerate temperature extremes, temperature ranges, and also have an capability to survive with very small water. Many pets adapt to desert conditions by life underground and being active at night.

Major Deserts of the World
NameType the DesertSurface AreaLocation
AntarcticPolar5.5 million mi²Antarctica
ArcticPolar5.4 million mi²Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia
SaharaSubtropical3.5 million mi²Northern Africa
ArabianSubtropical1 million mi²Arabian Peninsula
GobiCold Winter500,000 mi²China and also Mongolia
PatagonianCold Winter260,000 mi²Argentina
Great VictoriaSubtropical250,000 mi²Australia
KalahariSubtropical220,000 mi²South Africa, Botswana, Namibia
Great BasinCold Winter190,000 mi²United States
SyrianSubtropical190,000 mi²Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia
ChihuahuanSubtropical175,000 mi²Mexico
Great SandySubtropical150,000 mi²Australia
Kara-KumCold Winter135,000 mi²Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan
Colorado PlateauCold Winter130,000 mi²United States
GibsonSubtropical120,000 mi²Australia
SonoranSubtropical120,000 mi²United States, Mexico
Kyzyl-KumCold Winter115,000 mi²Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan
TaklamakanCold Winter105,000 mi²China
IranianCold Winter100,000 mi²Iran
TharSubtropical75,000 mi²India, Pakistan
SimpsonSubtropical56,000 mi²Australia
MojaveSubtropical54,000 mi²United States
AtacamaCool Coastal54,000 mi²Chile
NamibCool Coastal13,000 mi²Angola, Namibia, south Africa

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