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Characteristics of Deserts

  • There are different types of deserts ranging from hot and dry deserts to cold deserts.  
    Deserts have wide variations of plant and animal life from desert to desert.

  • One of the main characteristics of a desert is that a desert receives very little
    precipitation throughout the year.

  • Deserts will often be extremely hot during the day and at night the temperature will fall
    40 - 50 degrees or more.  The reason for this is that there is little evaporation in the
    atmosphere to block sunlight during the day and at night allows heat to escape easily.
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A few of the world's deserts

Sahara Desert - Click here for a map estimate of the Sahara Desert

  • World's Largest Hot Desert.
  • Located in North Africa.
  • Boundaries are:  the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Mediterranean to
    the north, and the Red Sea to the east.
  • Temperatures range from over 130 degrees to below freezing.
  • Some of the animals of the Sahara include Dromedary Camels, Fennec
    Foxes, the Addax, Dama Gazelles and Saharan Horned Vipers.

Sonoran Desert - Click here for a map estimate of the Sonoran Desert

  • Located in parts of California, Arizona and northern Mexico.
  • The Saguaro Cactus, pictured to the right, is located in the Sonoran
  • The Sonoran is the hottest of the deserts in the United States, but
    contains much more plant life than the conditions of the Sahara will allow.
  • Some of the animals of the Sonoran include the Sonoran Desert Toad,
    the Desert Bighorn Sheep, the Cactus Wren, the Pronghorn Antelope
    and the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.

Atacama Desert - Click here for a map estimate of the Atacama Desert

  • Located in parts of Chile.
  • Receives very little, if any, rain.  Some areas of the Atacama have not
    had recorded rainfall in hundreds of years.
  • Plant and animal life are extremely scarce.  Bacteria may even have a
    difficult time surviving in the harsh conditions here.  
  • Described as the driest place on earth.
  • Very little human inhabitation.  Human inhabitants occupy areas around