Deserts define geographical phenomena, covering around one-third of our planet’s land surface. Deserts are arid places with fewer than 12 inches of annual precipitation, and they arise when regional climatic shifts cause long-term drought conditions.
Deserts may be found on all of the world’s continents, although their type and size vary widely. Because deserts are associated with harsh living conditions, they are frequently among the world’s least inhabited areas.
There are some of the world’s most immense deserts. Let’s look at the top ten largest deserts in terms of area.
1. Antarctic Desert – (14,200,000 sq.km)
The Antarctic Desert is the world’s largest Desert, encompassing the whole continent of Antarctica, which is located above the South Pole. An incredible 98 percent of the land is permanently covered in ice. It is classified as a desert since it receives barely 10 millimeters of rain per average.
The region’s name has far more superlatives than the name of the world’s biggest Desert. Antarctica is the world’s coldest, driest, and windiest continent and has the highest average elevation of any continent.
Antarctica is approximately double the size of Australia, to give you an idea. Roughly 98 percent of Antarctica is covered in ice with a thickness of at least one mile (1.6 km). The largest Desert on the planet is Antarctica.
2. Arctic Desert – (13,900,000 sq,km)
The Arctic is the world’s northernmost polar area. Due to the cold temperatures, the limited rainfall, and snowfall freeze generate a permanent covering of frozen snow that blankets the enormous polar cap and Arctic regions. Even though it receives more rain than the Antarctic, it only receives six to ten inches of rainfall each year.
The Arctic Ocean and regions of Canada, Russia, Greenland, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland make up the Arctic. A large, ice-covered ocean is bordered by treeless tundra in the Arctic area.
3. The Sahara Desert – (9,200,000 sq. km)
It is the world’s third-largest Desert. The Sahara Desert is found in Africa’s northwestern corner. Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan, and Tunisia are among the countries that make up the Sahara. It encompasses a quarter of Africa’s continent.
The Sahara, sometimes known as “the Great Desert,” is the world’s biggest scorching Desert. It’s famous for its sweltering heat and 183-meter-high dunes. Yet, despite the challenging environment, camels, lizards, and scorpions live there. The Sahara has two rivers and twenty seasonal lakes, but water supplies are scarce.
From the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean’s edges, the Desert runs to the Mediterranean shores. The Sahel, a band of semiarid tropical savanna that runs through northern central and western Sub-Saharan Africa, separates it from the rest of the continent to the south.
4. Great Australian – (2,700,000 sq. km)
The Australian Desert combines the deserts of Australia (including the Great Victoria Desert). The Desert is the world’s fourth-biggest. The deserts of Australia cover 18% of the continent’s surface.
The Gibson Desert, however, is of particular significance since it has the country’s biggest aboriginal population and the world-famous Uluru rock, which, together with Kata Tjuta, is one of the region’s major attractions.
Except for Antarctica, Australia is the harshest continent on the earth. A third of the continent receives so little rain that it is on the verge of becoming a desert. The fascinating thing about Australia’s deserts is that they officially surpass the quantity of rainfall required to be classified as a desert in specific years.
5. Arabian Desert – (2,330,000 sq.km)
The Arabian Desert is the world’s fifth-biggest Desert and Eurasia’s largest. It covers the majority of Asia’s Arabian Peninsula. Although the environment appears bleak and sandy, it is unexpectedly rich in natural resources such as oil and sulfur.
It runs along Egypt’s eastern border for the most part until merging with the Nubian Desert in the south. The Arabian Desert is sparsely inhabited, with most people living near wells and springs.
One of the world’s biggest continuous masses of sand, replete with picture-postcard dunes, may be found in the heart of Saudi Arabia’s Arabian Desert. The Ar-Rub Al-Khali, or ‘The Empty Quarter,’ is the location’s name.
6. Gobi Desert – (295,000 sq.km)
The Gobi Desert is a vast desert in East Asia that stretches across most Northern China and Southern Mongolia. It’s Asia’s second-largest Desert and the world’s third-largest cold Desert.
It’s one of the planet’s most potent, most fascinating, and most active deserts.
Its wide breadth is home to diverse scenery, abundant animals, and harsh weather. Some of the world’s most notable fossil and dinosaur egg excavations are among the “pearls” it holds.
The Altai Mountains and Mongolian grasslands and steppes border the Gobi Desert on the north, the Hexi Corridor and Tibetan Plateau on the southwest, and the North China Plain on the southeast. The Gobi is most known for being a part of the Mongol Empire and multiple significant Silk Road settlements.
The Gobi is a rain shadow desert or a place that has been forced to become a desert due to mountains blocking all plant-growing and wet weather. The Gobi is known for its unusual wildlife, including snow leopards and Bactrian camels, despite its desert status.
7. The Kalahari Desert – (900,000 sq. km)
Southern Africa’s Kalahari Desert is a subtropical desert. Botswana, South Africa, and Namibia are the three nations that share the Kalahari, one of Africa’s central deserts.
The Tswana term Kgala, which means “great thirst,” was used to name the Desert. So said, the name represents the region’s natural beauty. This area is home to wild species such as meerkats, hyenas, kudu, and wildebeest.
The Desert of “great thirst,” a literal translation of Kalahari in Tswana, has landscape and rainfall characteristics similar to those of Australian deserts, with the exception that the Khoisan, an important ethnic group that arose from the fusion of the Khoi, who are herders, and the San, or Bushmen, who are expert hunters.
8. Patagonian Desert – (673,000 sq.km)
The Patagonian Steppe, sometimes known as the Patagonian Desert, is the world’s eighth-largest Desert. The area is surrounded to the west by the Andes and the east by the Atlantic Ocean.
The primary cause for this region’s aridity is a natural barrier established by the high Andean peaks, which restrict humid air from the Pacific from reaching the remainder of South America’s interior.
This region is a cold desert shrub-steppe, consisting of rocky shrubland and thorn scrub, with year-round frosts and strong winds. Despite this, Patagonia is home to a diverse range of fauna, including foxes, llamas, and armadillos.
9. Syrian Desert – (500,000 sq.km)
The Syrian Desert is also called the Syrian Steppe. It is a subtropical desert that is the world’s ninth biggest. It includes Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, among other Middle Eastern nations.
It encompasses more of Jordan than Syria, despite its name. It is a desolate environment of rock and gravel as a subtropical desert.
The Jabal al-Druze, a volcanically raised plateau in southern Syria that reaches 1,800 meters in height, is one of the Desert’s most intriguing vistas.
The Desert’s surface is stark and stony, with a few wadis (dry riverbeds) strewn around.
10. Great Basin – (492,098 sq.km)
The Great Basin Desert is the tenth-largest Desert on the earth, located in central-west Nevada, between the Sierra Nevada and the Wasatch Mountains.
It’s a barren wasteland of clay, silt, and sand, yet it gets plenty of snow in the winter as a semiarid desert. A nearby Bristlecone Pine is considered the oldest living organism on the planet, at 4,950 years old.
The Bottom Line
Climate change induced by humans is wreaking havoc on the world’s deserts. Although it is well known that melting ice caps are diminishing polar deserts, global warming is also contributing to increased rates of desertification.
Deserts grow larger during dry seasons and shrink during rainy seasons, but humans are disrupting this natural cycle, leading deserts to expand faster than they shrink. As a result, changes in climate are responsible for a third of the current size of the Sahara Desert.
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