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Dramatic Deserts

Shira Yehudit Djlilmand

The lure of the mysterious desert - miles after miles of sand with the baking sun beating down. Sounds exotic, doesn’t it? Well, you might be surprised to learn that not only are not all deserts made of sand, some are also distinctly cold!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

So what exactly is a desert? A hot, sandy place, right? Not necessarily. Officially, a desert is anywhere that receives 10 inches (25 cm) of rain or less a year. That means that there’s an awful lot of desert in the world — almost a third of the earth’s land surface! Just the Sahara Desert in northern Africa alone, which stretches all the way from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Red Sea in the east, covers an area almost as big as the entire United States! There are deserts across the globe — for example, in the US, the Californian Mojave Desert; in the Middle East, the vast Arabian Desert; in Southern Africa the Kalahari, and even in little Israel there are two deserts — the Negev and the Judean deserts.    

Although many deserts are just as we imagine them — endless sand dunes — many are not. In fact, only 15 percent of the world’s deserts are made of sand. The rest are made up of rocks and mountains, or even, in the Antarctic Desert, of ice.

And as for deserts being hot, well, that’s not always true either. There are also cold, coastal, and semi-arid deserts. The Gobi Desert in Asia for example, is cold, and in the Mongolian desert, for half the year the temperature is below freezing. Coastal deserts, such as the Namib Desert in Southern Africa, are warm in summer and cool in winter, while semi-arid deserts, which include over a third of Australia, aren’t quite as dry as regular deserts, receiving up to 35 cm of rain a year.


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