1. Sahara is the world’s largest and hottest desert
The Sahara (“The Greatest Desert”) is the world’s largest hot desert; at over 9,000,000 square kilometres (3,500,000 sq miles), it covers most of Northern Africa (Algeria, Chad, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Sudan, Tunisia and Western Sahara). On the west, the Sahara is washed by the Atlantic Ocean and on the east by the Red Sea, and on the north it borders with the Atlas Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. Sand dunes make up about 15% of the desert, rocky plains comprise another 70% and the remainder consists of limestone and shale plateaus.
The Greatest Desert has a subtropical climate in its northern parts, and a tropical one in the south. Winters in the north are cold to cool; in the south, mild. Summers are hot all over the desert. The highest desert`s temperature ever recorded is 57.7°C (135.9°F) in Aziziyah, Libya it is also the hottest recorded temperature ever on the surface of the Earth.
According to archaeologists, the Sahara was much more densely populated. It was more than twenty thousand years ago when the desert’s climate had not been as arid as it is today. This area was once a real paradise of lush vegetation, but slowly it started becoming drier and the fertile landscape gave way to infertile region, as we see it today. However, some studies and researches show that the desert was manmade.
For centuries caravaneers have been travelling through the Sahara desert. Even though there are many oases in the Sahara, the desert is so immense that travellers may go for days to reach them.
2. Atacama is the world’s driest desert
The Atacama Desert is the driest desert on Earth that covers 1000 kilometres (600 miles) of northern Chile, situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains, being extended to the border of Peru. The average annual rainfall here is about 25 mm (1 inch) and, in some mid-deserts spots rain has never been recorded. The average temperatures range is from 0° C to 25°C (32°F to 75°F).
Most of the precipitation that comes to the Atacama is in the form of fog (locally as the Camanchaca) that blows in from the Pacific. The fog nourishes plant communities called lomas, isolated islands of vegetation that can contain a wide variety of species, from cactuses to ferns.
The reason that the Atacama doesn’t get enough rainfall is because of a phenomenon called rainshadow. The warm, moist tropical air that blows on the tradewinds from the east, which douse the South American rainforest, gets hung-up on the east side of the Andes.
3. Gobi Desert
The Gobi Desert is he Asia’s largest desert area and it also covers some parts of Southern Mongolia and north-western China. The desert measures over 1600 kilometres (900 miles) from southwest to northeast and 800 kilometres (500 miles) from north to south and has an elevation of 1520 meters above the sea level.
The climate of the Gobi Desert is highly varied on account of its large size and regions situated at different altitudes; the temperature variations are extreme in nature with some parts of the desert having maximum temperatures of 45°C (113°F) in summer in the month of July and minimum temperature as low as -40°C (-40°F) in winter in the month of January.
Unlike the romanticized image of deserts with sweeping sand dunes, most of the landscape of the Gobi consists of rocky, hard packed terrain. While the solid land under foot made it easier to transverse the desert, catapulting the Gobi onto the scene of history as a viable trade route, there was very little settled human occupation in the area until modern times.
Despite the harsh conditions, the Gobi Desert is one of the most exciting areas in the world for finding the dinosaur fossils.
4. Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt desert
The Salar de Uyuni (or Salar de Tunupa) is with its 10,582 square kilometres (4,085 square miles) the world’s largest salt desert. It is located in the Departmento of Potosi in southwest Bolivia, near the crest of the Andes. Salar de Uyuni is estimated to have a reserve of 10 billion tons of salt.
Approximately 40,000 years ago, the area was a part of the Lago Minchin, a giant lake. When the lake dried, it was left behind two modern lakes, Lagos Poopó and Uru Uru, and two major salt deserts, Coipasa and a larger Uyuni.
Despite the desert dryness, freezing night temperatures, and fierce desert sun, this landscape is not devoid of life. Pink flamingos, ancient cacti, and rare hummingbirds all live in the Salar de Uyuni.
5. Death Valley
The Death Valley is one of the hottest places on the surface of the Earth located in California, United States. On July 10, 1913 temperature got up to 56°C (134°F) and annual (potential) evaporation here is the highest in the world at 325 centimetres (128 inches). The desert is also the driest place in North America, with an average rainfall of less than 5 centimetres (2 inches) a year on the valley floor.
Death Valley is one of the best geological examples of a basin and range configuration. Salt and alkali flats, unique rock formations, and briny pools are found there.
The valley received its English name in 1849 during the California Gold Rush. It was called Death Valley by prospectors and others who sought to cross the valley on their way to the gold fields, even though only one death in the area was recorded during the Rush. During the 1850s, gold and silver were extracted in the valley.
Death Valley is believed to have nearly 900 different species of plants existing, despite its harsh and arid climate. A large number of small desert insects, animal lizards, snakes, rodents and coyotes are found here. The most amazing occupant of the Death Valley is a fish called Devil’s Hole pupfish. This species has managed to survive here for thousands of years, despite the monumental changes in its environment.
6. Taklamakan Desert a desert covered with snow
The Taklamakan Desert (also Taklimakan) is a desert of Central Asia, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. It is known as one of the largest sandy deserts in the world. It covers an area of 270,000 square kilometres (100,000 square miles) of the Tarim Basin, 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) long and 400 kilometres (250 miles) wide.
Taklamakan is a cold desert climate. In February 2008 the desert had experienced its biggest snowfall and lowest temperature (-32°C (-25.6°F)), for the first time it was entirety covered with a thin layer of snow reaching 4 centimetres (1.6 inches).
In Uigur language, Takla Makan means ‘you can get into it but can never get out’ and the desert has another name ‘the Sea of Death‘. It once formed the greatest obstacle to be found along the Silk Road and fearful Caravaneers of old would skirt its edges, to the north or to the south.