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The Largest Deserts in the World 

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desert is a barren area of landscape where little precipitation occurs and consequently living conditions are hostile for plant and animal life. The lack of vegetation exposes the unprotected surface of the ground to the processes of denudation.

Deserts can also be described as areas where more water is lost by evaporation than falls as precipitation. This certainly applies in regions that are subject to “desertification”, where increasing temperatures (i.e. climate change) result in river beds drying up, precipitation patterns changing, and vegetation dying off.

Deserts are often some of the hottest and most inhospitable places on Earth, as exemplified by the Sahara Desert in Africa, the Gobi desert in northern China and Mongolia, and Death Valley in California. But they can also be cold, windswept landscapes where little to no snow ever falls – like in the Antarctic and Arctic.

So in the end, being hot has little to do with it. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that deserts are characterized by little to no moisture and extremes in temperature. All told, deserts make up one-third of the surface of the Earth. But most of that is found in the polar regions.

Antarctica:

In terms of sheer size, the Antarctic Desert is the largest desert on Earth, measuring a total of 13.8 million square kilometers. Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, and most isolated continent on Earth, and is considered a desert because its annual precipitation can be less than 51 mm in the interior.

There are no permanent human residents, but anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 researchers inhabit the research stations scattered across the continent – the largest being McMurdo Station, located on the tip of Ross Island. Beyond a limited range of mammals, only certain cold-adapted species of mites, algaes, and tundra vegetation can survive there.

Other Deserts:

Interestingly, the second-largest desert in the world is also notoriously cold – The Arctic Desert. Located above 75 degrees north latitude, the Arctic Desert covers a total area of about 13.7 million square km (5.29 million square mi). Here, the total amount of precipitation is below 250mm (10 inches), which is predominantly in the form of snow.

The third largest desert in the world is the more familiar Sahara, with a total size of 9.4 million square km. The average annual rainfall ranges from very low (in the northern and southern fringes of the desert) to nearly non-existent over the central and the eastern part. All told, most of the Saraha receives less than 20 mm (0.79 in).In short, deserts are not just sand dunes and places where you might come across Bedouins and Berbers, or a place you have to drive through to get to Napa Valley. They are common to every continent of the world, and can take the form of sandy deserts or icy deserts. In the end, the defining characteristic is their pronounced lack of moisture.

The Largest Deserts in the World :

RankNamePlace and CountryTypeArea (Km 2 )
1AntarcticaAntarticaCold Winter14000000
2ArcticArticCold Winter13985000
3SaharaNorth AfricaSubtropical9000000
4Arabian DesertWestern AsiaSubtropical2330000
5Gobi DesertCentral Asia (China and Mangolia)Cold Winter1000000
6Kalahari DesertSouthern AfricaSubtropical900000
7Great Victoria DesertAustraliaSubtropical647000
8Patagonian DesertSouth America (Argentina and Chile)Cold Winter620000
9Syrian DesertWestern Asia (Iraq, Jordan and Syria)Subtropical520000
10Great Basin DesertUnited StatesCold Winter492000
11Chihuahuan DesertNorth America (Mexico and USA)Subtropical450000
12Great Sandy DesertAustralia Subtropical400000
13Karakum DesertTurkmenistan Cold Winter350000
14Colorado PlateauUnited StatesCold Winter337000
15Sonoran DesertNorth America (Mexico and USA )Suptropical310000
16Kyzylkum DesertCentral Asia (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan)Cold Winter300000
17Taklamakan Desert China Cold Winter270000
18Thar Desert South Asia (India and Pakistan)Subtropical200000
19Gibson Desert AustraliaSubtropical156000
20Dasht-E Margo AfghanistanSubtropical150000
21Registan Desert AfghanistanSubtropical146000
22Simpson Desert AustraliaSubtropical145000
23Atacama Desert South America (Chile and Peru)Cool Coastal140000
24Mojave Desert United StatesSubtropical124000
25Namib Desert Southern Africa (Angola and Namibia)Cool Coastal81000
26Dasht –E Kavir Iran Subtropical 77000
27Dasht – E Loot Iran Subtropical 52000

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