There are five major types of deserts in the world. But how are these deserts different and what are these five ‘types’? Keep reading to learn all about the types of deserts.
Types of Deserts in the World
There are five main types of deserts in the world. Ecologists classify types of deserts based on their geographic location and predominant weather pattern.
There are many interesting facts about deserts. For example, deserts occupy a substantial chunk of the globe and cover one-fifth of the planet earth. They are present over multiple continents, often in places unknown to most people. Moreover, deserts provide shelter to almost 1 billion of the world population.
Scroll down to get complete information about the five main types of deserts and their geographical location.
The 5 Types of Deserts in the World
Here is a list of five major types of deserts in the world.
- Subtropical deserts
- Interior deserts
- Coastal deserts
- Rain shadow deserts
- Polar deserts
Deserts fall under these categories based on their soil texture and water-holding capacity. Lets discuss all of these intriguing factors in detail.
1. Subtropical Deserts
The distinguishing feature of Subtropical deserts is their dry surroundings. Warm soil, high temperatures, and little precipitation are other prominent features of subtropical deserts. You can say these are the hottest and driest types of deserts.
A characteristic circular motion of air masses creates subtropical deserts. Most probably, you locate them close to the equator. Most subtropical deserts are either in the Tropic of Cancer or the Tropic of Capricorn near the equator.
The regions of northern Africa and Australia are home to several subtropical deserts. While southern North America and other continents also have smaller types of deserts.
The subtropical desert experiences average summer temperatures of 84 to 95 °F. In winter, the temperature ranges from 59 to 77 °F. It is a result of their proximity to the equator, which is more solar-friendly than other parts of the world.
The subtropical desert experiences most of its yearly rainfall during the monsoon season, which prevails from July to September. They rarely receive more than 30 centimeters or 12 inches of precipitation.
The soil is typically either sandy or rough and rocky in subtropical deserts. Thus, the soil has a low water-holding capacity. The majority of the soil is composed of rocks, not sand.
In reality, only 30% is sand, with the other 70% mainly gravel. Sand seas, stone plateaus, salt flats, dry valleys, mountains, rivers, streams, and oases make up the remainder of the desert.
Most evergreen trees, bushes, and shrubs dominate the subtropical deserts. The vegetation in these regions is delicate and broad-leaved species like palm trees and ferns.
The long summer season supports the growth of perennial plants in this environment. Additionally, these plants have long growing seasons of up to eight months. So they resume growth quickly.
Camels, tortoises, birds, foxes, rats, and lizards are a few examples of animals that inhabit the subtropical desert. They come in a variety of sizes. You will notice that almost all animals have a sandy tint to help them blend in with their surroundings and survive.
- The Sahara Desert
- The Kalahari Desert
- The Tanami Desert
- Arabian Desert
- Mojave Desert
- Sonoran Desert
- Chihuahuan Desert
- Thar Desert
- Australian Desert
2. Interior Deserts
Interior deserts occupy the central position of all continents. Dry air with zero moisture is the principal character of these types of deserts. Another name for Interior deserts is “Inland deserts.” It is trendy among tourists.
Air masses from coastal regions lose all their moisture before reaching the inland. The summers are hot, and the winters are incredibly cool for tourists. Summertime is the ideal time to go hiking in interior deserts.
The Interior deserts reach an average daily temperature of 38°C or 100°F. However, nighttime temperatures typically drop below -3.9°C or 25°F. So, tourists can enjoy a cool breeze at night during your trip.
The yearly rainfall ranges from 2 inches or 50 mm in the west to more than 8 inches or 200 mm in the northeast. The eastern regions receive significant precipitation in the summer. These deserts have monsoon-like conditions in summer.
Interior deserts comprise extremely arid sand. Plus, the presence of enormous dunes is also an extinction. Although they are constantly moving and changing in the wind, some dunes can reach heights of hundreds of feet. Of course, you will enjoy the beauty of these dunes.
You will see Cacti, like cholla and saguaro, as the dominant species. Wildflowers like deserts, paintbrushes, and Phacelia attract insects. Moreover, trees and shrubs like Ocotillo Joshua trees, Palo verde trees, Yucca, and Agave, are all native to the interior desert.
Insects, scorpions, reptiles, and spiders make up most of the interior desert species. Large mammals like camels, gazelles, and donkeys have adapted to arid conditions. You will be surprised how they survive in water deficit conditions. They have the water-storing capacity and can survive drought.
However, you will be amazed to see that most mammals that live in such types of deserts are tiny.
- Gobi desert
- Patagonian Desert
3. Coastal Deserts
Warm weather with favorable conditions is the distinguishing feature of coastal deserts. These deserts are arid as it rarely rains in these areas. You may find crescent-shaped dunes in these types of forests.
Coastal deserts are typically present along the western shores of continents. Favorably, North America, South America, Africa, and Asia are the top continents where coastal deserts occur naturally. West coasts of continents between 20° and 30° latitude are home to coastal deserts.
The moisture cannot get onto the land because of the easterly pattern of the winds off the coast. You will notice dry air during your journey. Sunglasses, face masks, and sunblock can help you to pass such situations.
Coastal deserts typically experience cool winters followed by warm summers. Wintertime temperatures are typically as low as 14.4 °C, or 57.9 F. Average annual temperature is less than 20 ° C or 68 F.
Maximum and minimum annual rainfall amounts are 37 cm and 5 cm, respectively. Rainfall averages between 8 and 13 cm but vary from region to region.
The salt concentration is 50%, and the soil texture is sandy. The shallow area has small sediments of rocks. The landward portion of this zone includes beaches, cliffs, and coastal dunes. Thus they have sand as a significant constituent of soil.
Black sage, Chrysothamnus, rice grass, and saltbush are flora commonly found in coastal deserts. Even in cold deserts, these plants can survive, although they are also present in other types of deserts. You will also see algae, grasses, and plants with thin, prickly leaves in coastal deserts.
Coyotes, insects, lizards, toads, snakes, and badgers are common animals in these deserts. Birds, including great horned owls, bald eagles, and golden eagles, are also common inhabitants of coastal deserts. Another fantastic fact for tourists is that most animals are nocturnal and spend the entire day in their burrows.
- The Namib Desert
- The Atacama Desert
4. Rain Shadow Deserts
Rain shadow deserts exist when mountain ranges are parallel to humid coastal areas. As air is forced to climb above the mountains, prevailing breezes going inland keep things chilly. Moisture drops on slopes that face these breezes.
Winds are extremely dry as they blow over mountain crests and down the opposite side. It’s warm and cold in a rain shadow at a time. Therefore they are named Rain shadow deserts. Tourists get fantasy by this romantic name and urge to visit these deserts.
Rain shadow deserts are most frequently present on the mountain ranges like the Rockies and Cascades in North America. The Andes in South America, and the Great Dividing Range in Australia, are the homeland of these deserts.
Summer temperatures range from 21 to 27 °C with a maximum temperature of 38°C. Evenings are about 10°C cooler. Winter temperatures often fall to -38 °C or -36 F.
There is less precipitation in these types of deserts. The average annual rainfall is 2-4 cm, which is too low. Thus, there is less vegetation in these deserts.
The soil is sandy and fine-textured. Also, it contains loose rock pieces and a little salt. Salty soil supports selective vegetation. Plus, the soil lacks enough nutrients to support plant growth.
The Rain Shadow Desert has more vegetation than the Central Deserts while having less water. Various hardy, prickly bushes and tall, plumed plants primarily populate it. The death bottle is one of the Rain Shadow Desert’s flowering plants. You will find this flowering plant attractive. But it is an insectivore that catches small creatures in its underground traps.
Invertebrates are the main animals in the Rain Shadow Desert, and they obtain all their moisture from their diet. At the same time, flying insects like bumble beetles will catch your attention. They spend their entire adult lives looking for a shipwreck to lay their eggs inside.
Small, single-legged gastropods known as desert hoppers feed on flora. They get trapped in bottle plants and serve as their prey. You will appreciate this natural balance of the food web automatically.
- The Tibetan Plateau
- The Atacama Desert
5. Polar Deserts
Extremely low temperatures and dry conditions define polar deserts. Snow and fog are the main types of precipitation that tourists and residents rarely experience. The environment is bitterly cold to the extent that it has only ice or no liquid water. You should be aware of these situations before planning your tour.
It’s difficult for anything to survive in a polar desert with such little precipitation, but still, life exists there. Polar deserts are present at the North and South Poles of the earth. Arctic Ocean waters encircle the North Pole.
This area comprises only a collection of constantly fluctuating ice sheets. The North Pole is close to parts of Canada and Greenland. Plus, many of the planet’s coldest deserts are in the Arctic or Antarctic regions of the world.
It includes areas like the Dry Valleys of Antarctica or locations on northernmost islands like Greenland and Svalbard.
Summers are not very hot, but winters are too cold. It varies between -2 to 4° C during the winter and 21 to 26°C during the summer.
The polar deserts have unusually dry air. It is a result of extremely low temperatures. There aren’t many clouds, raindrops, or snowflakes since the air doesn’t have a lot of moisture. Polar deserts receive 25 cm of precipitation annually.
Non-humic soil is the predominant soil type in the polar deserts. Also, it contains chilly desert soil. This soil consists of frozen sand. Although there isn’t usually much plant in these soils, bacteria can survive.
The Arctic and Antarctica are home to polar plants, which can survive and grow there. The dominating plant species in polar deserts are over 1,000 different mosses, lichens, sedges, grasses, and dwarf woody shrubs. Plus, small blooming plants are also present abundantly.
You will be surprised to see this diversity at this freezing temperature. Only two species of flowering plants, Antarctic hair grass and Antarctic pearlwort are present.
Antelope, ground squirrels, pocket mice, kangaroo rats, kangaroo mice, and jackrabbits are common in polar deserts. You will notice that most animals are rodents or mammals.
Antarctica, a polar desert, is home to emperor penguins. Despite how cold it is, they can endure the worst winters. Emperor penguins have substantial fat stores and a dense double covering of feathers that help them retain heat.
- The Antarctic Desert
- The Arctic Desert
Types of Deserts: To Conclude
Deserts are the driest regions of the biosphere. There are five main types of deserts in the world. Extreme temperatures, little precipitation, flora, fauna, and soil types are their classifying features.
Every desert occupies a specific position on the globe. As a tourist, if you aim to visit deserts, keep the globe with you as a route guide. It will help you to find a way. These deserts cover about 5% of the globe’s surface and provide shelter to many exotic creatures.
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