Four types of deserts exist on Earth. Subtropical deserts are in the hottest areas with extremely dry terrain. Cool coastal deserts are cooler than subtropical deserts because of cold offshore ocean currents. Cold winter deserts vary among seasons, peaking at 104 degrees F in the summer and dropping below 14 degrees F most winters. Polar deserts are considered deserts even though almost all moisture is in the form of ice. Looking at the two dozen main deserts in the world, most of them are near bodies of water.
The Arabian desert in the Middle East is near some impressive bodies of water: the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea. The Rio Grande river cuts through the Chihuahuan desert. The Great Victoria Desert in Australia has no bodies of water near it. The Okavango river is the only constant water source in the Kalahari desert in southern Africa. The Mojave desert in the southwestern United States has three lakes -- Mead, Mohave and Havasu -- and the area includes parts of the Colorado River and the Virgin River Gorge. Numerous water sources are in the Sahara desert in northern Africa; the Nile river, the Red Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and a number of rivers and basins. The Sonoran desert intersects the U.S./Mexican border around California and Arizona; nearby waters include the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean. Two main rivers -- the Indus river and the Sutlej river -- as well as numerous saltwater lakes touch the Thar desert in India and Pakistan.
Cool Coastal Deserts
There are two cool coastal deserts: the Namib in southern Africa and the Atacama in in Chile. The Namib desert has two rivers -- the Swakop and the Omaruru -- and it borders the Atlantic Ocean. The Pacific Ocean is the only water near the Atacama desert in western South America; it is the driest desert in the world.
Cold Winter Deserts
You will find seven cold winter deserts on our planet. Many rivers run through the Colorado Plateau desert in the southwestern United States including the Little Colorado, San Juan and The Green, all branch-offs of the Colorado River. The Great Basin desert in the western United States includes many lakes; larger water segments including Lake Taho, Bear River and the Humboldt River. Numerous bodies of water are in the Gobi desert in China and Mongolia including Bosten Lake, Lop Lake and the Songhua river. The Karakum desert in Turkmenistan in Central Asia is near the Caspian Sea, the Aral Sea and the Amu Darya river. Another desert in Turkmenistan, the Kyzyl-Kum desert, is located between the Syr Darya river and the Amu Darya river. The Patagonian desert in Argentina borders the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Two main rivers, the Hotan river and the Tarim river, run through the Taklamakan desert in China.
The Arctic and the Antarctic are both considered polar deserts and both are surrounded by oceans. The Arctic (North Pole) is circled by the Arctic Ocean. The Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans ring the Antarctic (South Pole).
- "Desert Ecology"; John B. Sowell; 2001
- "Deserts"; Angela Royston; 2004
- "The Ultimate Desert Handbook: A Manual for Desert Hikers, Campers and Travelers"; G. Mark Johnson; 2003
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images
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