Around one third of the Earth’s land is covered with deserts, the arid areas of little rain and poor vegetation. The most extreme non-polar deserts are some record-breaking destinations that feature the driest, hottest or saltiest places on our planet’s surface.
The Namib Desert. Namibia. The world’s oldest desert.
The Namib Desert, stretching along the coast of Namibia, Africa, has experienced arid conditions for at least 55 million years, making it the oldest desert in the world. Namib receives less than 10 mm (0.4 inches) of rain annually. This massive desert of an area around 80 900 square km (31 200 square miles) is almost completely barren and uninhabited, but it is home to one of the tallest sand dunes that exceed 300 meters (980 ft).
The Atacama Desert. Chile. The world’s driest desert.
The Atacama Desert in northern Chile is one of the driest places on Earth. It is literally rainless, as it is locked between the Andes and the Chilean Coast Range, and therefore, it receives almost no rain. The average rainfall in this part of Chile is 1 millimeter (0.04 in) per year, but some regional weather stations have never reported a single drop. It is so dry that the local mountains that exceed 6,500 meters (22,000 ft) have no glaciers.
The Uyuni Desert. Bolivia. The world’s saltiest desert.
The Uyuni Desert in Bolivia is the world’s largest salt desert. It covers 10,582 square km (4,085 square miles) and contains 10 billion tons of salt. This planet’s largest salt flat used to be an inland sea called Lake Minchin that dried up and left behind a huge surface covered with salt. Besides salt, Salar de Uyuni holds half of the world’s reserves of lithium.
The Aralkum. The world’s youngest desert. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
The Aral Sea that lies between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan used to be the world’s fourth largest saline body of water that covered the area of 68,000 sq km. Since the 1960s, however, the sea has been gradually disappearing due to the Soviet Union irrigation projects. In 2007 the sea was 10% of its original size, and was replaced by the youngest desert on our planet – the Aralkum.
The Sahara. The world’s largest desert.The North Africa.
The Sahara, “the Greatest Desert”, covering most of Northern Africa is almost as large as the continent of Europe or the territory of the USA. It takes up 9,000,000 square kilometers (3,500,000 sq mi) and is bounded to the west by the Atlantic Ocean and to the east by the Red Sea. The desert covers huge parts of eleven African countries such as, among others, Egypt, Morocco or Tunisia. The Libyan Desert, part of Sahara, reported the world’s highest temperature of 57.8 °C (136.0 °F) in 1922.
The Carcross Desert. The world’s smallest desert. Canada.
The Canadian Carcross Desert, located outside Yukon, has only 1 square mile (2.6 km2). It is considered to be the world’s smallest desert, though it is actually too humid to be called a true desert. Nevertheless, it is much drier than the surrounding region, with less than 50 cm (19 in) of rain annually.