World Facts

What And Where Are Coastal Deserts?

The Namib Desert and the Atacama Desert are both classified as coastal deserts.

Coastal deserts are considered more hospitable compared to other desert types: hot and dry, cold and semi-arid. This is based on the range of plants and animals that coastal deserts can support with a reference to temperature levels and variations, rainfall experienced, and soil characteristics. Major coastal deserts are found along coastlines near large water bodies especially oceans. More often than not, they are also found between ranges of mountains. The close proximity to water bodies and mountain ranges confers to these deserts their features. Known coastal deserts are Namib Desert and Atacama Desert.

Characteristics of Coastal Deserts

Coastal deserts have moderately brief winter seasons whose temperatures are 5°C and below, with the lowest recorded temperature being -4°C. The summer temperatures range from 13°C to 24°C, with 35°C being the highest ever experienced in the coastal deserts. An average of 13cm of rainfall is known to occur annually. Despite being near water sources, these deserts remain notably dry because most precipitation occurs in the oceans leaving negligible amounts of rainfall to pour onto land. These deserts have more porous soils characterized by a moderate texture and a moderate salt content.

Flora and Fauna of Coastal Deserts

Animals in existence in the coastal desert climatic conditions are larger compared to other deserts. Mammals like coyotes are a common occupant of these deserts. Others are reptiles like snakes and lizards. These animals have adapted to these hostile conditions in various ways like being nocturnal and burrowing tendencies. The birds and reptiles supported in this habitat lay eggs that remain dormant until conditions are more bearable. The plants in this ecosystem have thick fleshy leaves and stems for storing nutrients and large root systems for tapping moisture. These adaptations help in survival in the harsh coastal desert climate for plants like black sage, salt bushes, and rice grass.

Namib Desert

Found in the African continent, this desert is considered one of the oldest on planet Earth owing to the fact that it has remained in its state of aridity for more than 50 million years. It is a 1,200 miles stretch of arid land in the South African region involving three countries: South Africa, Angola and Namibia. It is along the coastline of Atlantic Ocean and closely associated with the Great Escarpment on one side. Namib Desert is very dry, experiencing an average of as little as 10 mm of rainfall annually. This desert does not support any form of human life and common sites in it are sand dunes, gravel plains, and range of mountains.

Atacama Desert

This is the third driest desert in the world after the two polar deserts; Arctic and Antarctica. It is situated in the South American continent, along the Pacific Ocean with the bulk of the desert being in Chile. It is a 600 miles stretch, between Andes Mountains and a range of mountains on the Chilean border, making it a rain shadow. Its position between these mountains makes it harder for rainfall to form thus this desert receives approximately 1 mm of rainfall annually and virtually no life. Because it is very dry, this desert is occasionally used equipment for use in Mars by National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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