The Sahara Desert covers much of North Africa and spreads from the Red Sea in the east to the Mediterranean in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the west. To the south, the Sahara Desert is bounded by the Sahel, which is a semi-arid savannah of Sudan and the Niger River Valley of Sub Saharan Africa. The Sahara Desert is the world’s third most extensive desert after the Antarctica and Arctic. It is also the world’s largest hot desert extending to an area of 3,600,000 square miles with average temperatures during the hottest months reaching 100.4 to 104.0 °F.
Temperature of the Sahara Desert
The skies in the Sahara Desert are always clear, and the sunshine duration is high for about 3600 hours of bright sunshine yearly, which is about 82% of the time. The western part of the desert experiences more than 4,000 hours of bright sunshine throughout the year which is equivalent to 91% of the time. The highest recorded is 4,300 hours annually or about 98% of the time in parts of Upper Egypt and around the Nubian Desert.
As a result of the constant high sunshine exposure and very low humidity together with the lack of vegetative cover and the absence of rainfall, the Sahara Desert is the hottest large land area anywhere in the world. The average temperatures in Sahara desert reach between 100.4 and 104.0°F during the hottest months in almost all parts of the desert except for areas with high altitudes.
The highest recorded temperature in the Sahara desert is 116.6 °F in the Algerian Desert having an elevation of 1,240 feet above sea level. Salah in Algeria, which is part of Sahara Desert also records high temperatures during June, July, August, and September of 110.8°F, 115.5°F, 113.9°F, and 107.4°F respectively.
Rainfall in the Sahara
Precipitation in the Sahara Desert varies from very low, particularly in the southern and northern fringes of the desert, to almost zero in the eastern and central regions of the desert.
The narrow fringes to the northern part of the Sahara receive winter clouds and minimal rainfall as a result of the low-pressure systems flowing through the Mediterranean Sea along the polar front, with the average annual rainfall between 4 inches and 10 inches. Some of the areas found in this zone include Ouarzazate in Morocco and Biskra in Algeria.
On the other hand, the southern fringes of the desert, which border the Sahel, receive summer clouds and minimal rainfall as a result of the arrival of the Intertropical Convergence Zone. The average annual rainfall in this region ranges from 4 inches to 10 inches. The regions found within this zone include Agadez in Niger and Timbuktu in Mali.
The largest part of the central Sahara receives almost no rain because it is not affected by the southerly or the northerly atmospheric variance, and it is perpetually under the influence of the anticyclonic weather patterns. The average annual rainfall in this zone can drop to as low as 0.04 inches.
Flora and Fauna of the Sahara
The Sahara is home to about 2,800 vascular plants, and about one-quarter of these are endemic. Part of the central Sahara is home to more 500 species of plants. Plants like the acacia trees, spiny shrubs, palms, and grasses are adapted to extreme conditions in the desert by growing shorter to avoid loss of water through the strong winds. These plants store water in their thick stems so that they can utilize during dry periods and they have also developed long roots which travel horizontally in search of moisture. The leaves are well adapted because they are thick and small to avoid loss of water through evapotranspiration.
Some of the animals found in the Sahara include different species of foxes and the addax which is a large antelope that can go for almost a year without drinking water. There are also several species of gazelles. Cheetahs are also found in Saharan parts of Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Togo, and Algeria.