A desert is an area that receives less than 10 inches of precipitation annually and experiences high temperatures, with conditions ranging from extremely arid to semi-arid. Deserts cover approximately 30% of the Earth’s surface. The deserts are extremely diverse and come in different shapes, sizes, and climates. Given their diversity, deserts are divided into several groups including sub-tropical deserts, cold winter deserts, polar deserts, and cool coastal deserts. The Arctic and Antarctic deserts are the largest in the world. Here are some of the countries that are covered by deserts.
Countries with Deserts by Continent
Asia is the largest continent by total land area. The continent experiences varied climate ranging from wet in the southeast to dry in most of the interior. Asia is known for some of the largest deserts in the world, including: the Gobi desert, which extends from China to Mongolia; the Karakum Desert, which covers most of Turkmenistan; the Kyzylkum Desert, which crosses over Kazakhstan into Uzbekistan; the Takla Makan Desert; and the Thar Desert, which covers much of India and Pakistan. China has the highest number of deserts (13), followed by Pakistan (11) and Kazakhstan (10). Other countries in Asia that have deserts include Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, and Oman.
Africa has three major deserts as well as various smaller deserts distributed across several countries. The major deserts of Africa include the Sahara, which is the largest hot desert in the world and the third-largest by surface area. It covers an area of approximately 3.6 million square miles, which is about 31% of Africa. It is shared by nine countries including Chad, Mali, Algeria, Niger, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, and Sudan. The Namib Desert has the highest dunes in the world. It covers three countries, namely Namibia, South Africa, and Angola. The Kalahari Desert covers approximately 350,000 square miles and crosses Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. Other African countries with deserts include Eritrea, Ethiopia, Senegal, and Kenya.
South America has some of the largest deserts in the world including the Patagonian Desert, which is the largest desert in Argentina and the fourth largest in the world. it covers an area of approximately 673,000 square miles. The Atacama Desert occupies about 105,000 square miles across Peru and Chile. Other major deserts in South America include the Sechura Desert, the Monte Desert, and the La Guajira Desert, which covers part of Colombia and Venezuela.
Australia has several deserts due to its unique geographical characteristics and climate. Over 60% of the continent is arid. Australia has 10 major deserts: the Great Victoria Desert, the Tirari Desert, the Tanami Desert, the Great Sandy Desert, the Pedirka Desert, the Simpson Desert, the Little Sandy Desert, the Strzelecki Desert, the Sturt Stony Desert, and the Gibson Desert.
Europe and North America
Although Europe has no major deserts, some countries such as Italy, Poland, Serbia, Greece, and Spain have semi-arid areas. In North America, the United States has more than 25 deserts spread across the country, while Mexico has three deserts. In fact, the United States has the highest number of deserts in the world.
Significance of Deserts
Although deserts are characterized by harsh climates, they are also important. Deserts are important sources of sand for construction, and significant amounts of oil can also be found underneath many deserts, especially in Asia. Deserts are also habitats for several species of plants and animals. Interestingly, ancient civilizations, such as Egypt and Israel, began in the desert.