Desert

Ayla Boyd

Location

Many deserts are found along 30 degrees latitude north and 30 degrees latitude south (between the red lines on the map).

Some deserts located by mountains and are caused by the "rainshadow" effect. As air moves over a mountain range, and gets cold and loses the ability to hold moisture -- so it rains or snows. When the air moves down the other side of the mountain, it gets warmer. Warm air can hold lots of moisture, so it doesn't rain as much, and a desert is formed.

General Characterists

The hot desert is a land of extremes: extreme heat and extreme dryness; sudden flash floods and cold nights. Because deserts are such a harsh environment, deserts often have names likes "Death Valley," "the empty quarter," and "the place from where there is no return."

Weather and Climate

Since deserts usually have only between 10 and 20 percent humidity to trap temperatures and have so few trees and other vegetation to retain heat, they cool down rapidly when the sun sets, and heat up quickly after the sun rises.


Temperature

During the day many deserts are hot, very hot. Temperatures in excess of 100 degrees fahrenheit are not uncommon. At night the same deserts can have temperatures fall into the 40s or 50s.

Precipitation

In most places, rain falls steadily throughout the year. But in the desert, there are only a few periods of rains per year with a lot of time between rains. When it does rain, there may be quite a downpour! After the rain, desert flowers bloom. When the sun comes back up they die.

Landforms

A desert does not have mountains, bodies of water, or islands. Some deserts have canyons.

Animals

Animals in the desert must survive in a hostile environment. Intense heat, searing sun, and lack of water are just a few of the challenges facing desert animals.

Animals that live in the hot desert have many adaptations. Some animals never drink, but get their water from seeds (some can contain up to 50% water) and plants. Many of the animals are nocturnal, sleeping during the hot day and only coming out in the cold night to eat and hunt. Some animals rarely spend any time above ground.

Plants

Deserts are the home to many living things. In fact, deserts are the second only to tropical rainforests in the variety of plant and animal species that live there. There are many fascinating features of desert plants like adaptations the traits that help the plant survive in its harsh environment. Desert plants have two main adaptations:
    Ability to collect and store water
    Features that reduce water loss
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