Deserts occur in five of the world's seven continents. North America's Sonora and Chihuaua deserts, situated in the south-west corner of the continent, extend into Mexico, while the Great Basin, covering most of the states of Utah and Nevada, is home to the infamous Death Valley, and the Great Salt Lake Desert. Further south, in the states of Arizona and California, lie the Mojave or High Desert and the Colorado or Low Desert. The North American deserts are renowned for their spectacular landscapes and searing heat.
Between the Andean Mountains and the Pacific Ocean lie the coastal deserts of Peru and Chile on the South American continent. These are the Sechura and the Atacama respectively. Also in Peru is the Altiplano desert, which extends into Bolivia. This desert is known for its dry salt basins, which were left when ancient lakes evaporated. Patagonia in Argentina boasts large areas of cold semi-desert.
Chief among the African deserts, and probably the most famous of them all, is the Sahara. Extending from the Atlantic Ocean in the West, to the Red Sea in the East, and with an area of over nine million square kilometres - around the same size as the United States - the Sahara is the largest desert on Earth. In east Africa the Danakil, Ogaden, Nubian, Chalbi and Didi Galgalu deserts extend throughout Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. Southern Africa is home to the Kalahari and Namib deserts, which together occupy large portions of Namibia, Botswana and South Africa.
The Gobi Desert in Mongolia and China is the fifth largest in the world. Tibet has substantial desert cover despite its very low temperatures, and many central Asian countries are subject to desert conditions. India, Pakistan, Iran and the Arabian Peninsula all contain large desert areas, including the Thar or Great Indian desert and the Arabian Desert.
Australia is the most arid continent on Earth. Its principal desert areas include the Simpson Desert, the Tanami Desert, the Great Victoria Desert, the Great Sandy Desert, and the Gibson Desert, and these are situated mainly in the centre of the country - the Outback.
The status of the vast continent of Antarctica is a matter of controversy. In many respects it resembles the deserts of other continents - particularly in its low annual rainfall - but many scientists feel dubious about including it in the same class as these.
photo courtesy of DigitalVision