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Libyan Desert, part of the SaharaLibyan Desert, part of the Sahara A desert is an area with very low rainfall, usually with less than 25 centimetres (10 inches) of rain or snow a year. Other than at oases, places where underground water comes to the surface, there are few signs of life. Deserts may be hot all year round, as in the Sahara of Africa, or always cold, as in Greenland or Antarctica. The Gobi Desert of Central Asia is hot in summer and cold in winter. “Hot” deserts may be bitterly cold at night. The Takla Makan Desert, China, may be a scorching 40°C (more than 100°F) by day yet plunges to -40°C (-40°F) at night. With no cloud cover, the ground cools very quickly.

Deserts of the world

Deserts of the worldDeserts of the worldDeserts and arid regions cover one third of the world’s entire land area. Areas of desert are found in the west of the USA and South America, as well as in central and southwest Asia, Australia and both northern and southern Africa. Antarctica and Greenland are also deserts: very little snow ever falls in these freezing, polar regions

Mountains in the Sahara DesertMountains in the Sahara DesertThe driest desert is the Atacama in Chile, South America, with an average of less than one millimetre of rain yearly. In some places it has not rained for centuries. The largest desert is the Sahara in Africa, which is more than 5000 kilometres (3000 miles) wide and covering 9 million square kilometres (3.5 million square miles).

Only about 20% of the world's desert areas are sandy.

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