The barren areas that receive less than 250 mm annual precipitation and have extreme climatic conditions, either hot or cold, are categorized as deserts. The deserts are unsuitable for plant and animal life.
The classification also considers the potential evapotranspiration or the amount of water that could be evaporated in the region. Because of the lack of precipitation, deserts are often dry and barren in the landscape which are commonly thought of as having hot climates. However, deserts can be cold just as well as hot, and they exist in many regions around the world. The largest two deserts on Earth are both cold deserts, which are covered in ice and snow.
Polar deserts, the Antarctic Desert and the Arctic Desert are the largest deserts in the world.
The Antarctic Desert covers an area of 5,339,572 square miles over the South Pole. Antarctica is the most extreme continent on Earth, as the coldest, driest and windiest place in the world, and the highest elevation.
The Arctic Desert is the northernmost region of the Earth, covering the North Pole over 4,913,897 square miles. The Arctic Desert is partially located in the United States, Canada, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia.
The third largest desert in the world and the largest non-polar desert is the Sahara. Situated in North Africa, the Sahara makes up parts of Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara. The Sahara Desert spans over 3,629,360 square miles across the continent and is the world’s hottest desert.
The Arabian Desert is the fourth largest desert in the world, with an area of about 899,618 square miles. The Arabian Desert is situated on the Arabian Peninsula and makes up parts of Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Both the Sahara and Arabian Deserts are known for their sand and sand dunes, which are typical images of desert landscapes.
The fifth largest desert on Earth is Asia’s Gobi Desert and has an area of 386,102 square miles. Situated in northwestern China and southern Mongolia, the Gobi Desert was created as a rain shadow from the tall Himalayan Mountains, which prevent rain from reaching the Gobi.
The Kalahari Desert is a subtropical desert in southern Africa, covering 347,491 square miles in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. The Kalahari Desert ranks sixth in terms of largest deserts by area in the world.
South America’s Patagonian Desert is the seventh largest desert at 258,688 square miles. The Patagonian Desert is in Argentina and Chile, between the Andes Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Great Victoria Desert is next on the list, ranking eighth. The Great Victoria Desert spans about 249,808 square miles of Australia.
The Syrian Desert has an area of about 200,773 square miles and is situated in Iraq, Jordan, and Syria.
The Great Basin Desert in the United States is the tenth largest desert in the world, covering an area of 189,962 square miles.
|Rank||Name||Type||Area (sq. miles)||Location|
|2||Arctic||Cold Winter||4,913,897||Alaska, northern Canada, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden|
|3||Sahara Desert||Subtropical||3,629,360||North Africa, Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara|
|4||Arabian Desert||Subtropical||899,618||Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen|
|5||Gobi Desert||Cold Winter||386,102||Central Asia (Mongolia)|
|6||Kalahari Desert||Subtropical||347,491||Angola, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa)|
|7||Great Victoria Desert||Subtropical||249,808||Australia|
|8||Patagonian Desert||Cold Winter||258,688||South America (Argentina and Chile)|
|9||Syrian Desert||Subtropical||200,773||Western Asia (Iraq, Jordan, and Syria)|
|10||Great Basin Desert||Cold Winter||189,962||United States|