The largest desert in the world is the Antarctic Desert. It covers an area of around 14 million square kilometers (5.4 million square miles), roughly the size of the contiguous United States and Mexico combined. It’s located in Antarctica, the southernmost continent, and surrounds the South Pole.
Why is the Antarctic Desert unique?
The Antarctic Desert is unique in many ways, some of its specialties are:
- The Antarctic Desert is the driest, coldest, and windiest desert in the world. It receives very little precipitation and temperatures can drop to as low as -89.2 °C (-128.6 °F).
- The Antarctic Desert is also the only desert that is covered in ice. The ice sheet that covers the continent is on average around 1.6 km (1 mile) thick.
- The Antarctic Desert is home to a diverse range of unique wildlife, including penguins, seals, and whales. Many species of fish and krill also thrive in the surrounding ocean.
- The Antarctic Desert is also the only desert to have no permanent human settlements.
- The Antarctic Treaty System, which came into force in 1961, established the legal framework for the protection of the Antarctic environment and designated it as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science.
Do humans live in the Antarctic Desert?
Humans do not live permanently in the Antarctic Desert. The harsh climate and lack of resources make it inhospitable for permanent settlements. However, during the summer months, scientists and support staff from various countries travel to research stations on the continent. These research stations are equipped with living quarters, laboratories, and other facilities that allow scientists to study the unique environment and wildlife of the Antarctic Desert. In winter, when temperatures drop and darkness sets in, the population at the research stations drops to a handful of people. But these are not permanent settlements as these people leave during winter and come back in summer for research work.
What are the main challenges facing the Antarctic Desert?
The Antarctic Desert faces a variety of challenges, some of the main ones are:
- Climate change: The Antarctic Desert is one of the most rapidly warming places on Earth. The warming is causing the melting of ice, which can significantly impact global sea levels and ocean currents. Additionally, warming can impact the delicate ecosystem of the Antarctic Desert by altering the distribution and behavior of native wildlife.
- Pollution: Pollution from human activities, such as plastic waste and chemicals, can have a significant impact on the Antarctic Desert’s delicate ecosystem.
- Tourism: The increasing number of visitors to the Antarctic Desert can have a significant impact on the environment. Human waste and disturbance of native wildlife can cause damage to the ecosystem.
- Invasive species: Non-native plants and animals can alter the balance of the Antarctic Desert’s ecosystem, causing damage to native species.
- Overfishing: Many species of fish and krill in the Antarctic waters are overfished, which can have a significant impact on the entire ecosystem.
- Resource exploitation: The Antarctic Desert is rich in resources like oil and minerals, and some countries have expressed interest in exploiting these resources. However, this would have a detrimental effect on the region’s environment and ecosystem.
- Human-induced disturbances: The increasing human presence in the Antarctic desert, such as establishing research stations, can disturb the delicate ecosystem and affect the native wildlife.
How is the Antarctic Desert protected?
The Antarctic Desert is protected by the Antarctic Treaty System, which came into force in 1961. This treaty established the legal framework for the protection of the Antarctic environment and designated it as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science.
The treaty bans military activities on the continent and limits human activities to scientific research and tourism. It also establishes strict regulations for the disposal of waste and the protection of native wildlife and ecosystems.
The treaty also established the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) and the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) to oversee and implement the protection of the Antarctic environment. The ATCM is composed of representatives from the countries that have signed the treaty, and it meets regularly to discuss and make decisions on issues related to the protection of the Antarctic environment.
Additionally, the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, known as the Madrid Protocol, designates the Antarctic as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science” and sets forth specific environmental protection measures, such as the establishment of protected areas, the limitation of human activities, and the regulation of tourism, as well as rules for waste disposal and management of introduced non-native species.
How does the Antarctic Desert’s climate compare to other deserts?
The Antarctic Desert’s climate is unique compared to other deserts in the world.
- Temperature: The Antarctic Desert is the coldest desert in the world, with temperatures that can drop as low as -89.2 °C (-128.6 °F). This is much colder than the temperatures found in other deserts such as the Sahara Desert, which can reach up to 50 °C (122 °F) during the day.
- Precipitation: The Antarctic Desert is also the driest desert in the world, receiving very little precipitation. Most of the precipitation that falls on the continent is in the form of snow, which accumulates on the ice sheet. In contrast, other deserts such as the Atacama Desert in Chile receive very little precipitation, but they are not as cold as the Antarctic Desert.
- Wind: The Antarctic Desert is also known for its extremely high winds, which can reach speeds of up to 320 km/h (200 mph). These winds can create blizzards and snowstorms that can make it difficult for people to work and move around on the continent.
- Landscape: The landscape of the Antarctic Desert is also unique, as it is covered by a thick ice sheet. Other deserts such as the Sahara Desert are known for their vast expanses of sand dunes and rocky terrain.
Which is the second largest desert in the world?
The second largest desert in the world is the Arctic Desert. It covers an area of around 5.4 million square kilometers (2.1 million square miles), roughly the size of the United States. It’s located in the Arctic region, which surrounds the North Pole. It is known for its extremely cold temperatures and a vast, frozen landscape of glaciers and sea ice. The Arctic Desert is home to a diverse range of unique wildlife, including polar bears, arctic foxes, reindeer, and various species of seals. The Arctic Desert also has a small population of indigenous people who have lived in the region for thousands of years.
Why the Arctic Desert is unique?
The Arctic Desert is unique in many ways, here are a few specialties of the Arctic Desert:
- The Arctic Desert is the second largest desert in the world. It’s located in the Arctic region, which surrounds the North Pole.
- The Arctic Desert is known for its extremely cold temperatures, which can drop to as low as -40 °C (-40 °F) in the winter.
- The Arctic Desert has a vast, frozen landscape of glaciers and sea ice. It’s home to a diverse range of unique wildlife, including polar bears, arctic foxes, reindeer, and various species of seals.
- The Arctic Desert is also home to a small population of indigenous people, such as the Inuit, who have lived in the region for thousands of years.
- The Arctic Desert is also a place of great interest for scientists who study the Arctic’s delicate ecosystem, as well as for oil and gas industry for its resources.