Fact or Fiction: Sahara Is The Largest Desert In The World

The Sahara desert in North Africa is often touted as the largest desert in the world. Find out if the notion is fact or fiction.
Fact or Fiction: Sahara Is The Largest Desert In The World
Fact or Fiction: Sahara Is The Largest Desert In The World

Fact or Fiction: There are several deserts in the world, but none are as famous or significant as the Sahara desert. Located in North Africa, the Sahara desert spans almost half the continent, covering 10 countries: Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan, and Tunisia.

Due to its sheer size, the Sahara desert is often considered to be the largest desert in the world. Today we put his idea to the test. Dive in to learn if the presumption that the Sahara is the largest desert in the world is fact or fiction.

What is a desert?

When you think of a desert, the first image that comes to mind is scorching heat, endless sand dunes, palm trees, and camels. That is the typical idea of a desert that most people have. However, a desert doesn’t have to be hot or sandy or even harbour camels.

According to scientific definitions, a "desert" is any place with sparse vegetation, a scarcity of water, and an inhospitable environment. You may think of heat when you picture a desert, but there are many cold deserts in the world as well, which are shrouded in snow throughout the year.

How are deserts formed?

The formation of deserts is a long process that can take centuries to happen. Some deserts used to be grasslands in the past, including the Sahara, but are now barren and hostile. Deserts are formed by a natural weathering process.

It can happen due to erosion and other negative environmental factors over long, consistent periods of time or due to changes in the Earth’s orbit around the sun or a shift in the magnetic axis. However, most deserts in the world are found on the western sides of continents.

The major cause of desert formation is due to natural ecological factors. Water constantly evaporates from the ocean and other bodies of water and collects as water vapour in the atmosphere, forming clouds. When the flow of wind is hindered, whether due to pressure differences or mountains, the air loses moisture through precipitation. This leaves some areas dry and others with excess rainfall. When this phenomenon happens over multiple years, deserts are formed.

Types of Deserts

  1. Subtropical Desert
  2. Coastal Desert
  3. Rainshadow Desert
  4. Interior Desert
  5. Polar Desert

Where is the Sahara Desert?

The Sahara desert spans most of North Africa and is located in 10 countries: Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan, and Tunisia. Thousands of years ago, the Sahara used to be a marshland, covered with lush green fields and lakes.

But due to the change in Earth’s orbital axis, the angle of sunlight penetration changed, causing an increase in temperatures. Other environmental factors like collapsing ice sheets and pressure differences resulted in low precipitation, dried out the region, and created the Sahara desert.

What is the largest desert in the world?

The Sahara is the largest desert in the world, a widespread presumption that is untrue. The Sahara is the largest hot desert in the world. As previously mentioned, not all deserts have to be hot and dry; some are cold as well.

The Antarctic desert on the south pole of Earth is the largest in the world, followed by the Arctic desert on the north pole. They are both polar deserts and remain covered in ice for most of the time. The Sahara is the third-largest desert by area after the Antarctic and the Arctic deserts but the largest "hot" desert.

The Antarctic desert spans an area of 14.2 million square kilometres, while the Arctic desert spans 13.9 million square kilometres, followed by the Sahara with 9.2 million square kilometres.

The list of 10 largest deserts is given below:

Sr No.

Desert Name

Area (Square Kilometers)

1

Antarctic Desert

14,200,000

2

Arctic Desert

13,900,000

3

Sahara Desert

9,200,000

4

Great Australian

2,700,000

5

Arabian Desert

2,330,000

6

Gobi Desert

1,295,000

7

Kalahari Desert

900,000

8

Patagonian Desert

673,000

9

Syrian Desert

500,000

10

Great Basin

492,098

Bottomline

The Sahara is the third largest desert in the world by area, but it’s the largest hot desert. Most people are unaware that the Arctic and Antarctica are classified as deserts, much less that they are the largest in the world. Hopefully, you learned something new today: the presumption that the Sahara is the largest desert in the world is fiction.

Check out more insightful articles to expand your general knowledge below.

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FAQ

What type of desert is Ladakh?

Ladakh is a cold desert surrounded by the Himalaya mountain range and falls under the rain shadow desert type.

What is the largest desert in India?

The Thar desert is the largest desert in India and is situated in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Part of it is also in Pakistan.
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