What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word desert? Is it vast stretches of large, barren, hot, dry land? Is it camels, cacti and palm trees? Is it Rajasthan or the Sahara? A desert is a barren area of land where little precipitation occurs and living conditions are hostile for plant and animal life.
When you read coldest and desert in the same sentence, you think it’s quite odd, don’t you? However, there are several cold deserts in the world and they include Patagonian desert in South America and the Gobi desert in Asia. The coldest desert in the world is in Antarctica. It is known as the McMurdo Dry Valley. The McMurdo Dry Valleys are a row of snow-free valleys in Antarctica. Antarctica is known for being the driest, windiest, and coldest continent in the world. In fact, the world’s coldest temperature was recorded here at Vostok Station in 1983.
The McMurdo Valley is a fantastic tourist destination as well. Even though there are places in the Dry Valleys that are under strict protection, you can still have fun with the spectacular flora and beautiful fauna. Since Antarctica is the home and refuge of many penguins, it is an added reason to visit the valley. The fantastic view of the snow and ice offer plenty of opportunities for photography lovers.
Several factors make the Antarctica colder than the Arctic. The region is one of the world’s most extreme deserts and includes many interesting features. In the Wright Valley, which is in the McMurdo Valley, the mean annual temperature is 19.8°C and the annual precipitation is less than 100mm water equivalent. Available water is therefore mainly a result of summer glacial melt. These conditions are important for ecological research and recording of climate changes.
Hot and cold deserts are quite different from one another in many aspects like topography, vegetation and wildlife. Vegetation and wildlife are indicators of any ecosystem and the conditions prevalent there. Cold deserts are either rocky or vast stretches of ice and snow. In hot deserts, the temperatures are very high throughout the day with a sharp dip during nighttime and winters. In cold deserts, temperatures are freezing at all times, though at times they get very slightly warm during daytime in summer.
A cold desert is a desert that has snow in the winter instead of just dropping a few degrees in temperature like they would in a hot and dry desert. It never gets warm enough for plants to grow.
Just maybe a few grasses and mosses. The animals in Cold Deserts also have to burrow to keep warm.