A desert is a place that gets just a bit of rain every year.
Some deserts get almost no rain at all.
A desert can be very hot in daytime and cold at night.
Some deserts are cold all the time.
A desert is a dry area where less than 50 cm of rain falls each year. About one fifth of the Earth's surface is desert.
Deserts can be hot or cold. The Australian Desert is one example of a hot desert, and the Gobi Desert in Mongolia is an example of a cold desert. Antarctica is the world's largest desert.
The Atacama Desert of Chile and the Sahara Desert in Africa receive less than 1.5 cm a year, if at all.
Although rain doesn't fall very often in deserts, sometimes not for years, there can be sudden, heavy rains that cause flooding.
Deserts can be found along coastlines, such as the Atacama Desert, or in the interior of continents, such as the Great Basin Desert of North America.
The location of the desert and of mountain ranges help determine what type of desert it is. Coastal deserts are located on west coasts of continents.The winds blow in an easterly direction and prevent the moisture from moving onto the land. Some deserts, like the Gobi Desert, are affected by high mountain ranges that produce a rainshadow effect, which means the mountains prevent moisture from reaching an area. The Himalaya Mountains prevent rainfall from reaching the Gobi Desert .
Because they are dry, deserts have wide variations in temperature each day. In the daytime when there is little moisture in the air to block the sun's rays, it becomes very hot. When the sun goes down, the heat absorbed by the ground during the day quickly evaporates into the air and the temperature becomes very cold.
This variation of temperatures is one of the things that makes survival in the desert very difficult.
Next page: plants and animals and how they need to adapt in order to survive in the desert
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Sydenham, S. & Thomas, R. Desert Biome [Online] www.kidcyber.com.au 
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