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What is a desert?

desert-014The white sun disc is hanging in the blue-grey sky. The hot air wobbles and the sand strains down under the feet when one climbs up another sand wave, which seems to be endless. As soon as you are on the top another wave shows up again one after another going beyond the horizon. The thin shrubs became brown, dried and without a life sign because of the incredibly hot weather. The throat is dry, the sweat makes your eyes hardly open, your shirt is clammed to the body and the small salt crystals appeared at the angles of the lips…That’s how the sand desert looks like!

The smooth-like table, dark-grey clay surface is crazed with small and big cracks, which often resemble the honeycombs. Here and there on the smooth surface you can see small white colored salt islands. They shine in the sun beams and seem like puddles from afar. The lonely traveler knocked out of thirst runs towards the long-awaited water with his last strength and all his efforts end up in bitter disappointment when he realizes that this is not water but salt. The scrubby saksaul bushes and salty herbs are the only plants that grow in the clay desert, which is often called claypan.

The grey, brown, red and yellow table-like and mushroom rocks…The break stone under the feet that was formed due to the rock breakdown…The area, which has no trees, nor bushes and not even herbs on it…The lifeless rock world. And still, it is the desert!

Here and there you may come across layer-by layer salt roasts on the claypan and stony deserts. And some areas are no man’s lands covered with the smallest, powder-like dust, the so-called loose land.

Many world deserts bundle sands, salt lands, claypans and puddle all together. However, the only difference between the deserts and other areas is the absence of water: rivers, streams and lakes. You can hardly see the rain showering the land. It may be once in a month or once in a few years. The air temperature ranges from +50C at the daytime and up to 0C during the night. The temperature in the northern deserts may decrease down to -40C in winter.

The windstorms occur without rains; the rain that doesn’t even make the ground imbued; the springs get lost in the sands and don’t generate the streams; the rivers do not have creeks; the wandering bankless appearing and disappearing lakes; the salt lakes, which do not freeze even during harsh winters; unwatered creek beds and the leafless plants…All these characteristics describe the desert.

Another feature of a desert is looming (mirage). As a rule, they appear in all kinds of deserts after the midday, when the soil is burning-hot. The sunlight beams being bent create amazing images in the horizon. It seems as if it were the wobbling air that created either rivers, or towns, or domes of the minarets, or mountains and even the beckoning palms. You may also see the mirage in the early morning, before the sunrise, the time when the air is full of dust. The imaginary scenes can be so bright and realistic, so that even an experienced traveler gets jumbled.

The biggest mistake is to think that the desert is dead. The site is buzzing with life! The desert always changes its coloring the same way like a chameleon. Anyone who has even been to this unusual and severe place will certainly fall in love with it.

The desert can be described in many ways. Most often it is described as the parched areas with long-standing hot weather and drought or with a complete absence of the atmospheric fallouts. The people who inhabit this area have a big need in water and the farming needs to be artificially irrigated. You can define the deserts like drainless areas with the salt soil and sandy free to move sand drifts like, for instance, the territories where the fallouts evaporate faster and intensively than they appear. This characteristic is more common for the stony, gypsum-stony and salt deserts.

Other deserts have got higher water content, but still it’s not enough to support the plants. The rare fallouts bring the devastating effect.

The semiarid zones and areas with not enough moisture content are the semi deserts, dry steppes and savannas. The rains and dry seasons come and go throughout the year.

That’s the drought that is the major characteristic of the deserted and semi-deserted lands and they are called “arids”, i.e. “dry zone”. Not all lands belong to these arid zones, but only those, where human, plant and animal life depends upon them.

The arid lands occupy approximately one third of the whole land surface on our planet, i.e. 48 million square kilometers. However, the most natural deserts occupy less than 23% of the land surface.

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