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Locations of deserts. Outside of the polar regions, deserts typically feature arid climates.

Under the Koppen climate classification, a Desert climate (BWh, BWk, BWn), also known as an arid climate, is a climate where temperatures are moderate and rainfall is too low to sustain any vegetation at all, or at best a very scanty scrub. Areas featuring this climate are usually deserts. An area that features this climate typically experiences less than 250 mm (10 inches) per year of rainfall and in some years may experience no precipitation at all. In some instances an area may experience slightly more than 250 mm of precipitation annually; but is still considered a desert climate because the region loses more water via evapotranspiration than falls as precipitation. There are generally three variations of a desert climate; a hot desert climate (BWh), a cold desert climate (BWk) and a mild desert climate (sometimes labeled BWn).

To determine whether an area indeed has an arid climate, the precipitation threshold must first be determined. Finding the precipitation threshold (in millimeters) involves first multiplying the average annual temperature in °C by 20, then adding 280 if 70% or more of the total precipitation is in the high-sun half of the year (April through September in the Northern Hemisphere, or October through March in the Southern), or 140 if 30%–70% of the total precipitation is received during the applicable period, or 0 if less than 30% of the total precipitation is so received. If the area's annual precipitation is less than half the threshold, it is classified as a BW (desert climate).

Contents

Hot desert climates

Hot desert climates are typically found in the subtropics where there is unbroken sunshine for the whole year due to the stable descending air and high pressure. Such areas include the Sahara, Saudi Arabia, large parts of Iran and Iraq, northwest India, southwestern United States, Northern Mexico, South Africa and much of Australia. In many cities featuring a hot desert climate, maximum temperatures of 40°C to 45°C are not uncommon, particularly during the warmer months of the year. During colder periods of the year, night-time temperatures can drop to freezing or below due to the exceptional radiation loss under the clear skies. However, very rarely do temperatures drop far below freezing.

Notable cities with a hot desert climate

Cold desert climates

This variant of the desert climate is somewhat rare. A cold desert climate is typically found in temperate zones, almost always in the rain shadow of high mountains which restrict precipitation from the westerly winds, or in the case of Central Asia, from the monsoon.

Cold desert climates feature hot (sometimes exceptionally hot) and dry summers, though its summers typically are not quite as hot as summers in hot desert climates. Unlike hot desert climates, cold desert climates can feature brutally cold, dry winters with temperatures far below the freezing point. The Gobi desert in Mongolia is a classic example of a region with a cold desert climate. Though hot in summer, it shares the very cold winters of central Asia. Argentine Patagonia is another major example of a BWk climate. Though not quite as cold as the Gobi Desert in the winter, the rain shadow of the Andes creates extremely dry and windy conditions in the Patagonia.

The Arctic and Antarctic regions also receive very little precipitation during the year, owing to the exceptionally cold dry air, but are more usually classified as types of polar climates.

Notable cities with a cold desert climate

Mild desert climates

This variant of a desert climate is extremely rare. Mild desert climates are usually found along the west coasts of continents at tropical or near-tropical locations, though they can also be found at higher altitudes at these locations.

Mild desert climates are characterized by cooler temperatures than encountered elsewhere at comparable latitudes (usually due to the nearby presence of cold ocean currents) and frequent fog and low clouds, despite the fact that these places can rank among the driest on earth in terms of actual precipitation received. Temperatures are mild throughout the year, usually not subject to any of the temperature extremes typically found in desert climates.

Notable cities with a mild desert climate

Charts of Selected Cities

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Hot Desert Climates

Baghdad
Climate chart (explanation)
J F M A M J J A S O N D
 
 
20
 
14
3
 
 
20
 
17
6
 
 
20
 
22
10
 
 
10
 
28
15
 
 
0
 
35
20
 
 
0
 
40
23
 
 
0
 
43
25
 
 
0
 
42
23
 
 
0
 
39
21
 
 
0
 
32
15
 
 
20
 
23
8
 
 
20
 
16
5
average max. and min. temperatures in °C
precipitation totals in mm
source: Weather Base
Riyadh
Climate chart (explanation)
J F M A M J J A S O N D
 
 
12
 
20
9
 
 
8.5
 
23
11
 
 
25
 
27
15
 
 
22
 
33
20
 
 
4.6
 
39
26
 
 
0
 
42
28
 
 
0
 
44
29
 
 
0.2
 
43
29
 
 
0
 
40
26
 
 
1.7
 
35
21
 
 
7.9
 
28
15
 
 
13
 
22
11
average max. and min. temperatures in °C
precipitation totals in mm
source: [1]
Phoenix
Climate chart (explanation)
J F M A M J J A S O N D
 
 
21
 
19
7
 
 
20
 
22
9
 
 
27
 
24
11
 
 
6.4
 
29
14
 
 
4.1
 
34
19
 
 
2.3
 
40
24
 
 
25
 
42
27
 
 
24
 
41
27
 
 
19
 
37
24
 
 
20
 
31
17
 
 
19
 
24
10
 
 
23
 
21
7
average max. and min. temperatures in °C
precipitation totals in mm
source: Weather Channel [2]
Khartoum
Climate chart (explanation)
J F M A M J J A S O N D
 
 
0
 
32
15
 
 
0
 
34
16
 
 
0
 
38
19
 
 
0
 
41
22
 
 
0
 
42
25
 
 
7
 
41
26
 
 
53
 
38
25
 
 
71
 
37
24
 
 
18
 
39
25
 
 
5
 
40
24
 
 
0
 
36
20
 
 
0
 
33
17
average max. and min. temperatures in °C
precipitation totals in mm
source: BBC Weather [3]
Mexicali
Climate chart (explanation)
J F M A M J J A S O N D
 
 
13
 
21
5
 
 
9.1
 
24
7
 
 
7.9
 
26
9
 
 
1.3
 
30
12
 
 
0.8
 
34
16
 
 
0.3
 
39
20
 
 
1.5
 
42
24
 
 
8.1
 
41
25
 
 
9.1
 
38
22
 
 
8.9
 
33
15
 
 
4.6
 
26
8
 
 
11
 
21
5
average max. and min. temperatures in °C
precipitation totals in mm
source: [4]
Hermosillo
Climate chart (explanation)
J F M A M J J A S O N D
 
 
10
 
24
9
 
 
9
 
26
11
 
 
3
 
28
15
 
 
1
 
32
18
 
 
1
 
36
21
 
 
2
 
40
23
 
 
50
 
42
28
 
 
53
 
41
28
 
 
30
 
37
24
 
 
11
 
34
19
 
 
8
 
28
13
 
 
14
 
25
10
average max. and min. temperatures in °C
precipitation totals in mm
source: [5]

Ashgabat

Climate chart (explanation)
J F M A M J J A S O N D
 
 
22
 
7
-2
 
 
27
 
10
-0
 
 
39
 
16
5
 
 
44
 
24
11
 
 
28
 
30
16
 
 
4
 
36
21
 
 
3
 
38
23
 
 
1
 
37
21
 
 
4
 
32
15
 
 
14
 
23
9
 
 
20
 
17
5
 
 
21
 
10
1
average max. and min. temperatures in °C
precipitation totals in mm
source: World Meteorological Organization

Cold Desert Climates

Kashgar

Climate chart (explanation)
J F M A M J J A S O N D
 
 
2
 
0
-10
 
 
4
 
4
-6
 
 
6
 
13
1
 
 
6
 
21
8
 
 
10
 
26
12
 
 
7
 
30
16
 
 
5
 
32
18
 
 
8
 
30
17
 
 
5
 
26
12
 
 
2
 
19
4
 
 
2
 
10
-1
 
 
1
 
1
-7
average max. and min. temperatures in °C
precipitation totals in mm
source: Weatherbase

Turpan

Climate chart (explanation)
J F M A M J J A S O N D
 
 
2.5
 
-3
-15
 
 
0
 
6
-7
 
 
0
 
17
2
 
 
0
 
25
10
 
 
0
 
32
16
 
 
5
 
37
22
 
 
2.5
 
39
25
 
 
2.5
 
37
22
 
 
2.5
 
32
15
 
 
0
 
21
6
 
 
5
 
10
-3
 
 
2.5
 
1
-11
average max. and min. temperatures in °C
precipitation totals in mm
source: [6]

Mild Desert Climates

Lima
Climate chart (explanation)
J F M A M J J A S O N D
 
 
0
 
26
20
 
 
0
 
26
20
 
 
0
 
26
20
 
 
0
 
24
18
 
 
0
 
22
17
 
 
2.5
 
20
16
 
 
5
 
19
15
 
 
2.5
 
18
15
 
 
2.5
 
19
15
 
 
2.5
 
20
16
 
 
0
 
22
17
 
 
0
 
24
18
average max. and min. temperatures in °C
precipitation totals in mm
source: [7]

References


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