The Hollywood film Lawrence of Arabia, released in 1962 and based on the life of a British officer, features several scenes in which the protagonist spends days traversing enormous deserts. He is unsure if he will survive the desert’s seemingly unending expanses or if he would get lost and die.
While traversing wide miles of desert, he frequently stops for the night to sleep outside under the stars wrapped in a blanket. When I saw that part of the movie, I couldn’t help but wonder… Mystified, I asked, “Why does he have a blanket? Why isn’t it extremely hot there? “, you might ask.
Although deserts are well-known for their unbearable daily temperatures, few are aware that they may really be rather chilly at night. However, what causes this to occur?
Deserts are often synonymous with blazing heat, but did you know they can also experience plummeting temperatures, especially during nighttime?
In this article, we will uncover why the Sahara desert gets cold at night, discuss the thermal range in Dubai’s desert, and touch upon various factors that contribute to extreme temperature fluctuations in deserts.
The Sand in the Atmosphere Acts as a Heat Sink.
To my mind, sand is a very intriguing material. The bigger granules in this form of soil prevent it from absorbing water, which explains why it is dry yet also slippery. Since sand is so poor at insulating against the sun’s rays, it helps to keep deserts toasty during the day.
The sand in deserts doesn’t soak up the sun’s warmth when it warms it up. Instead, it reflects the sun’s rays, warming the air above the ground. Forests, beaches, plains, and mountains, in contrast to deserts, don’t release as much heat into the air above their surfaces, making them more comfortable temperatures-wise.
Now that you know how hot it gets in the desert during the day, you might be wondering about the nighttime temperatures.
Humidity and Heat in a Desert
You probably already know this, but water is fantastic at absorbing and holding onto warmth. When the sun heats the ground on typical terrain, a lot of that heat is absorbed by the earth. When the sun isn’t up, the water vapour in the air absorbs heat radiated from the ground (because the air is humid in those places).
On the other hand, things are very different in arid regions. The air above the ground is not humid enough to “arrest” the heat that the ground radiatively loses when the sun goes down.
Because of this, heat escapes quickly, resulting in significantly lower temperatures once the sun goes down. In addition, there isn’t a lot of cloud cover in deserts, so it’s even harder to keep the air above the ground warm. When the earth’s heat evaporates, it leaves behind a bitter chill.
The Nighttime Temperatures in Some Deserts can be Quite Mild.
Humidity, clouds, and even wind all play a role in why some deserts get cold at night, despite the common misconception that deserts are always dry. It’s not always true that deserts have dry air.
Humidity is higher than average in the deserts of places like Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (e.g., some parts of the Sahara desert). Because the humid air there keeps part of the radiant heat from the ground, these deserts don’t get quite as cold at night.
And Not All Deserts are Extremely Warm.
What if I told you that the following is also an image of a desert, despite the fact that when most people hear the word “desert,” they immediately think of an unending expanse of land covered with sand?
In spite of your preconceived notions, the image above depicts an arctic desert, not a place where penguins would be found.
Rainfall and other forms of precipitation (such as snow and sleet) are uncommon in deserts. Therefore, Antarctica, which is entirely covered in ice and has average annual temperatures of around -75 degrees Celsius, qualifies as a desert according to this definition. One of the largest and driest deserts in the world, it receives relatively little precipitation year-round.
If you want to go camping in the desert, you need find out what the weather is like there ahead of time. It would be inconvenient to bring along a heavy blanket just to find out that the desert you’re camping in doesn’t become chilly at night.
Does the Sahara Desert Get Cold At Night?
Yes, the Sahara desert can get extremely cold at night, sometimes reaching temperatures as low as 40°F (4.4°C). During the day, the temperatures may soar to over 104°F (40°C), but when the sun sets, it can become surprisingly chilly.
Why Are Desert Days Hot But Nights Cold?
The main reason behind the hot days and cold nights in deserts is the lack of humidity. Water vapor in the air acts as an insulator, retaining heat during the night. In deserts, the dry air does not hold heat well, allowing the warmth absorbed by the ground to be quickly released into the atmosphere once the sun goes down.
How Cold Is Dubai Desert At Night?
Dubai’s desert experiences similar thermal patterns to the Sahara. Nighttime temperatures can drop to around 57°F (13.8°C) during the winter months. In contrast, daytime temperatures can reach up to 104°F (40°C) or more, particularly during the summer.
What is the Coldest Desert in the World?
The coldest desert in the world is Antarctica, which is technically a polar desert. In this icy expanse, temperatures can drop as low as -80°F (-62.2°C).
Why Do Deserts Become Cold At Night Because It’s Very Cloudy?
This is a misconception. Deserts typically become cold at night not because of cloud cover but because of the low humidity levels that lead to rapid heat loss. Cloudy conditions, if they occur, could actually help retain some heat.
What Is the Largest Desert in the World?
The largest desert in the world is also the coldest: Antarctica. Covering about 5.5 million square miles, it surpasses the Sahara, the world’s largest hot desert, which has an area of around 3.6 million square miles.
Why Do Deserts Have Sand?
The sandy landscape of many deserts is due to the breakdown of rocks over millions of years. Erosion from wind and occasional water flow grinds rocks into smaller particles, which accumulate to form expansive sandy landscapes.
Deserts are fascinating landscapes that hold more mysteries than just their endless sand dunes. From the surprising drop in temperatures in the Sahara and Dubai’s deserts to the unique ecosystem they sustain, deserts are more than just their scorching daytime heat.
Understanding the factors that contribute to their extreme conditions can deepen our appreciation of these incredible biomes.
Feel free to share your thoughts or questions in the comment section below. Understanding the desert’s dichotomy between day and night can provide insightful perspectives into the workings of our planet.