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?
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.