The Sahara Desert is the desert found on the African continent. Of its types, it is the largest and one of the hottest desert in the world with an area of 9.2 mil sq. km.
According to the area, it only falls third after the deserts of Antarctica and the Arctic. It comprises most of the North African region of the African continent apart from the region on the Mediterranean Sea coast, the Atlas Mountains of the Maghreb and the Nile valley covering Egypt and Sudan.
The Sahara desert is surrounded by the Red Sea in the east, the Mediterranean Sea in the north, the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the semi-arid tropical savanna belt of the Sahel in the south. The hot desert Sahara is divided by several geographical landscapes of Western Sahara, the central Ahaggar Mountains, the Tibesti Mountains, the Air mountains, the Aïr Mountains, the Ténéré desert, and the Libyan desert.
Life in Sahara Desert
Life in Sahara desert is mainly controlled by the desert climate the most, as it influences heavily the hot desert climate vegetation and the animal life of Sahara desert. Various features of the desert climate such as the tempurature, precipitation, etc. contribute to daily life in Sahara desert. The climate is because of the location in horse latitudes under the subtropical ridge. This low-latitude desert climate comes under a significant belt of the semi-permanent subtropical warm-core high-pressure region where the air descends from the upper troposphere and warms and dries up the lower troposphere which prevents the monsoonal cloud formation.
As is clear, there are very less to nonexistent cloud formations, therefore the sky is mostly clear over the hot desert. The sunshine duration over the Sahara desert is very high with some places reaching 91% of the daylight hours i.e. 4000 hours of bright sunshine per year. The amount of daylight solar irradiation is 2800 kWh/(m2 year). This is proof of the indication of the high solar power potential of the Great Sahara Desert. The absence of all the clouds almost to nill existence allows uninterrupted and unhindered sunlight and thermal radiation and affects the hot desert climate vegetation and animal life of Sahara desert.
The average rainfall of the Sahara desert is varying but is also very low. The hot desert Sahara receives some rainfall in the northern and southern edges of the desert. It is non-existent above the central and the eastern areas of the hot desert. The average rainfall is around 100 millimetres to 250 millimetres over the entire desert area. Less rain and huge amounts of sunlight lead to the sand temperatures reaching above 80°C at some places which are more than the sand temperatures of the hottest desert in the world - the Lut Desert where the temperature is around 70°C. All of these factors contribute to the dry and hot desert climate and the life in the Sahara.
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Desertification and History of the Hot Desert Sahara
It has been theorized that the Sahara desert has alternated between the desert and the savanna grassland in a 20,000-year cycle. It is because of the precession of the Earth’s axis while rotating around the Sun changing the location of the North African Monsoon. Currently, the hot desert Sahara is undergoing a dry period. One of the interesting Sahara desert facts is that it is next going to be a grassland after 15,000 years. The monsoon weekend in Northern Africa because of the glaciation in the last Quaternary period about two to three million years ago. It is also theorized that the monsoon weakened because of the drying of the ancient Tethys Sea during the Totonian period about seven million years ago.
Since the end of the last glacial period, the people have been living on the edges of the hot desert. It used to be a much wetter place before than it is today. Many of the fossils of the dinosaurs have been found such as the Afrovenator, and Jobaria. Apart from this, the existence of many crocodile species along with other animals has been found through a large number of petroglyphs. But the abrupt desertification occurred because of the shift in Earth’s axis leading to the increased temperatures and decreased precipitation. The modern Sahara desert is only green around the areas of the Nile valley, a few oases, and the northern highlands where the Mediterranean plants such as the olive trees are known to grow.
Sahara Desert Information on Culture, People, and Languages
The cultural aspects are varied because of the people from distinct origins. Various cultures from prehistoric times such as the Kiffians, Tenerians, Nubians, etc. have existed in the hot desert Sahara over a period of thousands of years. Other ethnic groups include the Amazigh, Toubou, Zaghawa, Kanuri, Hausa, Songhai, etc. Among them, there are the Znaga tribes which are remnants of the prehistoric Zenaga language-speaking tribes.
The widely spoken languages include the dialects of the Arabic language. These groups of languages such as Arabic and the Berber are included in the bigger group known as Amazigh. Other languages include the Beja languages as well which form a part of the Afro-Asiatic or Homito-Semitic family. There are also the countries with the legacies of the French, British and German colonial empires but the most prominent of them was the French colonial empire in the hot desert Sahara. The Sahara desert was also a prominent battlefield during World War 2.