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Tropical and Subtropical Desert Climate

Last updated date: 20th May 2024
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Introduction to Tropical and Subtropical Desert Climate

Have you ever seen those regions where you can experience a dry climate and less precipitation along with sparse vegetation? These regions are tropical subtropical deserts found between and around the Tropics. The climate found here is generally arid or semi-arid and can be cold as well as hot too. These types of climate regions found a separate place in the classification of climate given by Koppen. 

Here, we will learn about tropical and subtropical deserts and their climate. We will learn about their climatic features and other aspects along with some examples around the world. This topic will be helpful in Geography, Physical Geography, Geology, Climatology, Environment, and Earth Science. 

A desert is one of the types of geographical landform found on the Earth which is an area with hostile conditions for the living of plants as well as animals and is characterized by dry land with less precipitation as well as less vegetation. About 1/3rd of the surface of the world is considered arid or semi-arid. Deserts are found in one of the places in the Classification of Climate given by Koppen. Category B is a dry climate category that denotes deserts. This category can be further divided into two forms i.e hot and cold and can be denoted with the symbols BWh and BSk. Here, BW represents dry arid climate whereas BS represents dry semi-arid climate. h and k are used as suffixes to define the location. Thus, BWh means dry hot desert whereas BWk means dry cold desert.

Tropical Desert Region

The environment of the tropical desert region is the utmost. It is the driest and hottest place on earth. The rainfall occurs occasionally and sometimes there are no measures to calculate how much rain is falling in this region. The average annual rainfall is less than 25 cm. Due to a shortage of water, there is less vegetation growing here. The reason for the dryness of these deserts is the influence of subtropical high pressure and continentality. The main trees and bushes found in these areas are acacia, cactus, Babul, etc. Wildlife species are also found here. Mules, gazelles, camels, snakes, and lizards are the wildlife species found in this region. In this type of harsh desert, the occupants have to face many problems in that type of environment. lLike food, water, and other means of livelihood.

Tropical Desert Climate

If we talk about tropical desert locations, most of the deserts which are hot are generally found near the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. It is between 5 degrees and 30 degrees north and south of the equator. The environment is very extreme in these deserts. The largest hot desert in the world is the Sahara which is in Africa which spreads in the whole range of the continent. The highest average temperature of the earth is found in these areas. The range of the temperature is between 29 and 35 degrees Celsius. The rainfall occurred occasionally. In the winter, the temperature is cooler than in the summers. The temperature in the winter ranges from 15 degrees to 25 degrees. If we talk about the winds, the generation of sand storms as well as dust storms can be seen here if the speed of the wind exceeds 80km/h.


Examples of Tropical Desert

The tropical deserts include in the regions of California, Arizona as well as Mexico of the USA, the Thar desert, the Arabian, and the Saharan desert whereas other examples of these types of desserts are the Atacama desert, Kalahari desert, the Namib, and the Great Australian Desert.

Subtropical Desert

Subtropical Deserts are the deserts that are found between 15° andto 30° north as well as south of the equator and are found around the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. They can be of two types that are hot and cold but the main characteristic that is found is that they are very dry and have less precipitation annually. Most of the plants found here are said to be annual because of dry and less precipitation and they used to adapt themselves in order to conserve water.

The Climate of Subtropical Desert

The climate of these regions is hot as well as dry and is located above the equator and found between the tropics. It receives very little precipitation annually i.e. around 30 cm and fewer than this. Evaporation exceeds the precipitation levels in these regions in some of the years. The average temperature found here can be 50°F  which can be reached at 90°F or more in the summer season. These deserts have a daytime temperature of soil surface above 60°C whereas the nighttime temperature can reach 0°C. If we talk about cold deserts, here day time temperature is 25°C whereas the nighttime temperature is around -30°C and below. In the form of rain, precipitation is received by these areas during monsoon seasons such as during July to September. Very few monthly variations can be seen in rainfall and it is also difficult to predict. In some of the areas, the annual precipitation can be as low as 2 cm such as in Northern Africa and Central Australia.

Examples of Subtropical Desert

Examples of subtropical deserts are Mojave, Sonoran, Chihuahuan, the Sahara, and the Great Victoria Deserts, Patagonian desert, Iranian desert, Gobi desert, the Tanami desert, etc.

Precipitation and Temperature

The average yearly temperature and precipitation in temperate and tropical deserts vary significantly. Temperate deserts, with temperatures averaging less than 10 degrees Celsius, are substantially cooler than tropical deserts. Despite the fact that both deserts get less than 100 cm of precipitation each year, temperate deserts receive much less rainfall than tropical deserts.

Geographical Characteristics

While many tropical deserts are characterised by sand dunes, little vegetation, and a paucity of water, temperate deserts are often rockier, with grasses and bushes sprinkled throughout. The temperate desert is known for its canyons, exposed bedrock, and hoodoo formations. The moderate desert floor is frequently covered by boulders and tiny stones that have been left behind after high winds have blown away the soil cover.

Plant Life

The most frequent desert plants are cactus plants, which may be found in all sorts of desserts. Cacti in the tropical desert may grow to be as tall as 20 metres when fully mature. The moderate desert is dotted with smaller cactus. Plants from the pea and sunflower families thrive in the tropical desert, whereas plants that can withstand extreme cold thrive in the temperate desert.

Natural Resources

Tropical deserts are rich in mineral resources, some of which are unique. Borax, sodium nitrate, salt, iodine, calcium, bromine, and strontium compounds are examples of representative minerals. When the water in desert lakes evaporates, these minerals are formed.


Borax, widely known as a detergent enhancer, is a natural cleanser and freshener. Boric acid is generated from borax and is used in fire retardants, glass, ceramics, water softeners, medicines, paint, enamel, cosmetics, and coated paper. Since 1881, the northern Mojave Desert has produced billions of dollars in borax.

Sodium Nitrate

In desert areas, sodium nitrate is formed through the evaporation of water. Sodium nitrate is found in abundance in South America, where roughly 3 million metric tonnes were mined during World War I. It was the first food preservative and is still used to cure fish and meat for the production of bacon, ham, sausage, and deli meats today. Pharmaceuticals, fertilisers, colours, explosive flares, and enamels are among the products made using it.

Fossil Fuels 

Natural gas and oil are complex hydrocarbons generated by the breakdown of animals and plants millions of years ago. They can be vicious, solid, liquid, or gaseous and are the world's principal energy source. Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait have the five biggest oil fields. The Arabian Desert is the world's largest petroleum-producing area.

Metallic Mineral

Deserts are home to the majority of the primary types of mineral deposits generated by groundwater. In Australia's Western Desert, for example, important metallic minerals such as gold, silver, iron, zinc, and uranium can be discovered. This is owing to unique geological processes, as well as the ability of desert climatic variables to conserve and increase mineral resources.

Did You Know?

Let's have a look at interesting facts of tropical desert biomes which are related to vegetation and are given below:

  • The plants found in the desert regions are known as xerophytic plants which can be adapted as per the arid conditions of the region.

  • The characteristics of these plants include thorns as well as leathery leaves with long roots which are deep under the ground so that water can be collected from the under surface. 

  • Examples of these types of vegetation are cactus, acacia, saltbush, dates, etc.


Thus, to conclude in the end, we can say that deserts are a dry landform that is found in between the tropics where we can find tropical and subtropical deserts. Where tropical deserts are hot, subtropical is hot as well as cold. The tropical desert receives much less rainfall than the subtropical but both are dry regions. The average temperature found here is high and these deserts also become cold at night due to falling temperatures below the levels. We have covered tropical and subtropical desert climate, their location and distribution, and other related aspects which helps us to understand this very important topic of Geography and Climatology. 

FAQs on Tropical and Subtropical Desert Climate

1. What are deserts?

A desert is a place where almost no rain or less precipitation occurs. Some deserts are covered with sand and some are flat and stony ground. While some deserts have rocky hills and mountains. A place that receives less than 25 cm of rain in a year. The temperature is extreme in these regions. Less vegetation is found in these deserts. Wildlife species are also found in these regions. About one-third of the land on our planet is covered with deserts. These can be divided into arid or semiarid and hot or cold and tropical and subtropical. 

2. What do you mean by tropical deserts?

The tropical deserts have an extreme environment. It is considered the driest and hottest place. Rainfall occurs occasionally in these regions and there is no measurable precipitation found at all in some years. It is located in the 5 degrees to 30 degrees latitude north as well south of the equator.  The dry conditions of these regions are because of the influence of the subtropical high pressure. Very few flora and fauna are found here because of the harsh and extreme conditions of these regions. Examples of tropical desert are the Thar desert, Deserts of the USA, Arabia desert, etc.

3. What do you mean by subtropical deserts?

Subtropical deserts are those which are found between 15 degrees and 30 degrees in the north and south and can be found around the Tropics i.e. the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. They are hot and cold. But there is less vegetation found along with fewer animals as well because of the extreme conditions. Most of the plants are dry because of less precipitation. The precipitation is less i.e. 30 cm or less than this and the average temperature is 50°F. The daytime and nighttime temperature can differ from each other and nights can be colder because the temperature falls at night.

4. What are the climate characteristics of subtropical deserts?

Tropical deserts are found between the latitudes of 5 and 30 degrees. The environment is really harsh. They have the highest monthly average temperature on the planet. Rainfall is erratic; in a few years, there may be no precipitation at all. Aside from these harsh environments and climate conditions, most tropical deserts are covered in sand and rocks, making them too flat and devoid of vegetation to keep the wind at bay. Eolian processes happen when wind erodes and transports sand, rocks, and other materials.

5. What are the different types of deserts?

Deserts are critical to maintaining the ecosystem's equilibrium. Deserts cover more than a third of the Earth's dry area. We shall learn about the many sorts of deserts here.

Deserts are divided into four categories: arid, semiarid, arid, and arid.

  • Arid Desert – Hot and dry

  • Semi-Arid Desert

  • Coastal Desert

  • Cold Desert

Hot and Dry - arid desert: The Sahara Desert, for example, is an arid desert that is hot and dry. The climate in such deserts is warm and dry all year.

Semi-Arid Deserts - These deserts are a little less hot and dry than hot and dry deserts. In semi-arid deserts, long, dry summers are followed by rainy winters. North America, Greenland, Europe, and Asia all have deserted.

Coastal Deserts - These deserts are arid, but not as hot as other deserts. The warm summer lasts longer in these deserts than in the cold winters. Because these deserts are not as severe as arid and semi-arid deserts, a wider range of creatures may dwell there. Coastal deserts may be found in Chile, a South American country.

Cold Deserts - Snow makes up the majority of the precipitation in these deserts. They have lengthy, harsh winters with plenty of snowfall and short, humid, and steamy summers. The South Pole (Antarctic area), sections of North America, and Greenland all have cold deserts.