Tropical and Subtropical Desert Climate

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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 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.

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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, 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. Like for 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 to 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 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 type deserts 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° to 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 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

Mojave, Sonoran, Chihuahuan, the Sahara, and the Great Victoria Deserts, Patagonian desert, Iranian desert, Gobi desert, the Tanami desert, etc.

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 (Frequently Asked Questions)

Question1. What are Deserts?

Answer. 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. The 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. 

Question2. What Do You Mean by Tropical Deserts?

Answer. 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. The example of Tropical Desert is the Thar desert, Deserts of the USA, Arabia desert, etc.

Question3. What Do You Mean by Subtropical Deserts?

Answer. Subtropical deserts are those which are found between 15 degrees to 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.

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