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The Spring 2011 issue of The Earth Scientist is focused on modernizing seismology education. Thanks to IRIS, you can download this issue for free as a pdf. Print copies are available in our online store.

What is the climate like in the desert? What kinds of life can you find there? How do they handle the conditions in the desert?

There are a couple of things that make deserts different from other places on Earth. First, deserts are very dry. This is because they get only a small amount of rainfall each year. Some deserts may go for a whole year or more with NO rain!! Second, deserts have very hot days and very cold nights. Even though the desert is too harsh for most forms of life, there are plants and animals that can survive in these tough conditions.

Many animals that live in deserts only come out at night when it's cool. They sleep during the hot days in cool caves or underground burrows. These animals also have special coverings to keep their skin from drying out--like the scales you see on the skin of snakes and lizards.

Many plants that live in deserts have very short lives. They must sprout, grow, and make seeds for new baby plants in just a few short weeks. These plants do all their growing during the desert's rainy season which may only last a few days! Other plants, like the big cactus in the picture, keep water stored inside their stems. The spines help protect it from animals that might try to sneak a drink!


David (England)
(February 10, 1998)



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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA