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Day 85 – Q 4. What are cold deserts? Discuss their global distribution. How are they different from hot deserts? Explain.

4. What are cold deserts? Discuss their global distribution. How are they different from hot deserts? Explain.

ठंडे रेगिस्तान क्या हैं? उनके वैश्विक वितरण पर चर्चा करें। वे गर्म रेगिस्तान से कैसे अलग हैं? समझाएं।


Cold desert are arid ecosystems which receive rainfall less than 25cm in a year. They are located in the interior of the continent and at high latitude, characterized by the temperate climatic condition – hot summer and chilled winter.


Global distribution:

  • Cold deserts occur in temperate regions at higher latitudes.
  • These deserts are often situated on plateaux and are a part of continental interiors.
  • They are present in almost every continent but confined to temperate regions.

Distribution of cold deserts is depicted in the map. Some of them are

  • North America – Great basin
  • South America – Atacama Desert, Patagonian desert
  • Eurasia – Iranian desert ¸Gobi desert, Turkestan 
  • Africa – Namib desert

In India, we can see the presence of cold desert like conditions in the region of Ladakh.

TLP Phase 1 – Day 85 Synopsis

TLP Phase 1 – Day 85 Synopsis

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Difference between hot and cold deserts:

The main aspect that differentiate the cold desert from a hot desert are:

  • The hot deserts are mainly formed in tropical and subtropical regions whereas the cold deserts are found in temperate regions.
  • Hot deserts are formed due to reasons like the offshore wind patterns, aridity due to cold current, sand property and heat whereas cold deserts are formed mainly due to continentality and rain-shadow effects.
  • The cold deserts have an extremely chilling winters which is totally absent in hot deserts. 

Apart from this, some of the differences include:

Hot DesertCold Desert
It has a sandy soil.It has sand, ice or snow covered land.
It is red or orange in colour.It generally appears gray.
Precipitation levels are generally lower than cold deserts.They tend to have higher precipitation levels than hot deserts.
Evaporation is higher than precipitation in hot deserts.Precipitation is higher than evaporation in cold deserts.
Commonly found animals include fennec foxes, dung beetles, bactrian camels, sidewinder snakes, Mexican coyotes etc.Commonly found animals include foxes, jackrabbits, kangaroo rats, pocket mice, badger etc.
Vegetation is very rare and mostly includes ground-hugging shrubs and short woody trees.Vegetation is scattered with needle like leaves.


The worrying trend is the increase of desertification and expansion of both the types of deserts. Natural causes for desert formation have been from times immemorial, it is the anthropogenic causes which are cause of concern. The plan of action to combat desertification needs to be in line with the UN convention to combat desertification (UNCCD).

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