Valle de la Luna

Top 10 driest places on Earth

Earth, the blue planet: the oceans combined with the atmosphere makes the planet look blue. So its color mainly comes from water. About 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, in fact Earth is still the only planet we know where water can exist in liquid form on the surface. Water is also vital for all known forms of life. But there are numerous places on Earth that receive rainfall less than even 0.76 mm annually. One place even receive absolutely no rainfall. Here are the top ten driest places on Earth.

10. Aoulef, Algeria

Aoulef, Algeria
Aoulef, Algeria. Photo: wikipedia

Average rainfall per year: 12.19 millimeters (0.48 inches)

Aoulef is a town and commune and capital of Aoulef District, in Adrar Province, south-central Algeria. It has a hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification BWh), with long, extremely hot summers and short, very warm winters. Aoulef is often quoted as one of the hottest spots worldwide. Daytime temperatures are known to consistently approach 50 °C (122 °F) in summer and nighttime temperatures routinely remain above 30 °C (86 °F). July average is 46.8 °C (116.2 °F). Average annual rainfall is extremely low, with only 12.19 millimeters (0.48 inches). The sky is nearly always clear throughout the year and cloudy days are extremely rare.

9. Pelican Point, Namibia

Pelican Point Lodge, Namibia
Pelican Point Lodge

Average rainfall per year: 8.13 millimeters (0.32 inches)

Pelican Point is in Namibia, and a famous place among wave surfers. It is at the end of a long, flat peninsular of sand which stretches into the South Atlantic Ocean and protects the port of Walvis Bay. There’s also a lodge stands on it.

8. Iquique, Chile

Iquique, Chile
Iquique, Chile. Photo: wikipedia

Average rainfall per year: 5.08 millimeters (0.2 inches)

Iquique (pronunciation: ee-kee-kay) is a port city and commune in northern Chile, capital of both the Iquique Province and Tarapacá Region. Iquique has a rare mild desert climate (Köppen BWn) with low extremes of temperatures all year round and almost no rainfall. It lies on the Pacific coast, west of the Pampa del Tamarugal which is part of Atacama Desert. Iquique also counted among Chile’s premier beach resorts.

7. Wādī Ḥalfā, Sudan

Wādī Ḥalfā city center
Wādī Ḥalfā city center. Photo: wikipedia

Average rainfall per year: 2.45 millimeters (0.096 inches)

Wādī Ḥalfā is a city in the Northern state of Sudan on the shores of “Lake Nubia” (the Sudanese section of Lake Nasser). It is the terminus of a rail line from Khartoum and the point where goods are transferred from rail to ferries going down the lake. As of 2007, the city had a population of 15,725.

The city has a hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification BWh) typical of the Nubian Desert, which makes a part of the greater Sahara Desert, the world’s largest hot desert. This little town is the sunniest place on Earth. Wādī Ḥalfā receives each year the highest mean amount of bright sunshine, with an extreme value of 4,300 h which is equal to 97-98 % of sunlight beaming down on land yearly and clouds are extremely rare over there. In addition to this, the town receives a mean annual amount of rainfall that barely reaches 2.45 millimeters and many years usually pass without any rainfall falling on the ground.

Wādī Ḥalfā experiences a long, torrid summer and a short, really warm winter. The annual mean temperature is about 27 °C (80.6 °F). From May to September, inclusively, the averages highs exceed 40 °C (104 °F). The annual mean rate of potential evaporation is also among the highest found throughout the world, with as much as 5,930 mm.

6. Ica, Peru

Huacachina (Ica) Dunes
Huacachina, an oasis near Ica. Photo: wikipedia

Average rainfall per year: 2.29 millimeters (0.09 inches)

The city of Ica is the capital of the Ica Region in southern Peru. It lies on the border of the Atacama desert and has one of the driest climates in the world Köppen BWh with only around 2.29 millimeters (0.09 inches) of rainfall for the whole year. Temperatures are hot during the summer months (December – March) and warm through the winter months (June – September).

This area was not dry 30 million years ago: in 2007, scientists found fossil evidence of a 4.5 feet (1.5 meters) tall and sported a foot-long (0.3-meter-long) giant species of penguin that used to inhabit the area. The study also describes a smaller ancient penguin species found in the same region. Now the region’s dry air makes pre-Columbian mummies prevalent, as human remains don’t decompose without humidity.

5. Luxor, Egypt

Luxor, Egypt - Statue of Ramses II in Karnak Temple
Luxor, Egypt – Statue of Ramses II in Karnak Temple. Photo: tourist-destinations.com

Average rainfall per year: 0.862 millimeters (0.034 inches)

Luxor is a city in Upper (southern) Egypt. It is one of the hottest, sunniest and driest cities in the world. Average high temperatures are above 40 °C (104 °F) during summer (June, July, August) while average low temperatures remain above 22 °C (71.6 °F). Summers are long, prolonged and extremely hot. During the coldest month of the year, average high temperatures remain above 22 °C (71.6 °F) while average low temperatures remain above 5 °C (41 °F). Winters are short, brief and extremely warm. Wintertime is very pleasant and enjoyable while summertime is unbearably hot with blazing sunshine although desert heat is dry.

The climate of Luxor is extremely dry year-round, with less than 1 mm of average annual precipitation. The desert city is one of the driest ones in the world, and rainfall doesn’t occur every year. The air is mainly dry in Luxor but much more humid than in Aswan. There is an average relative humidity of 39.9%, with a maximum mean of 57% during winter and a minimum mean of 27% during summer.

The climate of Luxor is extremely clear, bright and sunny year-round, in all seasons, with a low seasonal variation, with about some 4,000 hours of annual sunshine, very close of the maximum theoretical sunshine duration.

In addition, Luxor, Minya, Sohag, Qena and Asyut have the widest difference of temperatures between days and nights of any city in Egypt, with almost 16 °C (29 °F) difference.

The hottest temperature recorded was on May 15, 1991 which was 50 °C (122 °F) and the coldest temperature was on February 6, 1989 which was −1 °C (30 °F).

4. Aswan, Egypt

River Nile in Aswan, Egypt
Aswan is a busy market and tourist center located just north of the Aswan Dams on the east bank of the Nile at the first cataract. Photo: ask-aladdin.com

Average rainfall per year: 0.861 millimeters (0.0338 inches)

Aswan, formerly spelled Assuan, is a city in the south of Egypt, the capital of the Aswan Governorate. It has a hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification BWh) like the rest of Egypt. Aswan and Luxor have the hottest summer days of any city in Egypt. Aswan is one of the hottest, sunniest and driest cities in the world. Averages high temperatures are consistently above 40 °C (104.0 °F) during summer (June, July, August and also September) while averages low temperatures remain above 25 °C (77.0 °F). Summers are long, prolonged and extremely hot. Averages high temperatures remain above 23 °C (73.4 °F) during the coldest month of the year while averages low temperatures remain above 8 °C (46.4 °F). Winters are short, brief and extremely warm. Wintertime is very pleasant and enjoyable while summertime is unbearably hot with blazing sunshine although desert heat is dry.

The climate of Aswan is extremely dry year-round, with 0.861 mm(0.0338 in) of average annual precipitation. The desert city is one of the driest ones in the world, and rainfall doesn’t occur every year, as of early 2001, the last rain there was seven years earlier. Aswan is one of the least humid cities on the planet, with an average relative humidity of only 26%, with a maximum mean of 42% during winter and a minimum mean of 16% during summer.

The climate of Aswan is extremely clear, bright and sunny year-round, in all seasons, with a low seasonal variation, with about some 4,000 hours of annual sunshine, very close of the maximum theoretical sunshine duration. Aswan is one of the sunniest places on Earth.

The highest record temperature was 51 °C (124 °F) on May 22, 1973 and the lowest record temperature was −2 °C (28 °F) on January 6, 1989.

3. Kufra, Libya

Kufra Oasis from space
Kufra cultivated areas seen from space. Photo: wikipedia

Average rainfall per year: 0.860 millimeters (0.0338 inches)

Kufra (Al-Kufrah) is a basin and oasis group in the Kufra District of southeastern Cyrenaica in Libya. It also played a minor role in the Western Desert Campaign of World War II. In the middle of the Sahara Desert, Kufra is the driest point in Africa.

At the beginning of the 1970s, Libya launched in Kufra a great cultivation project aimed at developing agriculture in the desert. LEPA irrigation is provided by fossil water beneath the ground surface, the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System, a non-renewable source and the only accessible water resource in the area. Rotors (high sprinkler that rotates) provide irrigation and the obtained circles have a diameter of about 1 km and can be observed from space.

This is one of Libya’s largest agricultural projects. Because only about 2 percent of Libya’s land receives enough rainfall to be cultivated, this project uses the underground aquifer. The green circles in the desert frequently indicate tracts of agriculture supported by center-pivot irrigation. The agricultural project is an easy-to-recognize landmark for orbiting astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The Libyan government also has a project called the Great Manmade River to pump and transport these groundwater reserves to the coast to support Libya’s growing population and industrial development. As of December 2011, the excessive exploitation of the aquifer has provoked the complete drying up of the lake in the oasis.

2. Arica, Chile

Morro de Arica
Arica, Chile. Photo: LetsGoToChile.com

Average rainfall per year: 0.761 millimeters (0.03 inches)

Arica is a commune and a port city with a population of 196,590 in the Arica Province of northern Chile’s Arica y Parinacota Region. It is Chile’s northernmost city, being located only 18 km (11 mi) south of the border with Peru. The city is the capital of both the Arica Province and the Arica and Parinacota Region. Arica is located at the bend of South America’s western coast known as the Arica Bend or Arica Elbow. At the location of the city two lush valleys that dissect the Atacama Desert converge: Azapa and Lluta. These valleys provides fruit for export.

Arica is known as the driest inhabited place on Earth, at least as measured by rainfall: average annual precipitation is 0.76 mm (0.03 inches), as measured at the airport meteorological station. Despite its lack of rainfall, humidity and cloud cover are high. With humidity levels similar to those of equatorial climates the sunshine intensity is similar to the Sahara desert regions in the Northern Hemisphere (like the Cape Verde islands). Oxford geographer Nick Middleton’s book on people who live in extreme climates, Going to Extremes (ISBN 0-330-49384-1), discusses his visit to this city. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Arica features the rare mild desert climate, abbreviated “Bwn” on climate maps. Unlike many other cities with arid climates, Arica seldom sees extreme temperatures throughout the course of the year.

The surrounding Atacama Desert is the driest non-polar desert on Earth, with some places have not received rain in more than 500 years. But there’s an interesting phenomenon occurs in the Atacama Desert: the “flowering desert“. The phenomenon consists of the blossoming of a wide variety of flowers between the months of September and November in years when rainfall is unusually high. Normally the region receives less than 12 mm (0.47 in) of rain a year.

Valle de la Luna
El Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) is located in the Atacama desert of Chile. The valley is also considered one of the driest places on earth, as some areas have not received a single drop of rain in hundreds of years. A prototype for a Mars rover was tested there by scientists because of the valley’s dry and forbidding terrains.
The Atacama Desert (Spanish: Desierto de Atacama) is a plateau in South America, covering a 1,000-kilometre (600 mi) strip of land on the Pacific coast, west of the Andes mountains. It is the driest non-polar desert in the world. According to estimates the Atacama Desert proper occupies 105,000 square kilometres (41,000 sq mi), or 128,000 square kilometres (49,000 sq mi) if the barren lower slopes of the Andes are included. Most of the desert is composed of stony terrain, salt lakes (salares), sand, and felsic lava that flows towards the Andes. Photo: wikipedia

The blossoming occurs when the unusual level of rainfall reach the seeds and bulbs that have been in a latent or dormant state and causes them to germinate and flower in early spring. It is accompanied by the proliferation of insects, birds and small species of lizard. At its height, the phenomenon can be seen from just south of the city of Vallenar to just north of the city of Copiapó throughout the coastal valleys and Chilean Coast Range from September to November.

Climatically, the event is related to the El Niño phenomenon, a band of anomalously warm ocean water temperatures that occasionally develops off the western coast of South America, which can lead to an increase in evaporation and therefore precipitation.

The flowering desert is a popular tourist attraction with tourists visiting the phenomenon from various points around the southern Atacama, including Huasco, Vallenar, La Serena, Copiapó and Caldera.

After El Niño brought the heaviest rainfall in two decades earlier this year, the phenomenon occurred again.

Flowering Desert - Atacama (2015)
The flowering desert (Spanish: desierto florido) is a climatic phenomenon that occurs in the Atacama Desert. Photo: Carlos Aguilar/AFP

1. McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica

Wright Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica - from the Bull Pass
Wright Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica – from the Bull Pass

Average rainfall per year: 0 millimeters (0 inches)

It is hard to believe that the Earth’s driest place is in one of its poles, but this is the truth. It’s in Antarctica: the McMurdo Dry Valleys – they are a row of snow-free valleys located within Victoria Land west of McMurdo Sound. The region is one of the world’s most extreme deserts, and includes many features including Lake Vida and the Onyx River, Antarctica’s longest river.

The Dry Valleys are so named because of their extremely low humidity and their lack of snow or ice cover. They are also dry because, in this location, the mountains are sufficiently high that they block seaward flowing ice from the East Antarctic ice sheet from reaching the Ross Sea. At 4,800 square kilometers (1,900 sq mi), the valleys constitute around 0.03% of the continent, and form the largest ice-free region in Antarctica.

The unique conditions in the Dry Valleys are caused, in part, by katabatic winds; these occur when cold, dense air is pulled downhill by the force of gravity. The winds can reach speeds of 320 kilometres per hour (200 mph), heating as they descend, and evaporating all water, ice and snow.

Too dry? Too hot?

See the Top Ten Wettest Places on Earth.

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Top ten wettest places on Earth

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