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The driest place on our planet


It is widely believed that the driest place on Earth is the high-altitude Atacama Desert in Chile, while you can’t call it a hot place in any way – in summer the temperature there rarely rises above 19-20 degrees Celsius.

In fact, the driest place on the planet is in Antarctica. Some areas of this continent have not seen rain for two million years!

Technically, a desert is a place where less than 254 mm of precipitation falls per year.

In the Sahara, for example, precipitation is only 25 mm per year. The average annual rainfall in Antarctica is about the same, but 2% of the entire continent, known as the Dry Valleys, is completely free of ice and snow, and it never rains at all.

The next driest place on Earth is the previously mentioned Atacama Desert in Chile. In some of its areas, rain has not been observed for four centuries! The average rainfall is about 15 mm per year, although in many places in the desert the average annual rainfall is a tiny figure of 1 mm. Such miserable indicators make the Atacama the second driest desert in the world – 250 times drier than the Sahara.

The driest place on our planet

Atacama Desert | pixabay.com

However, Antarctica is not only the driest place on the planet. At the same time, the mainland claims to be the wettest and windiest. It is there, in the form of ice, that 70% of the world's water reserves are located, and the winds reach speeds that beat all world records.

The unique natural conditions in the Dry Valleys region of Antarctica are caused by the so-called katabatic winds (from the Greek word meaning "down blowing"). They occur when cold, dense air descends down a hillside solely under the influence of gravity. Such winds can reach speeds of 320 km/h, completely evaporating the moisture encountered on the way – water, ice, snow.

The driest place on our planet

Antarctica | pixabay.com

And although Antarctica, in general, is a desert, its driest parts, somewhat ironically, are called oases. They are so close to the natural conditions of Mars that NASA is testing the Viking landers there.