Deserts of Australia

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Deserts in Australia
Deserts of Australia (in red), overlaid with internal boundaries and Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA) biogeographic regions.
Climate zones in Australia
Rain days in Australia

Named deserts of Australia cover 1,371,000 square kilometres (529,000 sq mi), or 18% of the Australian mainland. However, approximately 35% of the Australian continent receives so little rain it is effectively desert. The deserts in Australia are primarily distributed throughout the western plateau and interior lowlands of the country. [1]


By international standards, Australian deserts receive relatively high rates of rainfall. [2] No weather station situated in an arid region records less than 100 mm of average annual rainfall. [3] The deserts of Australia, particularly in the interior, lack any significant summer rains. [2]

Deserts are not necessarily completely devoid of vegetation, but have large areas where vegetation is very limited in height or extent.


DesertState/TerritoryArea (km2)Area (miles2)Area Rank% of Australia
Great Victoria Desert Western Australia, South Australia 348,750 km2134,650 sq mi14.5%
Great Sandy Desert Western Australia267,250 km2103,190 sq mi23.5%
Tanami Desert Western Australia, Northern Territory 184,500 km271,200 sq mi32.4%
Simpson Desert Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia176,500 km268,100 sq mi42.3%
Gibson Desert Western Australia156,000 km260,000 sq mi52.0%
Little Sandy Desert Western Australia111,500 km243,100 sq mi61.5%
Strzelecki Desert South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales 80,250 km230,980 sq mi71.0%
Sturt Stony Desert South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales29,750 km211,490 sq mi80.3%
Tirari Desert South Australia15,250 km25,890 sq mi90.2%
Pedirka Desert South Australia1,250 km2480 sq mi100.016%

Great Victoria Desert

The Great Victoria Desert lies in Western Australia and South Australia. It is over 800 kilometres (500 mi) wide and covers an area of 348,750 square kilometres (134,650 sq mi).

Gibson Desert

A Toyota Land Cruiser in the Gibson Desert

The Gibson Desert lies in central Western Australia. The desert is about 156,000 square kilometres (60,000 sq mi) in size. Most of the inhabitants of the area are Indigenous Australians.

Desert group

Climate issues

Australia's climate is mostly determined by the hot, sinking air of the subtropical high pressure belt. [4] Dry conditions are associated with an El Niño–Southern Oscillation in Australia. Vegetation in arid areas is primarily dependent upon soil type. [4]

Extensive areas are covered by longitudinal dunes. Forty percent of Australia is covered by dunes. [4] Central Australia is very dry, averaging 150 mm of rainfall each year. [4]

Ecological issues

Many introduced species have affected the fauna and flora of Australia's desert regions. The Australian feral camel affects native vegetation. This is partly because Australian desert vegetation evolved without any major herbivores present. [4] Uncontrolled access to more sensitive areas by four-wheel-drive vehicles is also an issue.

See also


  1. Geosciences Australia –Deserts
  2. 1 2 Aleshire, Peter; Geoffrey H. Nash (2007). Deserts: The Extreme Earth. Infobase Publishing. p. 137. ISBN   1438106661 . Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  3. Mabbutt, J. A. (2012). "Landforms of the Australian Desert". In El-Baz, F. Deserts and arid lands: Volume 1 of Remote Sensing of Earth Resources and Environment. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 78. ISBN   9400960808 . Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Laity, Julie J. (2009). Deserts and Desert Environments. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 43, 45. ISBN   1444300741 . Retrieved 8 November 2012.

Further reading