This list of North American deserts identifies areas of the continent that receive less than 10 in (250 mm) annual precipitation. The "North American Desert" is also the term for a large U.S. Level 1 ecoregion (EPA) of the North American Cordillera, in the Deserts and xeric shrublands biome (WWF). The continent's deserts are largely between the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Madre Oriental on the east, and the rain shadow-creating Sierra Nevada, Transverse, and Peninsular Ranges on the west. The North American xeric region of over 95,751 sq mi (247,990 km2) includes: three major deserts; numerous smaller deserts; and large non-desert arid regions; in the western United States and in northeast, central, and northwest Mexico.
The following are three major hot and dry deserts in North America, all located in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.
The largest cold desert is the Great Basin Desert, which encompasses much of the northern Basin and Range Province, north of the Mojave Desert.
Other cold deserts lie within the Columbia Plateau/Columbia Basin, the Snake River Plain, and the Colorado Plateau regions.
(Listed from north to south)
The separately defined western arid regions of North America are continental regions of aridity based on available water in addition to rain shadow-diminished rainfall 190,000 sq mi (490,000 km2) includes: deserts, such as the Great Basin Desert and Sonoran Desert; and the non-desert arid region areas (with greater than 10 inches (250 mm) annual precipitation) in the Great Basin arid region, Colorado Plateau, Mexican Plateau, and others. This arid region extends from the top of the North American Desert in Washington and Idaho southward into Mexico in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. The 'western arid region' is east of and (except for Mojave sky islands) discontiguous from the Mojave Desert, unlike the southwestern Great Basin deserts adjacent with ecotones to the northern Mojave Desert.and which have many non-desert shrub-steppe (EPA) and xeric shrublands (WWF) in addition to desert ecosystems and ecoregions. This large arid region of
The Intermontane Plateaus of the Western United States is one of eight U.S. Physiographic regions (divisions) of the physical geography of the contiguous United States. The region is composed of intermontane plateaus and mountain ranges. It is subdivided into physiographic provinces, which are each subdivided into physiographic sections.
The Great Basin is the largest area of contiguous endorheic watersheds in North America. It spans nearly all of Nevada, much of Oregon and Utah, and portions of California, Idaho, and Wyoming. It is noted for both its arid climate and the basin and range topography that varies from the North American low point at Badwater Basin in Death Valley to the highest point of the contiguous United States, less than 100 miles (160 km) away at the summit of Mount Whitney. The region spans several physiographic divisions, biomes, ecoregions, and deserts.
The Mojave Desert is an arid rain-shadow desert and the driest desert in North America. It is in the North American Southwest, primarily within southeastern California and southern Nevada, and it occupies 47,877 sq mi. Small areas also extend into Utah and Arizona. Its boundaries are generally noted by the presence of Joshua trees, which are native only to the Mojave Desert and are considered an indicator species, and it is believed to support an additional 1,750 to 2,000 species of plants. The central part of the desert is sparsely populated, while its peripheries support large communities such as Las Vegas, Barstow, Lancaster, Palmdale, Victorville, and St. George.
The Sonoran Desert is a North American desert which covers large parts of the Southwestern United States in Arizona and California and of Northwestern Mexico in Sonora, Baja California, and Baja California Sur. It is the hottest desert in Mexico. It has an area of 260,000 square kilometers (100,000 sq mi). The western portion of the United States–Mexico border passes through the Sonoran Desert.
The Great Basin Desert is part of the Great Basin between the Sierra Nevada and the Wasatch Range. The desert is a geographical region that largely overlaps the Great Basin shrub steppe defined by the World Wildlife Fund, and the Central Basin and Range ecoregion defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and United States Geological Survey. It is a temperate desert with hot, dry summers and snowy winters. The desert spans a large part of the state of Nevada, and extends into western Utah, eastern California, and Idaho. The desert is one of the four biologically defined deserts in North America, in addition to the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan Deserts.
The ecology of California can be understood by dividing the state into a number of ecoregions, which contain distinct ecological communities of plants and animals in a contiguous region. The ecoregions of California can be grouped into four major groups: desert ecoregions, Mediterranean ecoregions, forested mountains, and coastal forests.
The Owyhee Desert ecoregion, within the deserts and xeric shrublands biome, is in the Northwestern United States. The Owyhee Uplands Byway passes through the desert.
Shrub-steppe is a type of low rainfall natural grassland. While arid, shrub-steppes have sufficient moisture to support a cover of perennial grasses and/or shrubs, a feature which distinguishes them from deserts.
The Intermountain West, or Intermountain Region, is a geographic and geological region of the Western United States. It is located between the front ranges of the Rocky Mountains on the east and the Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada on the west.
The Madrean Region is a floristic region within the Holarctic Kingdom in North America, as delineated by Armen Takhtajan and Robert F. Thorne. It occupies arid or semiarid areas in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico and is bordered by the Rocky Mountain Region and North American Atlantic Region of the Holarctic Kingdom in the north and in the east, Caribbean Region of the Neotropical Kingdom in the south.
The Lower Colorado River Valley ("LCRV") is the river region of the lower Colorado River of the southwestern United States in North America that rises in the Rocky Mountains and has its outlet at the Colorado River Delta in the northern Gulf of California in northwestern Mexico, between the states of Baja California and Sonora. This north–south stretch of the Colorado River forms the border between the U.S. states of California/Arizona and Nevada/Arizona, and between the Mexican states of Baja California/Sonora.
The Deserts of California have unique ecosystems and habitats, a sociocultural and historical "Old West" collection of legends, districts, and communities, and they also form a popular tourism region of dramatic natural features and recreational development. All of the deserts are located in eastern Southern California, in the Western United States.
Pinyon-juniper woodland, also spelled Piñon-juniper woodland, is a vegetation type (biome) of Western United States higher elevation deserts, characterized by being an open forest dominated by low, bushy, evergreen junipers, pinyon pines, and their associates which vary from region to region. The woodland's crown height may vary from less than 10 meters up to 15 meters, depending on the site. It may consist of pure stands of pinyon pine, or pure stands of juniper.
The Arizona transition zone is a diagonal northwest-by-southeast region across central Arizona. The region is a transition from the higher elevation Colorado Plateau to the northeast in Northeast Arizona and the Basin and Range region of southwest and south regions of lower elevation deserts.
The Wyoming Basin shrub steppe ecoregion, within the deserts and xeric shrublands biome, is a shrub steppe in the northwestern United States.
The Great Basin Floristic Province is a floristic province of the Madrean Subkingdom, in the Boreal Kingdom. It is located in the Western United States.
The Great Basin montane forests is an ecoregion of the Temperate coniferous forests biome, as designated by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
The Mountain States form one of the nine geographic divisions of the United States that are officially recognized by the United States Census Bureau. It is a subregion of the Western United States.
The Great Lakes Basin desert steppe ecoregion covers the enclosed basin centered on Uvs Lake, a saline, endorheic basin in northwestern Mongolia. A portion of the ecoregion stretches across the region into Russia. The lake district is important for migrating birds, waterfowl, and seabirds. The ecoregion is in the Palearctic ecozone and the deserts and xeric shrublands biome. It has an area of 157,212 square kilometres (60,700 sq mi).