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The Sonoran Desert

In some parts of the Sonoran Desert, there are pine tree forests and snow like on Mount Lemmon at the top of Sabino Canyon, but most of the desert is dry and frost-free. When scientists talk about deserts, the most important characteristic of these places is that they are dry. Some deserts are "hot" deserts; the Chihuahuan, Mojave, and Sonoran deserts are hot. Some deserts are "cold" deserts" like the Great Basin Desert that gets its moisture from snow. (Map of the Deserts of North America)

Map of the Sonoran Desert

These are some of the reasons the Sonoran Desert is dry:

  1. It rains on the average 11 inches each year.

  2. The desert is in the rain shadow of mountains. That means that most rain that comes nearby falls to the west of the desert. Mostly dry air reaches the desert.

  3. Most of the time, there are no clouds in the blue Sonoran Desert sky. Clouds hold moisture. Without clouds, moisture evaporates into the atmosphere.



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