Although it does not respond to the most established idea of a desert in the collective imagination, Antarctica is established as the largest desert on Earth.
Sand dunes, scree, an oasis, and perhaps a landscape dotted occasionally with an animal such as an oryx, a camel, or an indomitable Tuareg. The idea of a desert that we keep in the collective imagination responds to a greater or lesser extent to the image of a hot and dry place, hit by a burning sun during the day, and dominated by an unpleasant wind and the drop in temperatures during the evening.
With this image in mind, we would not be mistaken in thinking that the quintessential desert, the Sahara, is the largest in the world. However, beyond these enigmatic as well as hostile places, the definition established by geologists and biologists of a desert attends to the average rainfall in a place throughout the year. Thus, an area is considered a desert when rainfall does not exceed 250 mm per year in the territory covered, something that occurs in various parts of the planet, and not all of them are warm.
In fact, if we stick to the definition, the Sahara, a subtropical desert with an area of 9,065,253 square kilometers, would rank third among the largest deserts on Earth. And it is that when it comes to deserts, the big winners settle in two polar areas of the Earth.
For this reason it is considered that the largest desert on Earth, with approximately 14,000,000 million square kilometers, is located in Antarctica, encompassing the entire continent. So much so that in the southern hemisphere there are places like the so-called MacMurdo Dry Valleys, where, as the name suggests, scientists believe that no precipitation has fallen in the last 14 million years.
For its part, the second largest desert in the world would be located in the Northern Hemisphere. With approximately 13,700,000 square kilometers of extension, we refer to the Arctic Polar desert, which extends through various regions that include the territories of Russia, Greenland, Canada and Alaska.