Great Sandy Desert

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the desert in Oregon, US of the same name, see High Desert (Oregon).
Great Sandy
Desert
IBRA 6.1 Great Sandy Desert.png
The IBRA regions, with Great Sandy Desert in red
Country Australia
State Western Australia, Northern Territory
Area 284,993 km2 (110,036 sq mi)
Biome Desert

The Great Sandy Desert, an interim Australian bioregion,[1][2] is located in the North West of Western Australia straddling the Pilbara and southern Kimberley regions. It is the second largest desert in Australia after the Great Victoria Desert and encompasses an area of 284,993 square kilometres (110,036 sq mi) [3][4] The Gibson Desert lies to the south and the Tanami Desert lies to the east of the Great Sandy Desert.

Geomorphology[edit]

Great Sandy Desert, Landsat 7

The Great Sandy Desert contains large ergs, often consisting of longitudinal dunes. The Wolfe Creek meteorite impact crater is located in the northeast.

Population[edit]

The region is sparsely populated. The main populations consist of Indigenous Australian communities and mining centers. The aboriginal people of the desert fall into two main groups: the Martu in the west and the Pintupi in the east. Linguistically, they are speakers of multiple Western Desert Languages. Many of these indigenous people were forcibly removed from their lands during the 20th century and relocated to settlements such as Papunya in the Northern Territory. In recent years,[when?] some of the original inhabitants have returned.[citation needed] Young Indigenous adults from the Great Sandy Desert region travel to and work in the Wilurarra Creative programs to maintain and develop their culture.[5]

Climate[edit]

Rainfall is low throughout the coast and far north and is strongly seasonal. Areas near the Kimberley have an average rainfall that exceeds 300 mm (12 in), but is patchy. Many drought years end with a monsoon cloud mass or tropical cyclone. Like many of Australia's deserts, rainfall is high by desert standards, with the driest parts recording falls little below 250 mm (9.8 in). A massive evaporation rate makes up for the higher than normal desert rainfall. This region is one which gives rise to the heat lows which help drive the NW monsoon. Almost all rain comes from monsoon thunderstorms, or the occasional tropical cyclone rain depression.[citation needed]

On average for most of the area, there are about 20–30 days where thunderstorms form. However, in the north bordering the Kimberley, 30-40 per year is the average.[citation needed]

Summer daytime temperatures are some of the hottest in Australia.[citation needed] The range on the northern border near the Kimberley at Halls Creek is around 37 to 38 °C (99 to 100 °F), but this would be indicative of the low end of the range.[citation needed] Regions further south average 38 to 42 °C (100 to 108 °F) except when monsoonal cloud cover is active. Several people have died in this region after their vehicles have broken down on remote tracks.[citation needed] Winters are short and warm; temperatures range from 25 to 30 °C (77 to 86 °F).

Frost does not occur in most of the area. The regions bordering the Gibson Desert in the far south east may record a light frost or two every year.[citation needed] Away from the coast winter nights can still be chilly in comparison to the warm days.

Climate data for Telfer, Western Australia (temperatures, extremes and rain data 1974 - 2013)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 48.1
(118.6)
47.1
(116.8)
45.1
(113.2)
41.2
(106.2)
38.0
(100.4)
33.9
(93)
33.4
(92.1)
36.0
(96.8)
41.3
(106.3)
44.1
(111.4)
46.0
(114.8)
47.5
(117.5)
48.1
(118.6)
Average high °C (°F) 40.6
(105.1)
38.6
(101.5)
37.3
(99.1)
34.5
(94.1)
29.1
(84.4)
25.3
(77.5)
25.3
(77.5)
28.4
(83.1)
32.7
(90.9)
37.0
(98.6)
39.4
(102.9)
40.2
(104.4)
34.0
(93.2)
Average low °C (°F) 26.0
(78.8)
25.4
(77.7)
23.9
(75)
20.6
(69.1)
15.3
(59.5)
11.9
(53.4)
10.6
(51.1)
12.5
(54.5)
16.5
(61.7)
20.8
(69.4)
23.4
(74.1)
25.4
(77.7)
19.4
(66.9)
Record low °C (°F) 17.2
(63)
17.7
(63.9)
14.4
(57.9)
11.5
(52.7)
5.6
(42.1)
2.1
(35.8)
3.0
(37.4)
2.5
(36.5)
6.2
(43.2)
10.5
(50.9)
13.0
(55.4)
16.5
(61.7)
2.1
(35.8)
Rainfall mm (inches) 49.1
(1.933)
102.7
(4.043)
77.3
(3.043)
20.0
(0.787)
18.5
(0.728)
12.1
(0.476)
13.2
(0.52)
5.4
(0.213)
2.5
(0.098)
2.9
(0.114)
16.5
(0.65)
46.9
(1.846)
370.4
(14.583)
Avg. precipitation days 7.5 8.7 5.9 2.8 2.7 2.8 1.5 1.1 0.8 1.1 2.4 5.3 42.6
Source: Bureau of Meteorology[6]

Economy[edit]

Indigneous Art is a huge industry in central Australia. Mines, most importantly the Telfer gold mine and Nifty copper mine, and cattle stations are found in the far west. Telfer is one of the largest gold mines in Australia. The undeveloped Kintyre uranium deposit lies south of Telfer.

Fauna and flora[edit]

The vegetation of the Great Sandy Desert is dominated by spinifex.[7]

Animals occurring in the region include feral camels, dingos, goannas (including the large Perentie) and numerous species of lizard and birds. Other animal inhabitants include Bilbies, Mulgara, Marsupial mole, Rufous hare-wallaby, Thorny Devils, Bearded Dragons, and the Red Kangaroo.

Some of the bird-life found within the desert include the rare Alexandra's Parrot, the Mulga Parrot and the Scarlet-chested Parrot.[8]

History[edit]

The first European to cross the desert was Peter Warburton. He made the journey from Alice Springs leaving in April 1873 and arriving at De Grey Station in January 1874. Warburton arrived in a starved condition and blind in one eye. He attributed his survival to his Aboriginal companion Charley.[9]

The historic Canning Stock Route traverses the southeastern portions of the Great Sandy Desert. Indigenous people were forcibly removed from the area due to Blue Streak missile tests in the 1950s.

In fiction[edit]

The Great Sandy Desert is featured in H. P. Lovecraft's novella The Shadow Out of Time as the location of the ruins of an alien civilisation.

See also[edit]


References[edit]

  1. ^ Environment Australia. "Revision of the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA) and Development of Version 5.1 - Summary Report". Department of the Environment and Water Resources, Australian Government. Archived from the original on 2006-09-05. Retrieved 2007-01-31. 
  2. ^ IBRA Version 6.1 data
  3. ^ "Outback Australia - Australian Deserts". 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  4. ^ "Department of the Environment WA - Refugia for Biodiversity". 2009. Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  5. ^ Wilurarra Creative 2011;
  6. ^ "Climate statistics for Australian locations - Telfer Aero". 
  7. ^ "Great Sandy-Tanami Desert". Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and the Environment. 
  8. ^ World Wildlife Fund (2001). "Great Sandy-Tanami desert". WildWorld Ecoregion Profile. National Geographic Society. Archived from the original on 2010-03-08. Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  9. ^ "Australian Dictionary of Biography - Peter Warburton". 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Burbidge, A.A. and N.L. McKenzie. (editors)Wildlife of the Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia Perth, W.A. : Western Australian Wildlife Research Centre [and] Dept. of Fisheries and Wildlife, 1983. ISBN 0-7244-9307-7
  • Thackway, R and I D Cresswell (1995) An interim biogeographic regionalisation for Australia: a framework for setting priorities in the National Reserves System Cooperative Program Version 4.0 Canberra: Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Reserve Systems Unit, 1995. ISBN 0-642-21371-2

External links[edit]

Media related to Great Sandy Desert at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 20°S 125°E / 20°S 125°E / -20; 125