The Sahara is the world's third-largest desert after Antarctica and the Arctic. It stretches across most of North Africa and occupies 3.6 million square miles. The Sahara is one of the most arid locations on Earth but is not uniformly so. The central part of the Sahara, known as the Libyan Desert, is the driest, receiving an average of less than 1 inch of rain per year. Other parts of the Sahara receive an average of up to 4 inches of annual rainfall.
Driest Spot in Africa
The Libyan Desert encompasses locations that receive no rainfall for decades at a time. For example, portions of the Uweinat Mountains at the border of Libya, Egypt and Sudan have not received rainfall since 1998. The driest populated spot in the Sahara, and indeed in all of Africa, is Al-Kufrah in Libya, with an average annual rainfall of 0.0338 inches. People and animals survive there because of underground springs that support fruit crops. Surprisingly, according to the National Geographic Society, areas in the eastern and southern Sahara have recently seen an increase in rainfall that has triggered the growth of new green vegetation.
- Andre Kurenbach/iStock/Getty Images