Our planet is home to many diverse deserts, with various climates and ecosystems. The most widespread desert type on Earth is the hot desert, located in no fewer than a dozen countries and featuring low precipitation rates and temperatures hotter than 100°F (37°C). These scorching landscapes are typically occupied by sand dunes, sparse vegetation, and an environment of unyielding dryness.
So is there a desert whose soil is like Mars here on Earth? If you want to know more, we invite you to continue reading as we’re going to talk about this topic in today’s article.
Why There Is No Water On Mars
Our Solar System is home to a number of planets, yet Mars stands out for its arid nature. This “Red Planet” earned this title due to the dearth of water both on its surface and in its atmosphere. What could have caused such an extreme lack of moisture?
The most plausible explanation for the planet’s atmosphere vanishing over time is due to any combination of solar wind pressure, asteroid strikes, and micrometeorites, thus leading us to believe that these occurrences resulted in a lack of water on the planet.
The frigid temperatures and sparse atmosphere on Mars have rendered it a barren landscape, devoid of water. With an average temperature of -81°F (-63°C), liquid water is virtually impossible to sustain on its surface; instead, most of the moisture would freeze or swiftly evaporate into the air. The scarcity of these elements has resulted in an arid terrain with no signs of life-sustaining liquids present today.
Moreover, due to its thin atmosphere, solar wind can quickly and effortlessly strip away any existing atmospheric water.
In addition, UV radiation from the Sun initiates chemical reactions that further dissolve molecules in any water vapor found within Mars’ atmosphere. This combination of factors makes it much harder for liquid to remain stable on the surface of Mars for long periods of time, including a pool of liquid water.
With its dry and rocky terrain, the red-hued soil of Mars is unlike any other planet in our solar system. Resulting from an abundance of iron oxide, this beige to bright reddish hue gives the Martian landscape a unique appearance, making it stand out among all others.
The Martian surface is composed of a diverse range of elements, such as silicon dioxide (SiO2), oxygen (O2), iron oxide (Fe2O3), and magnesium oxide (MgO). Although liquid water may not be present on the planet, molecules are still attached to its soil particles. Moreover, intriguingly enough, there have been indications of subsurface ice in certain regions across Mars.
Is it possible for plants to exist on Mars? Absolutely! Provided they are outfitted with the right hardware — water-extracting apparatuses and ultraviolet shielding — flora can thrive in the Red Planet’s soil. While water is a necessity for photosynthesizing and other plant processes, there are many ways to supplement its absence.
Earthly Deserts That Look Like The Surface Of Mars
Here on Earth, many deserts are strikingly reminiscent of the surface of Mars. Although all desert soils possess comparable features and traits, a few are spectacularly analogous to our neighboring red planet: the Mojave Desert in California is one such example. Boasting an arid climate with minimal precipitation or humidity – just like its Martian counterpart – this US expanse showcases a rocky vista devoid of vegetation and soils composed largely of sand and gravel.
In comparison to Mars, other desert regions on Earth demonstrate similarities in their terrain. These include the Atacama Desert of Chile, Gobi Desert spanning Mongolia and China, as well as Namib Desert found in Africa.
Abundant in character and antiquity, the Atacama Desert can be found in northern Chile and parts of Peru. It is recognized as the driest non-polar desert on Earth; what is more, it has existed for thousands of years! Covering an expanse of 105,000 sq mi (274,000 km2), this region boasts a staggering array of natural features: salt flats, sand dunes, and rocky terrains are just some examples that one may encounter here.
The Gobi Desert, spanning across Mongolia and China with a total area of 500,000 sq mi (1.3 million km2), features vast sand dunes and isolated oases that can be likened to the terrain found on Mars. The desert’s temperatures are also closely related, reaching 113°F (45°C) in summertime and plummeting to -40°F (-40°C) during winter — conditions similarly experienced by Martian inhabitants.
Lastly, the majestic Namib Desert blankets an area of 31,200 square miles (81,000 km2) in southern Africa. Its impressive landscape features vivid red sand dunes, vast gravel plains and rocky outcrops that strikingly resemble Mars’ terrain. Like our celestial neighbor’s surface, these breathtaking deserts are largely barren with sparse vegetation sprinkled here and there throughout its expanse.
Far beyond ordinary terrestrial soils, these arid desert plains offer a unique soil composition that is strikingly similar to the surface of Mars. With little organic material present, their landscapes are composed mainly of sand and gravel, creating an eerily analogous environment on Earth to what can be found on the Red Planet.
Even though it is impossible to find a terrestrial desert that exactly resembles the landscape of Mars, there are still many deserts worldwide that share striking similarities with the Red Planet. From their desolate plains and sandy soils, these Earthly environments provide those eager for an interplanetary experience with something approaching Martian conditions without ever leaving our home planet.
Overall, the surface of Mars is a captivating and unparalleled landscape that differentiates it from other planets in our sun system. Although we cannot locate an exact desert on Earth with topographical similarities to Martian terrain, numerous deserts worldwide have similar traits as what we observe on Mars.
Despite their desolate and sandy terrains, deserts can offer an incredibly out-of-the world experience that is akin to exploring the surface of Mars. If you ever find yourself longing for a surreal journey into space without leaving Earth, then traversing through a terrestrial desert could be your ideal destination.