Looking for Patagonian Desert facts ? We have you covered. In this short and sweet article, we are going to lay down the facts about this desert in the simplest possible language.
Heads up, we have divided the whole write up into several segments so that you know exactly what to expect in the article. The table of contents will help.
Finally, before we start with the facts list, we will like to say that if you think we have missed anything, feel free to add the information through the comments section.
Some Basic Information
Fact 1: Patagonian Desert has many names like Magellanic Steppe, Patagonian Steppe and Patagonia Desert.
Fact 2: It is world’s 8th largest desert and Argentina’s largest desert.
Fact 3: It occupies nearly 260,000 square miles or 673,000 square kilometers.
Fact 4: It is present mostly in Argentina. This desert is also present in parts of Chile.
Fact 5: The desert was inhabited by hunters and gatherers. But in the 19th century, Mapuches, Chileans, Welsh etc. migrated and the desert was conquered by Argentina.
Regions, Ecoregions and National Parks
Fact 6: The Patagonian Desert has three distinct regions:
The Eastern Patagonia
The Western Patagonia
The Tierra del Fuego (an archipelago)
Fact 7: The desert has three ecoregions which are:
Fact 8: The desert also has several national parks which include:
Laguna San Rafael
Torres del Paine
Alberto de Agostini
Tierra del Fuego
Patagonian Desert Facts – Geography
Fact 9: Andes surrounds the desert from west and Atlantic Ocean surrounds it from the east.
Fact 10: Barrancas and Colorado Rivers border the north of Patagonian Desert and Strait of Magellan is towards the southern end of the desert.
Fact 11: Short-lived lakes, rivers and drainage deposit from springs of Andes support life in this harsh and cold desert. Variety of aquatic grasses and waterfowl thrive on these ephemeral water sources.
Fact 12: Over 120,000 square kilometers area is covered by volcanic rocks. Some of the volcanic areas are Soman Cura Massif Pali-Aike Volcanic Field, Deseado Massif etc.
Fact 13: The volcanic rocks formed due to back-arc volcanism which happened in two episodes. The first in Eocene and Miocene and the second in Late Miocene to Pleistocene.
Patagonian Desert Facts – Climate
Fact 14: The desert is covered by tablelands (plateaus), plains and massifs alternating each other. Canyons and river valleys run through these massifs and tablelands.
Fact 15: The central part of the desert is drier than the west part. Herbs, shrubs etc. dominate the central part whereas grasses are more predominant than herbs and shrubs in the western Patagonian Desert.
Fact 16: It is a cold desert. The temperature of the desert is usually below 12 degrees Celsius and the average is just 3 degrees Celsius.
Fact 17: As the desert is cold and not hot, winter is longer (7 months of winter) than summer (5 months of summer). Frost is usually seen but because of the dry nature of the desert, snow is rare.
Fact 18: Andes Mountains stops the westerly flow of rain from the Pacific Ocean thereby creating a rain shadow (area which is present behind the mountain which doesn’t get rainfall because the mountains act as barriers) over this area. Added to this, the Falkland Current from the Atlantic coast makes it drier.
Fact 19: This explains the presence of a desert in an area which is just 200 miles away from the Pacific Ocean.
Fact 20: The northern part of the desert is warmer because of the warm breezes which comes from Brazil.
Fact 21: Northern region experiences anywhere between 24 and 29 degrees Celsius in summers during the day. The night temperatures range between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius.
Fact 22: In the southern side, the temperatures go a little down and range between 16 and 24 degrees Celsius during daytime and in summers. The temperature at night fall further down and the range is 6 to 11 degrees Celsius.
Fact 23: During winters, northern region is mildly cold and the temperature is around 5 to 11 degrees Celsius during daytime and at nights the temperature stays below 5 degrees Celsius and, in some areas, the temperature goes below 0 degrees Celsius.
Fact 24: In southern areas, the temperatures usually stay below 3 or 4 degrees Celsius during the day and at night, the temperature falls below 0 degrees Celsius.
Fact 25: The coldest parts of the desert record a chilling -25 to -20 degrees Celsius.
Fact 26: The lowest temperature recorded till now in Patagonian Desert is -39.9 degrees Celsius in Chubut province.
Fact 27: Summer frost is common. The only exception to this is the northern coast. Winds are strong and mostly constant. Winds carry dust from the desert over the South Atlantic Ocean (Patagonian Desert is the one of the largest sources of dust).
Formation of Patagonian Desert
Fact 28: It is generally considered that before Andes Mountains were formed, Patagonian Desert was a temperate forest.
Fact 29: After Andes Mountains were formed, with the process of permineralization (a fossilization process in which mineral deposits fill the spaces in organic tissues – making the organism as stone) the whole forest was fossilized.
Fact 30: The Patagonian Desert has existed since 14 to 12 million years ago, that is, since the Middle Miocene.
Life Forms Found in the Desert
Fact 31: Flora like Benthamiella, Acantholippia (both shrubs), Poa and Stipa (both tuft grasses) are common. Big plants and aquatic plants are found only near the outer regions of the desert.
Fact 32: There are nearly 26 species of mammals and 200 different bird species that call the Patagonian Desert their home. Puma, burrowing owl, pygmy armadillo, Patagonian gray fox, western ribbon snake, several species of eagles and hawks are the fauna which inhabit the desert.
Fact 33: The Patagonian Steppe saw rise of sheep and goat rearing in the 1900’s. However, it has decreased now and only few people who live there are dependent on goat or sheep rearing.
Fact 34: Mining of resources like oil, gas, coal etc. is also seen which affects the ecosystem of the desert.
This completes our list of Patagonian Desert facts. Hopefully, you found it helpful. In case you weren’t happy with the overall content, do tell us how we can improve the article.