The Mojave or Mohave Desert, is the smallest of the four North American deserts. It lies in South Eastern California at 35° to 36° latitude North and 115° to 117° longitude East. The Mojave Desert is situated between the Great Basin Desert to the north (a cold desert) and the Sonoran desert to the south (a hot desert). The Colorado River runs through the east of it, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the west.
The Mojave Desert is special because it has a little bit of everything. People refer to the Mojave Desert as a "high desert" because it has an elevation of 2,000 to 5,000 feet. It changes from a cold desert in the northern section and a hot desert in the southern section. The Mojave Desert covers 25,000 square miles. There are some fascinating features to be found in this desert, especially the Kelso Dunes. The Kelso Dunes are the largest of the Mojave dune fields, reaching 500 to 600 feet in height. When you run down these dunes you can hear an unusual "barking" sound. It is not entirely understood yet but some people believe that grains of quartz and feldspar rubbing against each other cause it.
It is a desert filled with desert scrub like the Brittlebush, Creosote Bush, Joshua Tree, and the Sagebrush. The Joshua tree is found in no other place in the world, except in some places in the Mojave Desert.
The Mojave Desert lies in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The hot, moist air from the Pacific Ocean goes up the Sierra Nevadas and is turned back by the cold air in the mountains. Although some of the rain goes over the mountains, most of it is evaporated by the hot air of the desert before it can reach the ground. The Mojave Desert is considered a dry desert because of the rain shadow effect. Rainfall in the Mojave is very changeable from day to night, and can range from 2.23 to 2.5 inches a year. A large amount of rain that the Mojave gets is in the winter season from October to March.
Animals of the Mojave have light colored feathers and fur to reflect the light of the sun. Desert tortoises have a good adaptation for the desert. They can store up to one quart of water in their bladder. They feed on plants in the spring so that they have enough water to last them the rest of the year.
Plants have adaptations also, such as shallow root systems, spines, and thorns. Shallow root systems can easily absorb rain because they are so close to the surface. Spines store water by expanding like an accordion. In addition, thorns protect the plants from danger.
The Mojave Desert is jeopardized by large cities, such as Los Angeles, which are spreading rapidly through the desert. Military bases are moving in, and farms are developing along the Colorado River. Off-road vehicles are ruining the desert by churning up sand and destroying the shallow root systems. Due to wells and agriculture, the underground water tables are dropping to very low levels. In spite of all these dangers, half of the desert remains in it original condition.
Christopher R. 2001
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