What Is a Cold Desert?

Wild Horizon/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Cold deserts are deserts that experience low temperatures and long winters. They occur in the Arctic, the Antarctic and Greenland, as well as above the tree lines of mountain ranges. Average temperatures range from 28 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit in winter and 70 to 79 degrees in summer.

Cold deserts tend to have higher precipitation levels than hot deserts, and snowfall is common during winter. Average annual rainfall ranges from 6 to 10 inches but can be as low as 3.5 inches and as high as 18 inches. Vegetation is scattered due to poor soil quality, and plants tend to have needle-like leaves that reduce water loss. Native animals include jackrabbits, kangaroo rats, pocket mice and foxes.