A desert is described by the United States Geological Survey as an arid place with little rainfall and very little vegetation or animal life. USGS also describes deserts as being stark.
Although most people would describe deserts as very hot places, deserts can also be cold. Contrary to popular belief, a desert designation is based on the average amount of precipitation received each year rather than the temperature. The McCurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica have an average temperature of -4 degrees Fahrenheit. It is the coldest desert in the world, and it receives only about 4 inches of precipitation each year.