Great Sandy Desert

This article is about the Australian desert. There is another desert called Great Sandy Desert in Oregon, US.


The Great Sandy Desert is a 360 000 kmē expanse in northwestern Australia. This vast region of Western Australia is sparsely populated, without significant settlements. The Great Sandy Desert is a flat area between the rocky ranges of the Pilbara and the Kimberley. To the southeast is the Gibson Desert. Only on the coast are there isolated sheep stations; the remainder of the region is largely uninhabited.

The underlying Canning Basin has similar geology to, and is now thought to contain oil reserves to rival, the Al Gawar fields of Saudi Arabia. Very little drilling has taken place. Oil shows over 40-50 meter sections have been recorded in recent wells but the hoped-for billion barrel fields have not been found.

Rainfall is low throughout: the coast and far north near the Kimberley do have an average exceeding 300mm (12in), but the rainfall is patchy with many drought years often ending in a monsoonal cloud mass or tropical cyclone. Like many of Australia's deserts, rainfall does seem high by desert standards, even in the driest parts falls rarely drop below 250mm ( 10 ins ). A massive evaporation rate makes up for the higher then normal desert rainfall. This region is one which gives rise to the heat lows which help drive the NW monsoon. Almost all rain comes from monsoonal thunderstorms or the occasional tropical cyclone rain depression.

Thunderstorm days average 20 -30 through most of the area, but in the north bordering the Kimberley, 30-40 per annum is the average.

Summer daytime temperatures are some of the hottest in Australia. The range on the southern border near the Kimberley at Halls Creek is around 37-38C ( 99-100F ), but this would be indicative of the low end of the range. Regions further south would average 38-42C (100-108F) except when monsoonal cloud cover is active. Several people have died in this region after their vehicles have broken down on remote tracks. Winter is short and warm, temperatures range from 25-30C (77- 86F), by late August it is already hot again

Frost does not occur in most of the area. The regions bordering the Gibson Desert in the far south east may record a light frost or two every year. Away from the coast winter nights can still be chilly in comparison to the sun drenched warm days.

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