Namib Desert

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Namib Desert


a coastal desert located primarily in Namibia. It extends from Moçâmedes in Angola in the north to the mouth of the Olifants River in the south. In the east it is bounded by the slopes of the Great Escarpment.

The Namib Desert is about 2,100 km long, and its width ranges from 50 to 130 km. Its surface is a plain rising gradually toward the interior, where it reaches elevations of 1,000–1,200 m. The northern part, down to Cape Cross is gravelly, and the central part, as far as Lüderitz Bay is sandy, with dunes ranging from 30 to 40 m. The southern part consists of socle plains of a Precambrian crystalline foundation with longitudinal tectonic troughs. The climate is that of a coastal desert, with unusually low temperatures for these latitudes. The average temperature of the warmest month is 17°-19°C, and that of the coldest month, 12°-13°C. The annual precipitation is negligible, ranging from 10–25 mm in the central part to 50–100 mm in the north and south, yet the humidity is very high and there are frequent fogs.

The desert is crossed by the dry beds of temporary watercourses and the Cunene and Orange rivers. In places where the groundwater is relatively close to the surface, xerophytic and succulent plants are encountered, including acacia, spurge, and aloe. In the north grows the ligneous Welwitschia mirabilis, rarely found elsewhere (it is protected by law). Placer diamond deposits are worked in the deserts, and deposits of uranium ore have been discovered.