Great Sandy Desert

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The Great Sandy Desert is a desert located in the North West of Western Australia straddling the Pilbara and southern Kimberley regions. It is the second largest desert in Australia after the Great Victoria Desert and encompasses an area of 284,993 square kilometres (110,036 sq mi) [1][2] The Gibson Desert lies to the south and the Tanami Desert lies to the East of the Great Sandy Desert.



The Great Sandy Desert contains large Ergs, often consisting of longitudinal dunes. The Wolfe Creek meteorite impact crater is located in the northeast.


On the coast, there are isolated sheep stations; the remainder of the region is sparsely populated. The main populations consist of Indigenous Australian communities and mining centers. The aboriginal people of the desert fall into two main groups the Martu in the west and the Pintupi in the east. Linguistically, they are speakers of Western Desert Languages. Many of these indigenous people were forcibly removed from their lands during the 20th century and relocated to settlements such as Papunya in the Northern Territory. In recent years,[when?] some of the original inhabitants have returned.[citation needed]


Rainfall is low throughout the coast and far north. Areas near the Kimberley do have an average exceeding 300 mm (12 in), but the rainfall is patchy with many drought years often ending in a monsoon cloud mass or tropical cyclone. Like many of Australia's deserts, rainfall does seem high by desert standards, because even in the driest parts rainfalls rarely drop below 250 mm (9.8 in). A massive evaporation rate makes up for the higher than 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 monsoon thunderstorms, or the occasional tropical cyclone rain depression.

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