Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Desert Temperature Extremes
Name: Tyra
Status: student
Grade: 4-5
Location: GA
Country: N/A
Date: 11/15/2005

Why is it so hot in the daytime in deserts and so cold at night?


For the same reasons.

First, deserts are very dry and clear skies are normal. The desert soil absorbs much of the Sun's energy because there is so little water to evaporate (energy is needed to evaporate water). That energy is then radiated to the air (as long wavelengths, infrared) from the hot desert soil; the air absorbs the energy and becomes hot.

At night, the dry air and clear sky allow energy to radiate out towards space. There is little water vapor in the air (water vapor is a good absorber of infrared energy) and so the air loses energy and cools. The types of soils typically found in deserts (sand, with little organic material) loses energy easily and therefore the desert can cool off very quickly at night.

David R. Cook
Climate Research Section
Environmental Science Division
Argonne National Laboratory

Click here to return to the Weather Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory