Deserts may be caused by rain shadows, when mountain ranges prevent clouds from reaching inland. As air from the ocean moves over the mountains, it cools down and moisture condenses, causing precipitation on the windward side. However, by the time the air reaches the lee of the mountains, it is dry because it has lost most of its moisture, meaning no precipitation to encourage plant growth – hence, a desert. High altitudes may also result in deserts because the air is too thin to support much life. Cold deserts, such as the Antarctic, result from the fact that ice and snow does not melt, meaning there is no opportunity for plants to grow.
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