This answer pointed me to the Wikipedia page for Farouk El-Baz in which the desert research and theories subsection says:

During the past 20 years in his research at Boston University, El-Baz has utilized satellite images to better understand the origin and evolution of desert landforms. He is credited with providing evidence that the desert is not man-made, but the result of major climatic variations. His research uncovered numerous sand-buried rivers and streams in the Sahara based on the interpretation of radar images.

These former water courses lead into depressions in the terrain, which he theorized must contain groundwater. His analysis of these data resulted in the location of groundwater in the arid terrains of Egypt, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), and perhaps Darfur in Sudan (unless it dried up).

I was surprised to read that the "origin and evolution of desert landforms" was ever considered to have an anthropocenic component.

Question: When was it ever considered that the desert might be "man-made", or otherwise anthropocenically-induced? Is it possible to know which desert was thought to be man-made that El-Baz proved wasn't? Or does the passage refer to all deserts?

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    $\begingroup$ I can recall a conversation I had in the late 1970s when an unsubstantiated & dubious claim was made that the ancient Roman were responsible for the desertification of the Sahara. However, I wonder how people who claim anthropocenic creation of deserts explain other deserts like the Gobi, Kalahari, Negev, & the ones on the US, South America, India, central Asia & Australia. $\endgroup$ – Fred Sep 23 '19 at 6:23
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh Get a copy of this book - cambridge.org/core/books/desert-meteorology/…. The entire history of this problem has been discussed $\endgroup$ – gansub Sep 23 '19 at 9:36
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1179/isr.1988.13.4.331 in the book that I referenced there are quite a few references to EL Baz's work $\endgroup$ – gansub Sep 23 '19 at 11:14
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh and my point is that the book that i referenced is saying that most deserts are indeed man made. So that is contrary to El Baz's work $\endgroup$ – gansub Sep 23 '19 at 11:17
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh I added a couple of tags.Please let me know if they are of any use. $\endgroup$ – gansub Sep 23 '19 at 11:20

El-Baz has utilized satellite images to better understand the origin and evolution of desert landforms. He is credited with providing evidence that the desert is not man-made, but the result of major climatic variations.

Does the passage refer to all deserts?

Geolmorphologists classify deserts as zones that take place in climatic arid regions where rainfall is relatively low, there are extreme daily temperature variations and the vegetable cover is reduced or non-existent. The climatic conditions result in desert typical forms as hamadas, caliches, or dunes. (Gutiérrez Elorza, M., 2008).

It is important to note not every arid region is a desert, but every desert, with particular forms, is an arid (or hyperarid) zone.

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Source: research.net

The question is: can Climate Change and deforestation create deserts?

Answer is Climate Change and deforestation can create new arid zones. It can create the conditions to expand existant deserts, but the typical desert forms take some time to form, so deserts as El-Baz have not (yet) grow because of our actions on the planet.

However, other deserts as Sahara have expanded his area in the last century (Thomas, N. et al., 2017). The article of this asseveration quotes (anthropological) Climate Change as the main factor of this expansion.

So answering your question the passage you quote does not refer to all deserts if you consider man-made something that result from our emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Gutiérrez Elorza, Mateo (2008): "Geomorfología", Ed. Prentice Hall.

Thomas, Natalie and Nigam, Sumant (2017): "Twentieth-Century Climate Change over Africa: Seasonal Hydroclimate Trends and Sahara Desert Expansion". Journal of Climate, vol 31.


All the major deserts are naturally formed by climate change in ancient times. Much of the Sahara, as recently as six or seven thousand years ago, was savannah of a sort now found in East Africa, and with a similar flora and fauna (acacia, crocodiles, giraffes, gazelle, lions, ostriches etc). However, deserts can be man made, and a good example of that is the dust bowl of mid-west USA in the 1930s. The dust bowl was caused by bad farming methods which made the land unable to withstand a few years of drought. Wind created enormous dust storms of a kind which sometimes occur in the Sahara or Australia, and this blew the topsoil away, so farmers had to leaved their land and find work in the cities.

Special farming techniques managed to restore most of this man made desert in the forties and fifties, so I think I'm right in saying that most of it is now productive farmland again, but not so productive as it would have been if the dust bowl had never happened. Another example can be found in the Sahel, where overgrazing by livestock has transformed some areas into desert over the last 50 years.

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    $\begingroup$ and where are the references of what you wrote ? As I mentioned several times science is a collaborative field and one needs to mention the names of the works in this regard. You write as if you discovered every scientific fact. It maybe true but can we see where it has been peer reviewed ? $\endgroup$ – gansub Sep 24 '19 at 0:45
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    $\begingroup$ Well, if possible follow the advices. You don't want a bad reputation isn't it? You surely be able to take a look at Google Scholar or databases and quote articles that corroborates your knowledge. As for the discussion @jamesqj asked (when you call a user you should use the @ so he notice you have talked to him), the article I quote asures because of CC, but their definition of desert is based in precit¡pitation. I am not geomorphologist, but I think one thing is CC has reduced precipitation and other desert forms have developed. For dunes it is easier to earn terrain, but for other forms.... $\endgroup$ – user12525 Sep 25 '19 at 18:13
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    $\begingroup$ as the desert quoted by original poster has.... It migth take some more time to be desert expanded for non sandy hamadas, caliches..... Also I haven't read the article because I hadn't time, but who knows if this is related with antropological CC or natural CC. Deforestation should have played a roll I guess. $\endgroup$ – user12525 Sep 25 '19 at 18:23
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    $\begingroup$ Also Michael, I am not going to tell you a lot about writing being spaniard, but I am not the only one that realized you need to give your text some paragraph breaks. Spencer who told you is a reputated user on English language usage exchange. $\endgroup$ – user12525 Sep 25 '19 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ Hoppe you don't take it as rude, but this site needs scientifist answering (if you take a look at questions we loosed many of them), just I am trying to give you some advices not to have downvoted answers. The user/student is not going to consider your answers if it is downvoted. $\endgroup$ – user12525 Sep 25 '19 at 18:48

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