Desert map for a commission

edited February 15 in Show and Tell

This is a region of the world I am creating for a commission. It is a desert land with a Nile river, and mountains to the east and west.

I would welcome all critique. I also have questions about currents and winds - Wyvern is needed here I think.

I am putting up the desert map, and an altitude map and unfinished climate map to help with working out currents and winds.



  • This looks great. I want to try a desert map now. I like the cliff that runs NE from Thirst's End and dunes near the Watli Oal River. Have you thought about placing a small directional shadow on them to suggest some dimensionality?

    A few observations about your mountains:

    1. The large mountain chain that runs N/S is a little to uniform (the base of one touches the peak of the one below it). Not sure if this was intentional, but it give the impression of teeth or crenulations.
    2. Did you consider using the varicolor versions of the mountains? If they were subtly brown/orange/red it could suggest sandstone like Uluru in Australia, the deserts in the western US, or the Idinen mountains in Libya (as examples).

    These are just flavor suggestions, your map is great and it's obvious you spent time and thought on the small details.

  • edited February 15

    Sorry Quenten, I'm not sure there's enough information here to make detailed real-world comparisons with to suggest possible sea currents and prevailing winds.

    The fairly narrow global belts of desert right across both northern and southern hemispheres suggests there's something odd happening generally, given the vast expanse of oceans here, which in many places are a lot deeper over vaster areas than Earth's (scarcely any part of Earth's oceans are deeper than 8,000 metres, for instance). That should suggest there'd be plenty of water available for rainfall everywhere, especially on any near-coastal areas where the prevailing winds are onshore. If the planet rotates in the same direction as Earth, that should imply west-facing coasts would be more likely to see higher rainfall tallies, but it looks as if it's more the east-facing ones that are somewhat favoured by this (albeit dependent on the prevailing winds, however).

    Aside from the rotation issue, it might be useful to add some latitude lines, such as for whatever latitudes the tropics are at, the equator and polar circles, for example, and also some indication as to what parameters were used to generate the climate regimes (albeit with the latter, you could probably work out for yourself what the more likely prevailing winds at least might be).

  • Thanks. The deserts are placed at western ends, and at 15-35 deg N and S. Deserts can certainly occur besides huge amounts of water - west Sahara, Namibia, Atacama, West Australia. So I'll just 'fudge' the issue you mentioned. I will try to work out winds, including monsoons, and currents.

  • I think what made me wonder was the fact the deserts are in such clear strips extending west-east across so much of the map. Realistically, on Earth, only the Sahara matches the positioning and extent; Namib and Atacama are west-facing coastal but hardly extend inland at all (relatively), while Western Australia mostly starts inland to well inland of the coast. In the three southern hemisphere Earth cases, the prevailing winds are either offshore (West Australian winter) or south to north, so are somewhat "special cases" in that they don't have onshore winds bringing moisture in off the surrounding oceans.

    The overall planetary layout you're using is not dissimilar to the geological Pangaea continent and Panthalassa Ocean on Earth, so you might find maps on the following pages of some use, albeit the circulation patterns are very simplified for obvious reasons (i.e. limited data available from geologic time): Britannica page for Panthalassa and Pangaea (scroll well down for the Pangaea maps - they're not the same as the Thalassa one near the top of the page); Wiley online paper on the Permo-Triassic (scroll down to Figure 1); and Figure 8 from a ResearchGate paper again on the Permo-Triassic. You should be able to source similarly approximate biome maps from the appropriate times from the period names online, I'd hope.

  • Thanks for this.

  • Hi Quenten. I've just read through some of Wyvern's comments and I wanted to add a few things, particularly around his insight that the land form is similar to Pangaea's. Pangaea was around for a long time and its climate changed due to several factors, but in general it was a much warmer place than the world we live in. It's also believed that in some eras it was prone to extremes - hot desert separated from tundra by narrow strips of milder weather, particularly in the south.

    The following site might provide some guidance: . It allows you to view a number of climatic elements at different periods in the earth's history. I'd suggest for the planet you've presented either the Jurassic, Triassic, or Permian periods, based solely on the shape of the land mass. Myself, I'd look at the Permian.

    I actually used maps I downloaded from this tool to develop the climate for a Pangaea like world I developed. I simply took the January and July maps and imported them as an overlay in fractal terrains, and then used it as a guide to develop bars of temperature and precipitation for my planet, smoothing out the results. Then I developed maps to chart the currents and wind directions, and had them modify the precipitation and temperature appropriately. I was pretty happy with the results.

    Looking at the map you provided, I'd guess that the inland sea that your desert is on is large enough to develop its own current systems much like an ocean. I'm inclined to think that the current would move into your desert from the south, and that the result might be fertile coasts. It seems to me that given the size of the land mass to the west of this sea, there would be a high pressure zone over the land somewhere in the middle, as there is over Asia (I believe it's only in winter), which is a major contributing factor to monsoons. For that reason I'd suspect a more wet and dry situation over that coast, and it would likely also affect the area where your desert is.

    Well, this is all random hypothesizing in the English manner, as Nietzsche put it. If I had the height map I'd be tempted to give it a go. Hope you're well.

  • primoprimo Newcomer

    Amazing map, Quenten!

    Is the OAL supposed to be all caps?

    Also, do you have any piece of lore on this? 😀

  • I have read that India slamming into Asia created a whole host of climate issues, perhaps one of which was the creation of the Sahara. I don't remember when or what I read that gives me that impression.

  • I think your maps are fantastic Quenten, but when I see them I can't help thinking that with that art style you could do a geological map of a world. showing where the different ages of rock are, and hence where you may find gemstones, metal deposits (such as gold tin, lead), coal, and oil etc.

    Just to show an insane level of detail.

  • edited February 17

    The lore is by my client, so I am not free to put that on. I will rework the currents and winds to justify the desert placement (a bit back to front I know). And thanks for your likes, Wyvern, Autumn Getty, Dak and primo - encouragement and great critique.

  • To be honest, the extra water depth across these oceans makes direct comparisons with Earth a lot more difficult, as Earth has never had oceans so deep. Thus setting-up the winds and currents to fit the terrain better is probably no bad thing, as it would be possible to counter-argue just about any points that might be claimed as too unlike Earth.

    JimPAutumn Getty
  • At last, a Wyvern loophole. What a Dragon you are. 😁

  • To Wyvern's point, even on Earth there are so many strange anomalies (most of them localized) that probably anything that doesn't fit could be explained by some odd detail (as is often done with hard-to-explain regions on the earth).

    Regarding the extra water that Wyvern pointed out, I was thinking it would depend pressure systems, but it's quite possible the pressure systems would be quite different with extra water. I really don't know. I was going with the logic that rain would be likely to drop in more northern areas, since cold doesn't hold the rain, and would be mostly expended by the time it reached certain latitudes, which is the case on Earth.

  • The leading theory about the Sahara is that it is caused by changes in the tilt of the earth over cycles called Milankovitch cycles. There's an interesting theory that this led to a mechanism called the Sahara pump, in which organisms grow comfortable in a savannah environment, but then have to leave when the region dries up again. The last drying up occurred around the time that Egypt developed its first cities, and some people feel that this is the result of population pressure as people flooded the area due to droughts.

    India slamming into Asia is responsible for the huge monsoon system centered on the Himalayas, though.

  • Ah. Thanks for the correction.

  • The extra water depth complicates matters for the ocean currents aside from surface weather patterns, mostly because we don't really understand how deep ocean currents work on Earth, so for a situation like this, it becomes - whatever you like, more or less!

  • Again, the Wyvern Wormhole...ooops, loophole. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to a most interesting worldbuilding discussion. Who knows, I may do another world for myself, with all these factors taken into account.

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