I have created a tall mountain range and am creating a forest on one side and desert on another.

  1. Can this forest be a rainforest? If so, are there any examples on Earth where rainforests and deserts are close to each other? I ask this after exhausting all options on Internet search.

  2. Can the desert be a real hot desert or such a forest-desert combo be possible only for colder climates?

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    $\begingroup$ Hello, and welcome to worldbuilding se. You should look at Rain shadow, a common phenomenon and pretty much what you want. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rain_shadow $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 16:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Saviokingdom - turn that into an answer! Wikipedia link, pasted text, a satellite shot of rainshadow from Hawaii or Australia from google maps capped with a few lines of pithy musing from your esteemed self. And then an upvote from me! $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 16:57
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    $\begingroup$ How close is "close proximity"? There are about 840 km (522 miles) from Conakry (at the northernmost point of the Western Guinean lowland forests) and Kiffa (in Mauritania and firmly in the Sahara). $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ @alexP, I want the forest and desert to be on either side of the mountain region. Which means I want both of them to be within traversable region by foot. Now, I know 'by foot' could mean different range limitations for diffrent species and different planets. But how close can they get, to be honest? $\endgroup$
    – mukul215
    Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 3:05

2 Answers 2


As @Willk suggested (blessed be), i will extend a bit on my comment.

Rain Shadow

What you described is a common phenomenon when an humid air mass from the sea encounters a natural barrier like a mountain range. The air rises, is unable to go through and falls in one side as heavy rains.

rain path

At the other side of the mountain range, zero or reduced rain ever falls. Forming a Rain shadow.

In places near the tropics, the high amount of rain in one side contributes to the formation of heavily forested areas, while the other side is prone to desertification.

Tibetan plateau

The picture above is of the Tibetan Plateau, with the Tarim Basin being the deserted area, a subtropical forest area below and the Himalayas between them. This is an example of a combo for a colder climate like you described. Both the forest and the desert area are colder!

For another example, we have the division between the Amazon Rainforest and the Atacama Desert:

atacama desert

At one side we have the famously hot and humid Amazon Rainforest on Bolivia, while at the other there is the Atacama Desert, perhaps the most arid place on earth while being cold! The secret here is that the coastal Chilean mountains blocks air from the ocean also, creating a Temperature Inversion making the desert frigid.

In essence: Yes to both questions!

Here is a link to an exceptional article from Wikipedia detailing rain shadow.

Edit: As requested, examples of hot deserts.

Chihuahuan desert

This is the Chihuahuan Desert (and surroundings), a hot region surrounded by stretches of forested area. In fact most desertic areas of North America are pretty hot and suffer from the effect of rain shadow from the Rocky Mountains. While I suspect the greens around are not rainforests per se, they could be in your world, no problems!

  • $\begingroup$ Is there a link / example for a real hot desert rather than a cold one? A rainforest and a hot desert? What changes do I need to do to make the desert hot rather than cold. $\endgroup$
    – mukul215
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ @mukul215 Sure, added some info! $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 17:57
  • $\begingroup$ excellent; well done! $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your guidance. One last thing. Is it necessary for the forests to be always on the south or always on the north? And will the hyracian Caspian forests of iran suffice? They have a semi arid desert around them. But I want my desert to be flaming hot. $\endgroup$
    – mukul215
    Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 3:03
  • $\begingroup$ The jungle desert combo of Iran is the closest to what I want.Is it also necessary that the desert, as shown in Tibet case, be a plateau looking down on the forests? I want the forest and desert to be on either side of a mountain range. So I am making the mountain real tall. And struggling with the wind direction (north / south $\endgroup$
    – mukul215
    Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 3:07

Magic and Tech

The natural rain shadow has been mentioned, but the science and magic tags suggest a more fluid answer. That could simply be created and then explained in passing, sometimes not even explained. In the Scorpion King, he make a pact with Anubis who suddenly creates a massive oasis for him, and it works because the plot doesn't depend on it. You can do most anything with god magic or alien tech if it is a feature of the setting not a plot point.

This would work well for strange forests with magic creatures or scientific abominations. Things nature can't explain.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks a lot. While a lot of people demand sticking to hard science which is beyond comprehension of most of us, you gave me the confidence to focus on developing the other half of the story and having fun with it . Can you just point one or two more of these examples that I can dig into? $\endgroup$
    – mukul215
    Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 7:40

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