Hamada: A type of desert landscape consisting of high, largely barren, hard rocky plateaus, with very little sand because this has been removed by deflation. -- From Wikipedia

Desert: A region defined by arid climate, little rainfall and supports only sparse and widely spaced vegetation or no vegetation at all. -- Dictionary.com

Polar Region: Also known as Earth's frigid ones, are the regions surrounding it's geographical poles. These regions are dominated by Earth's ice caps. -- From Wikipedia

The Question

In a sleep deprived state, I've managed to place a hamada desert immediately adjacent to a coast in the polar region of my world, as well as a river (opposite the the northern coast, filtering in from the western coast and slightly below the polar region), and a series of mountain ranges. After getting some rest, I've found that I rather like the overall look of this arrangement, but I am wondering as to how plausible this would be. Currently I am using the work of Erwin Raisz (Cartographer best known for his physiographic maps of landforms. March 1st, 1893 - December 1st, 1968) as a reference while I work out the map, attempting to emulate his style and detail.

So, just how plausible is it to have a hamada situated between two glaciated mountain ranges, in a polar region? Are there any real locations that could be used as an example?

Visual References For anyone who is interested.

Experimentalcraft blog: Raisz Map Symbols (Plains and Plateaus)

Experimentalcraft blog: Raisz Map Symbols (Mountains to Glacial Deposits)

  • $\begingroup$ If you have constant wind and a reason why it is not snow packed (rain shadow?) $\endgroup$ – King-Ink Jan 27 '16 at 8:32
  • $\begingroup$ I am working on a canvass of 40" x 40", with the distance being equivalent to 1" = 1,000 km. Given the position of the mountains, and the size of the desert (approximately 2,000 x 3,500 km), I am unsure whether the rain shadow effect alone would be sufficient. With that said, I suspect the wind in the area would characteristically be similar to the Sierra Nevadas and, for a later generation, prove just as difficult to handle for future aviators. The Sierra's rotor winds specifically, have been known to rip small planes apart. $\endgroup$ – platypus-rising Jan 27 '16 at 8:45
  • $\begingroup$ The Nevadas are at least partially responsible for my favorite desert the Great Basin. It is not a Hamada but is not all that sandy either. $\endgroup$ – King-Ink Jan 27 '16 at 8:48
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    $\begingroup$ Just for the record, the largest desert on this here earth is Antarctica. The parts that aren't covered in ice seem to satisfy "high, largely barren, rocky, little sand." $\endgroup$ – cobaltduck Jan 27 '16 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ On the subject of Antarctica, there are many interesting documentaries about it's geographical past. For a place so barren, it really is fascinating. $\endgroup$ – platypus-rising Jan 27 '16 at 21:44

Not counting ice as desert.

The most northern desert in North America is Ashcroft, British Columbia 50° 43′ 32″ N, 121° 16′ 50″ W. I think this is the desert closest to a pole. Obviously not counting Antartica but let's say that wind patterns were such that a section of Antarctica was free of ice it would have to be a Hamada right?

I am going to say that I think it is possible but I can not find an earth analogue.

Here is a picture of the San Rafael Swell in the Great Basin high cold desert there is no sand in the picture. Is it a Hamada? enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ I will look into this (and the other proposed answers) further, after tonight's class. Thank you, and everyone for your insight thus far. $\endgroup$ – platypus-rising Jan 27 '16 at 21:47
  • $\begingroup$ The definition of a desert is generally an area receiving less than 25 centimetres of precipitation per year. Temperature is irrelevant. I live above the Arctic Circle and annual precipitation averages 14 cm per year, thus polar desert. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Jun 9 at 16:48

This is perfectly plausible. Greenland is cold, and it is relatively mountainous due to the volcanic activity that used to occur there. As long as your area is a cold desert like Antarctica, your geographical structures will not suffer from very much erosion. Your valley could be the result of a colder age when a gigantic glacier covered the area.

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  • $\begingroup$ I rather like this explanation and, Greenland seems to fit nicely for the most part. The following link has some nice reference pictures and descriptions. grida.no/photolib/collection/… $\endgroup$ – platypus-rising Jan 29 '16 at 7:25

The only way that I can think you could get it is to have a large plateau deep inside Antarctica.

Being deep inside Antarctica, precipitation will be almost zero (air will have been "freeze dried" way before it reaches your plateau).

Being high will mean that most of the snow being carried from the surface of Antarctica will not reach high enough to be transported inside the plateau, and the little snow that is transported will be removed quickly also by the wind (you could have some snow accumulated in depressions and other features that protect the fallen snow from wind, though).

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  • $\begingroup$ The more I am looking into this, the more it seems that the geological formations would be possible, but the name itself would differ. Not a surprise honestly. The gravel desert in Antarctica is interesting in its own right. $\endgroup$ – platypus-rising Jan 29 '16 at 7:28

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