Tropical Cyclone Mekunu fills Rub al-Khali desert with water
The Rub´ al-Khali, which spans the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula, is the world’s largest continuous sand desert and one of the driest places on Earth. But when Tropical Cyclone Mekunu passed over the region in May 2018, rainwater pooled in the lowlands between the sand dunes, something that hadn’t happened for about 20 years. Water appears blue and turquoise in the second of these false-color images, which contrast the desert before and after the storm.
It is rare for rainwater to form lakes in this part of the desert, which is known as the “Empty Quarter.” Sand composing dunes of all shapes and sizes, interspersed with salt flats, make up the majority of the landscape. According to news reports, this desert received on average 3 centimeters (1.2 inches) of rain per year. It has been about 20 years since rainwater last filled the flats.