Natural History

Top 10 Most Extreme Places in North America

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Death Valley, the driest spot in North America.

North America's Driest Place

With four mountain ranges lying between Death Valley and the ocean, an extreme rain shadow effect makes the Death Valley region the driest spot in North America with only about 1.5 inches (38 mm) of rainfall annually. In some years there is no measurable rainfall at all.

But during the last ice age that ended about 10,000 years ago, glacial melt waters filled the basin of Death Valley with a huge lake that was nearly 100 miles long and 600 feet deep! Today, the ancient lake bed is a barren salt flat known as Badwater Basin.

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