An extreme expedition
The Lut desert – also known as Dasht-e Lut – located in south-eastern Iran between between the 33rd and 28th parallels. With 51,800 km2, this secons largest Iranian desert is larger than Switzerland. This desert holds the current record for the highest ever recorded surface temperature: based on 2006 satellite measurements, NASA reported a record surface temperature of 70.7 °C, which more recently has been increased to even 80.8 °C. Dark pebbles that heat up are one of the causes of these record temperatures. Mean daily temperatures range from -2.6 °C in winter to 50.4 °C in summer, with annual precipitation not exceeding 30 mm per year.
Three interdisciplinary scientific expeditions were undertaken in this extreme habitat from 2015 to 2017. The aim: to better understand the ecology, biodiversity, geomorphology and paleontology of this hotspot. In two of these expeditions I was on board, and have reported earlier about the 2016 expedition here in Science Blog (in German). In fact I am a lepidopterist and these insects are of course at the heart of my scientific interest. However, as a biologist I’m interested also in other living organisms. In an expedition to an extreme habitat like Lut Desert, all sensors will be on, especially when one is faced with water!