Apart from that Taklimakan Desert is however a true sand desert. It is reputed to be the world's second largest shifting sand desert with about 85% made up of shifting sand dunes. It is the largest desert in China covering an area of 327,000 km2.
The Taklimakan Desert is hemmed in to the north by the snow-covered Tian Shan Mountain range and to the south by the rugged Kunlun Mountains. It is sitting in a depression in between called the Tarim Basin. Although the map above shows rivers crossing the basin they are relatively dry as precipitation in the Tarim Basin is extremely scanty due to the surrounding high mountains (“rain shadow”), and in some years it is nonexistent.
The NASA Earth Observatory image below shows the Taklimakan Desert as a vast region of sand desert.
Another more recent NASA Earth Observatory image (of 5 April 2012) shows dust storms in the Taklimakan Desert. Dust was thickest along the desert’s southern margin. Dust storms are common in the Taklimakan Desert. Marching sand dunes, some reaching a height of 200 m, cover most of the desert floor. The dunes are virtually devoid of vegetation, but plants survive along the desert perimeter, and experience distinct seasonal variations.
Deserts take up about one third (33%) of the Earth's land surface.