Catalogue of Analogs: Identifying Terrain Similarities between the World's Deserts and the US Army's Desert Hot Weather test site, Yuma Proving Ground YPG, southwestern Arizona

Affiliation(s)PIFunded by
DEES McDonald, Eric U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground, Natural Environments Test Office

Project Team: Tom Bullard, Scott Bassett, and Steven Bacon

Keywords:World's deserts, desert terrain, desert mapping

Project Description

The Department of Defense (DoD) is tasked with the challenge of testing military equipment and materiél under environmental conditions that best reflect operational field conditions. The Catalog of Analogs is part of an ongoing Desert Characterization study addressing comparability between the World’s deserts of potential military interest and available U.S. analogs, such as the U.S. Army’s Desert/Hot Weather test site, at the Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) in southwestern Arizona, U.S.A.

The scope of this catalog will include desert terrains of YPG and adjacent areas within the Sonora Desert and specific areas in other World’s deserts, including North Africa, Saudi Arabia, and the Middle East. This effort will provide the testers of military materiél, equipment, and systems with representative environmental conditions of the World’s deserts within which to test at YPG. The overall objectives are to better understand the effects of desert operations on the performance of military equipment and to improve the fidelity of desert testing of that equipment during materiél Research Development, Test and Evaluation (RDTAE) prior to deployment in the field.


The characterization and mapping of the World’s deserts is being accomplished by the integration of:

  • Remote-sensing (satellite Landsat imagery)
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • Photographic compilation of World’s deserts from low altitude and on-the-ground photographs
  • Compilation of World desert’s soils information

The characterization of the desert terrain includes the following geologic, geomorphic and geotechnical engineering elements:

  • Physiography
  • Geomorphic landforms
  • Soils
  • Surface materials


  • GIS and Remote-sensing based desert terrain maps of the World’s deserts at a variety of scales (e.g., 1:2,000,000 to 1:750,000)
  • Detail map of YPG desert terrain equivalents at a variety of scales (e.g., 1:120,000 to 1:5,000)
  • Text summary of World’s desert terrains and analysis of YPG

Desert terrain map

Above: Data sources and integration procedures to produce physiographic, geomorphic, and surface materials Desert Terrain maps.

Landsat images

Above: Landsat images showing analogous desert terrain consisting of alluvial fans and active washes of Oman, Arabian Desert and YPG, Sonora Desert.