Desert meteorites: a history
During the last 35 years, the number of meteorites available for study has increased by an order of magnitude (from around 2000 to nearly 30 000). The largest contribution has come from meteorites recovered from the Antarctic ice (more than 20 000); however, since the late 1980s a significant number (more than 8000–9000) have come from so called ‘hot’ deserts. The most notable arid areas of the world for meteorite recoveries are the wider Sahara (Algeria, Libya, Niger and other unspecified localities in NW Africa), Roosevelt County in New Mexico, USA, the Nullarbor Region of Australia, and, more recently, the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula in Saudi Arabia and Oman. Other areas in which meteorites have been found in numbers include the Namibian Desert in SW Africa and the Atacama Desert in Chile. This wealth of material has greatly extended our knowledge of early solar system materials by providing occasional samples of meteorites hitherto unknown to science, and allowing the construction of new groups of related meteorites. In addition, these accumulated collections have also allowed estimates to be made of the flux of meteorites to Earth with time, studies of their mass/type distribution on Earth and palaeoclimatic studies of the areas from which meteorites have been recovered. This paper documents the history of meteorite recovery from the ‘hot’ deserts of the world, and notes the effects that this abundance of material has had on the science of meteoritics.