Elsewhere I have highlighted Lopez’s use of desert images in an Arctic context. Here it’s used to refer to a light-starved winter. He mentions that lack of light is the limiting factor on the growth of many species, far more than temperature.
‘Of the roughly 3200 species of mammal we could possibly have encountered on the way north, we would find only 23 or so living beyond the tree line in this cold, light-poor desert.’
Source: Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams, p. 34