The Sahara Desert has grown significantly over the past century, and climate change is largely to blame, according to data collected since 1923. The desert, already around the size of the US, has expanded by about 10 per cent.
The scientists noted that climate change-driven desertification is not a phenomenon unique to the Sahara.
"Our results are specific to the Sahara, but they likely have implications for the world's other deserts," said Professor Sumant Nigam, an atmospheric and oceanic scientist at the University of Maryland and the senior author of the study.
"The trends in Africa of hot summers getting hotter and rainy seasons drying out are linked with factors that include increasing greenhouse gases and aerosols in the atmosphere," said Dr Ming Cai, a programme director at the National Science Foundation, which funded the research. "These trends also have a devastating effect on the lives of African people, who depend on agriculture-based economies."