According to climate studies of the fictional planet, it is possible for Arrakis, the desert-world, to be habitable to human beings. 

Frank Herbert wrote Dune in 1965, conjuring up the richly-detailed world of Arrakis, a sparsely populated desert wasteland with temperatures reaching 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70C), that has no natural rain or bodies of surface water. 

Climate scientists can use these details to calculate the temperature of the atmosphere.The University of Bristol, and the University of Sheffield, designed models to see if they could host human life.

They wrote in The Conversation, “We wanted to know how the physics and environment would stack up against real climate models.” 

The team fed a variety of data points into a system and found that it would have whispery clouds above the desert-landscape, with thick spots around the poles, equator, and the equator. 

“We were very happy to discover Herbert had envisioned a environment that for most of the time meets expectations,” they said. They also added, “we might have to occasionally suspend disbelief but much Arrakis itself would indeed become habitable.”

Timothee Chalamet, left, and Rebecca Ferguson in a scene from the recent Dune movie. It is possible for the desert-world of Arrakis, featured in the Dune movie and novels, to be habitable to humans, according to a climate study of the fictional planet

Rebecca Ferguson and Timothee Chalamet in a scene from the Dune movie. According to climate studies of the fictional planet, it is possible for Arrakis, the desert-world, to be habitable for humans.


Arrakis is the desert world in Dune, also known by Rakis.

It is a harsh desert world located at the outer edge of Canopus’ Old Imperium starsystem. 

It was the first and, for a long period, the only source of Spice Melange, which is essential for space travel in Dune Universe. 

Its surface is entirely composed of dry deserts. There are also various weathered mountain peaks.  

There are also Mars-like rock outcrops. 

The books claim that the atmosphere is composed of nitrogen and oxygen at enough levels to allow humans to breathe.

There is no rainfall, no polar ice caps and no open water bodies.

The polar regions are described as more comfortable for humans in the book, but climate models of the fictional world indicate that they would be too harsh with extreme heat and cold.


To determine how liveable Arrakis would be for humans, the team started with climate models used to predict the weather and climate on Earth.

Then they had to decide which physical laws were most likely to be in play on Arrakis, and input the data about everything from mountains to strength of sun.

The model was then able simulate the climate and predict how the weather would be at different times throughout the year. 

The researchers explained that they decided to keep the basic physical laws that govern weather and climate on Earth. 

“If our model was completely foreign and unusual, it could suggest that Arrakis laws were different, or Frank Herbert’s fantasy vision of Arrakis.

They needed to then provide details about Arrakis using as much information as possible from the Dune Encyclopedia and the novels.

This included the topography and orbit of the planet around its host star. It is the third planet from the star, and is in an orbit that is ‘essentially circular’ similar to the Earth.  

Researchers explained that the orbit’s shape can have an impact on the climate. See Game of Thrones’ long and irregular winters. 

“Finally we told the model the atmosphere was made out of,” they said. 

“For the most part, it is very similar to the Earth’s current state, but with less carbon dioxide (350 parts/million as opposed to our 417ppm). 

The biggest difference between Arrakis and Earth is the concentration of ozone, which on Earth is 0.000001 per cent of the lower atmosphere. 

However, it is 0.5% on Arrakis. This has a significant impact upon climate as ozone is 65-times more effective in warming the atmosphere than CO2.

After submitting all data, we sat back and watched. Complex models like these take time to run, in our case, it took more than three weeks. 

“We needed a supercomputer to do the hundreds of thousands calculations necessary to simulate Arrakis.

Javier Bardem in a scene from 'Dune'. To determine how liveable Arrakis would be for humans, the team started with climate models used to predict the weather and climate on the Earth

Javier Bardem in a scene of ‘Dune’. The team began with climate models that predicted the weather and climate on Earth in order to determine how viable Arrakis would become for humans.


The team used a climate model to model Arrakis’ fictional world.

They assumed that physical laws would be the exact same on Earth and added information from books on surface topology.

This included mountain areas.

They also added details such the strength and makeup of the atmosphere. 

Then, they had to add its orbital location – it’s third from the star – and then worked on the idea that its orbit was largely circular, much like Earth.

They finally said that the atmosphere was composed of nitrogen and oxygen with high concentrations of other elements. 

According to Frank Herbert’s books, it has less CO2 than Earth, but more ozone.

Once the data was fed into the model, scientists had to wait. Even running on a supercomputer, it took three weeks for the climate to be calculated. 

“However we found that what we found was worthwhile the wait,” they said. This is because the climate of Arrakis, as Herbert described it, is ‘basically plausible.

The star is described by the books as unforgiving. The planet is described to be made of desolate wastelands and sand and rocks, but with a warmer climate in the Polar regions.

In the polar regions, towards the cities of Arrakeen and Carthag, the books describe a climate that is suggested as something more hospitable. 

The team discovered that the climate models don’t match this description.

They stated that the warmest months in the Tropics are around 45C (113F), while the coldest months do not drop below 15C (59) in their model of Arrakis.

Similar to Earth, but the extreme temperatures would be found in the mid-latitudes or polar regions, where the climate is more stable.

They discovered that summer can reach 70C (158F on the sand), and winters could be as extreme.

Researchers explained that winters could reach as low as -40C in the mid-latitudes and as low as -75C at poles.

This is counterintuitive because the sun’s energy is absorbed more efficiently by the equatorial area. 

“However, the model shows that the polar regions of Arrakis have significantly higher atmospheric moisture and high clouds cover which act to warm the climate because water vapour is a greenhouse gases.

Their model also differs from the one in the book on rainfall. Although the book claims that it doesn’t rain on the planet, the climate models show that it would be very little.

'We needed a huge supercomputer to be able to crunch the hundreds of thousands of calculations required to simulate Arrakis'

“We needed a massive supercomputer to be capable of crunching the hundreds of thousand of calculations required to simulate Arrakis.” 

Zendaya in a scene from 'Dune.' The biggest difference between Arrakis and Earth is the concentration of ozone, which on Earth is 0.000001 per cent of the lower atmosphere

Zendaya in a scene taken from ‘Dune. The largest difference between Arrakis’ and Earth’s atmospheres is the concentration of oxygen. It is approximately 0.000001 percent on Earth.

This is only possible at higher latitudes. It only occurs in the summer and fall months and only on mountains or plateaus. 

They stated that there would be some clouds in both the tropics and polar latitudes. This will vary from season-to-season.

According to the model there would be no northern hemisphere polar ice cap, which is contrary to descriptions in books that indicate they have remained in this region for a long time.

The model predicts that summer temperatures will melt any polarice and that there won’t be enough snowfall to replenish the ice caps. 

Researchers assumed that humans could survive on the Dune universe’s surface, in order to determine whether they could sustain life.

They concluded that if this were true, then the tropics would be the most livable, contrary to film and book.

‘As there is so little humidity there, survivable wet-bulb temperatures – a measure of ‘habitability’ that combines temperature and humidity – are never exceeded.’

The model suggests summer temperatures would melt any polar ice, and there would be no snowfall to replenish the ice caps in winter

The model predicts that summer temperatures would melt any Polar Ice and that there would not be snowfall to replenish the Ice Caps in winter. 

Sharon Duncan-Brewster in a scene from Dune. To determine whether human life could survive on the surface of this fictional world, the researchers assumed that those on the Dune world share similar thermal tolerances to modern humans

Sharon Duncan-Brewster in Dune. The researchers assumed that people living on the Dune surface would have similar thermal tolerances as modern humans to determine if human life could survive.

This is contrary the books which claim that most people living on Arrakis live at mid-latitudes. The model concluded that this would be the most dangerous. 

“In the lowlands, the monthly average temperatures are often higher than 50-60C (122F to140F), with maximum daily temperature even higher. 

They wrote, “Such temperatures can be deadly for humans.”

Humanoids on Arrakis are described as wearing “stillsuits” in the book. These are meant to keep them cool.

These suits are said to be able to remove body moisture from urinating, swearing, and breathing to provide water in dry environments.

The Conservation stated that it was important to note that there is no rainfall on Arrakis, and that there are no standing bodies of water or atmospheric moisture that can reclaimed. 

Dune was published in 1965, two year before Nobel-prize winner Syukuro Mangabe published the first climate model in the world.

Herbert was also unable to access modern supercomputers that were used by the team to develop their climate model for Arrakis.

They said that ‘Given this, the world that he created six decades later looks remarkably consistent,’ praising his ability and imagination to create a world that is plausible.