Could Dune be a Reality?

Exploring the scientific plausibility of living on Arrakis

The popular movie and book series Dune takes place on the fictional planet of Arrakis. Arrakis is an inhospitable desert planet with scorching temperatures and little water, yet humans are able to live there because of the futuristic technology and infrastructure they have developed. The incredibly detailed and complex world that Dune author Frank Herbert has created has led many to wonder if a world like Arrakis could actually exist. If so, could humans actually live there?

In 2021, a group of scientists led by Alexander Farnsworth, who specializes in climate modeling, wanted to simulate the environment on Arrakis to see if it would be habitable. To create a climate model for Arrakis, the scientists started with a model that was used to predict the climate and weather on Earth and adapted this model to predict the climate and weather on Arrakis (1). Much of the information needed to create an accurate model for Arrakis came from the Dune novels themselves and the companion Dune Encyclopedia. This included information regarding Arrakis’ orbit, topography, and atmospheric composition, all crucial to understanding its climate: an irregular orbit can have a large impact on the seasons of a planet (2), topography can alter wind patterns (3), and atmospheric composition strongly influences the temperature in a given area. 

With this information, Farnsworth and his team were able to create a climate model for the planet of Arrakis and compare it to Earth. Luckily, the books mention that the orbit of Arrakis is very similar to that of Earth’s, meaning the seasons would be about the same length. Additionally, the scientists found that the atmosphere of the “fictional planet’s atmosphere is similar to Earth’s with a couple of notable differences” (1). While both planets’ atmospheres are around 75% nitrogen and 22% oxygen, there is a large disparity between ozone levels. Whereas 0.000001% of the Earth’s atmosphere is ozone, around 0.5% of the lower atmosphere on Arrakis is ozone (2). This concentration of ozone drastically changes the climate of Arrakis, as ozone warms the atmosphere 65 times more effectively than CO2 (4). 

Farnsworth and his team were also able to use their climate model for the planet of Arrakis and compare it to the planet of Herbert’s imagination, which led to some unexpected findings. In both the books and the movies, Arrakis is described as “a planet with unforgiving sun and desolate wastelands of sand and rock” (2). In the books, the climate is also depicted as being more hospitable near the poles, where the capital city of Arrakis is situated. But the climate model devised by Farnsworth and his team tells a different story. The scientists found that in the polar regions of Arrakis, temperatures would range from -103℉ in the winter months to 158℉ in the summer months. This is because “the polar regions of Arrakis have significantly more atmospheric moisture and high cloud cover which acts to warm the climate since water vapor is a greenhouse gas” (2). Furthermore, the area between the poles and equator, where the majority of the native Fremen live, would have an average monthly temperature of 140℉. However, unlike Earth, the scientists found that the area near the equator of Arrakis would be cooler than the poles. There, temperatures would only range from from 59℉ to 113℉ (2), making these regions much more habitable than the poles. If the humans in Dune are similar to the humans on Earth, then they would most likely have to live near the equator instead of the poles. 

Highest temperature in the poles
Highest temperature in the tropics

In spite of the inhospitable living conditions, it might be possible for humans to exist on Arrakis. While it would still be very hot, it would be possible to travel by night when the temperatures drop in the tropics. With help of technology, like “stillsuits” from the books (suits designed to keep the wearer cool and reclaim body moisture), travel by day would be possible too (5). While life on Arrakis “would require some ingenuity and technology, it wouldn’t be impossible”(5). 


  1. Saey, T. (2024, March). The desert planet in “Dune” is plausible, according to science. Science News.,here 
  2. Farnsworth, A., Farnsworth, M., & Steinig, S. (2021, October 26). Dune: we simulated the desert planet of Arrakis to see if humans could survive there. The Conversation. 
  3. McGrath, J. (2024, March 4). Is it possible for humans to survive on Dune’s planet Arrakis? Business Insider; Insider. 
  4. dementievgeopard, & dementievgeopard. (2022, June 10). Topography and nutrition content in soil and yield. GeoPard – Precision Agriculture Software.,alter%20wind%20patterns%20and%20precipitation 
  5. OZONE. (2019).,dioxide%20equivalent%20%2F%20ton%20tropospheric%20ozone 

Images: climatearchive | Dune. (2024).