UPDATE: The original version of this post included an argument by Second Law of Thermodynamics that, although correct, did not point out the actual physical mechanism by which desert air cools at sunset. I cut out this argument and added a description of the physical mechanism as suggested by my father.
The air above the desert cools by 20°C at night. But the heat capacity of the air above the desert is so great that it is impossible for it to cool so quickly by radiation into space or by conduction to the ground. We ended our previous post with the suggestion that the drop in temperature over the desert at night is caused not by the cooling of air, but by the replacement of warm air by cold air.
In Biggles Flies South, the author tells us that flying over the desert during the day is exhausting and uncomfortable because the air is so "bumpy". The best time to fly is the early morning, when the air is still and there is daylight to see by. Our understanding of atmospheric convection suggests that the air above the desert will be a succession of convection cycles, something like the drawing below, where small features of the surface end up dictating the boundaries of the cycles, and the cycles are angled sideways by a prevailing wind.
All this convection is caused by the sun heating the desert sand until it warms the air and causes the air to rise. But when the sun goes down, the sand cools off quickly. The circulation will eventually come to a stop, but it's momentum will keep it going for a while. When it is near to stopping, air is descending slowly from above, and comes to a stop. The sand is no longer hot, and no longer warms the air.
When the sun goes down over the desert, the day-time convection of the atmosphere slows to a halt. The slowing cycle brings cold air down from above. This cold air is not warmed by the hot sand as it would be during the day. The temperature drops by ten or twenty degrees in an hour. For the rest of the night, the air is still and cools slowly by radiating into space. Perhaps the temperature will drop by another one or two degrees by dawn.