Series: Climate Change in the Southwest
Scientists have identified the Southwest as a climate-change hotspot. Its climate, already warm and dry, may be particularly vulnerable to rising global temperatures. Small changes in temperature and precipitation can greatly affect sensitive desert plants and animals. Read on for an introduction to climate change in the Southwest, or visit the Science of the American Southwest Climate Change webpage to learn about specific climate change projects.
The aridity, warm temperatures, and clear skies of the Southwest result from its position between the mid-latitude and subtropical atmospheric circulation regimes. Precipitation, while sparse, peaks in the summer during the monsoonal storms, and again in the winter from storms originating in the Pacific Ocean. Read more
While climate in the Southwest has fluctuated over time, sometimes substantially, it is now subject to an exceptionally rapid rate of increase in global temperatures compared with historical conditions. Read more
In the Southwest, climate change may impact a variety of resources, including water availability in the form of snowpack and spring streamflow, the distribution and composition of plant communities, and fire regimes. Read more
Climate models project an even warmer, drier Southwest. As water is life in the desert, these projected changes may profoundly impact southwestern ecosystems and human society. Read more