Climate

Desert storm with a rainbow
Climate can help explain trends in other vital signs.

NPS/Mark Schuler

Overview

Precipitation and temperature are primary factors that determine an ecosystem’s structure and function. Other factors include long-term climate patterns, such as timing, duration, and intensity of extreme weather (like frosts and violent downpours), and the variance in seasonal dynamics between and among years.

These drivers greatly influence which plant species are present, habitat suitability for wildlife, surface and subsurface hydrology, how nutrients are cycled, and the relationships between soil, plants, and water availability. They can also affect how susceptible—or resilient—an ecosystem is to disturbance. In the Chihuahuan Desert Ecoregion, vast differences in aspect and topography make for a spatially variable climate.

Information on broad-scale weather and climate conditions helps guide fire management, habitat protection, and restoration activities, and allows us to predict exotic plant invasion, surface water availability, and plant dieoffs or recruitment events. It can also help the Chihuahuan Desert Network understand changes in other vital signs.

Lightning storm over the dunes at White Sands National Monument
Climate directly affects water availability in the Chihuahuan Desert.

NPS Photo

What We Monitor

  • Air temperature
  • Precipitation
  • Evapotranspiration
  • Drought Index (severity of dryness)

Where We Monitor

  • Amistad National Recreation Area
  • Big Bend National Park
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park
  • Fort Davis National Historic Site
  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park
  • White Sands National Monument

Publications

Read more about our climate work in the resource briefs (short summaries) below.

Climate Resource Briefs

Source: Data Store Collection 3788. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.


Data Visualizer

Climate Analyzer

Make your own climate graphs and tables based on precipitation and air temperature data from weather stations in and around national parks.

Last updated: August 6, 2018