Excessive Heat and the Saguaro

giant saguaro

NPS Photo

Is Heat Hurting the Saguaro?

The summer monsoon is a magical time in the desert! However, it is arriving a little later than usual this year. This means hotter temperatures and less precipitation than average at this time of year. While we are hitting record-breaking temperatures, it is still too early to determine the extent to which this season could be an outlier since the summer monsoon usually continues into early September. In 2020, we had an incredibly dry and hot monsoon season, but 2021 and 2022 showed up as some of the wettest seasons.

Recently, there has been concern of saguaros dying or being damaged due to the excessive heat we have been experiencing. However, there is no indication of this phenomenon occurring at Saguaro National Park. If anything, our concerns in seasons of drought revolve around the establishment of new saguaros. Seedlings are vulnerable in their early years as they attempt to take root and grow in the Sonoran Desert, and they cannot store water when they are very young. Thus, drier seasons can be a threat to new generations.

Plants & Animals

Seasons of minimal rainfall put stress on the plants and animals of the Sonoran
Desert, but there is still time for more water! It is too early in the monsoon to determine whether there will be any shifts in reproduction and survival among the species in the area. Also, it is important to remember the resilience of the desert and its inhabitants. In the midst of a changing cimate, our plants and animals are continually adapting to the environment.

Climate Change

This summer is shaping up to be one of the hottest on record for the Sonoran Desert, as well as one of the hottest globally, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This late monsoon and extreme heat cannot be fully attributed to climate change; seasons differ from year to year. However, climate change does play a part.

Climate Change Webpage
Climate Change

Learn about the effects of climate change in Saguaro National Park

the sun sets behind a handful of saguaros
The Saguaro Cactus

Learn about our giant cactus, the majestic saguaro!

Last updated: December 8, 2023

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3693 S Old Spanish Trail
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