Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States

Part of the series NCA Regional Input Reports pp 148-167

Natural Ecosystems

  • Erica FleishmanAffiliated withUniversity of California
  • , Jayne BelnapAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey
  • , Neil CobbAffiliated withNorthern Arizona University
  • , Carolyn A. F. EnquistAffiliated withUSA National Phenology Network/The Wildlife Society
  • , Karl FordAffiliated withBureau of Land Management
  • , Glen MacDonaldAffiliated withUniversity of California
  • , Mike PellantAffiliated withBureau of Land Management
  • , Tania SchoennagelAffiliated withUniversity of Colorado
  • , Lara M. SchmitAffiliated withNorthern Arizona University
    • , Mark SchwartzAffiliated withUniversity of California
    • , Suzanne van DrunickAffiliated withUniversity of Colorado
    • , Anthony LeRoy WesterlingAffiliated withUniversity of California
    • , Alisa KeyserAffiliated withUniversity of California
    • , Ryan LucasAffiliated withUniversity of California
    • , John SaboAffiliated withArizona State University

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The Southwest’s high species richness of diverse groups of plants and animals (Kier et al. 2009) in part reflects the considerable geographic and seasonal variation in climate within the region (see Figure 4.1). For example, the difference in absolute minimum and maximum temperatures at a given location within a year can be as much as 113 F (45 C) in the interior of the Southwest and as little as 59°F (15°C) near the coast. High elevations in the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains receive 39 inches to 79 inches (100 cm to 200 cm) of precipitation annually, whereas low elevations receive less than 4 inches (10 cm).