National Park Service

Mojave Desert Network I&M

Weather and Climate

Protocol

    To be developed in 2013.

Reports

  • Coming Soon

Importance/Issues

In the semi-arid desert landscape where temperatures are extreme, water is scarce, and elevation gradients generate local microclimates, the physical and biological components of these ecosystems are unique and especially sensitive to climatic variability. Because climate is a key ecosystem driver, monitoring climate parameters is important in interpreting observed changes in other vital signs (i.e. vegetation productivity or composition) and providing guidance in the protection of sensitive habitats and endangered species.

Many studies of future climate conditions in the southwestern U.S. predict increased temperatures and decreased precipitation in all season. In the MOJN, decreased precipitation will exacerbate the scarcity of water resources, alter hydrologic processes, reduce recharge to groundwater reservoirs, reduce soil moisture, increase wildfire ignition frequency and fire intensity, and cause an overall decline in species diversity. Predictions are that warmer overall temperatures, particularly in the spring, will cause precipitation to shift from snow to rain and an earlier loss of high elevation snowpack. This loss of snowpack may result in greater flooding over shorter periods in the spring and less meltwater runoff at the end of the summer, especially at Great Basin National Park. As temperatures warm and montane habitats shrink, biologists are concerned about the potential impact of global warming on species extinction and the ability of endemic species and slower adapting species to migrate and recolonize in suitable locations. In addition, warmer temperatures will cause extreme weather conditions, worsen air pollution problems (e.g. ozone, visibility), and result in vegetation and human health risks. Thus, monitoring weather conditions, in combination with other vital signs, is one way to evaluate and anticipate changes observed in MOJN ecosystems.

Monitoring Objectives

  • What are the seasonal and annual status and trends in climate conditions at existing monitoring stations in and nearby the MOJN parks?

  • How do localized and regional trends in climate vary with other MOJN vital signs (e.g. soil chemistry, vegetation and animal communities, invasive plant status, fire patterns)?

  • Do these changes in climate warrant specific research or management actions to monitor or predict their effects on natural resources and other vital signs?

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Last Updated: December 04, 2012 Contact Webmaster