National Park Service

Sonoran Desert I&M Network (SODN)


Climate graphic

Monitoring Briefs

Protocol Summary

Interactive Climate Data



Climate is a major driver of ecosystem processes at global and local scales. Precipitation and temperature are the primary factors that determine an ecosystem’s structure and function. Secondary factors include long-term climate patterns: the length and intensity of weather events, seasons when they occur, and amount of variability between and among years. Together, these dynamics greatly influence which plant species occur where; how nutrients are cycled; and the relationships between soil, plants, and water availability. They can also affect the susceptibility of an ecosystem to disturbance. The influence of aspect and topography in the Sonoran Desert and Apache Highlands ecoregions results in high spatial variability in climate parameters.

Monitoring Goals

The overarching goal of SODN climate monitoring is to compile and present climate data in a way that helps us to understand the reasons for trends seen in other network vital signs. For this, the network relies on user-defined data presentation provided by The Climate Analyzer, an interactive website that allows users to create custom graphs and tables from historical and current weather-station data.

Users can investigate data related to temperature and precipitation (from the National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Network and Remote Automated Weather Stations), and stream flow and water temperature (from U.S. Geological Survey stream gages). The Climate Analyzer uses climate stations from throughout the region. All network parks have at least one climate station used by The Climate Analyzer.


Air temperature, precipitation, potential evapotranspiration, reconnaissance drought index, discharge, water temperature, and conductivity.

Management Applications

Climate information is invaluable for park resource management activities. For example, accounting for watershed-scale climate patterns can guide fire management and habitat protection activities; suggest the likelihood of exotic plant invasion, the availability of surface water, and the potential occurrence of plant die-offs and recruitment events; and indicate the potential success of disturbed lands restoration actions.

Protocol Development Status

This protocol is currently being developed in conjunction with the Chihuahuan and Southern Plains networks of the National Park Service, and the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert Zone of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Parks Monitored

All 11 Sonoran Desert Network parks.

Project Contacts

Andy Hubbard, SODN Program Manager

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Last Updated: February 17, 2016 Contact Webmaster