In the Southwest, normal changes in seasonal climate make the landscape ripe for fires. Every winter, precipitation spurs plant growth, while the dry months of April, May, and June turn the vegetation into tinder. At the time in which the landscape is most primed for fire, convective monsoon storms generate lightning, providing the match. Add in fire suppression by federal agencies, population growth that increases numbers of campfires and careless people, and human-caused climate change and the relationship between fire and climate becomes complicated (read more).
Drought deeply affects the land, water, and people of the Southwest. It occurs when precipitation averages fall below the norm. A drought can persist for many years, punctuated by particularly severe dry stretches and sometimes a relatively rainy year. The cloudless skies associated with drought not only imply below-average rainfall, but also an increase in the amount of direct sunlight hitting the ground, which leads to higher evaporation rates.
Lilac flowers bloom with cues from the weather. Caribou give birth at the peak of plant abundance so that their newborns have plenty to eat. In the Southwest, as well as all other parts of the world, variations in the climate trigger life cycle events in plants and animals. Studying these events and their relation to climate is known as phenology. The information obtained is vital for understanding the impact climate change has on humans and ecosystems. Phenology includes the timing of flower blooms, agricultural crop stages, insect activity, and animal migration. All of these events are changing as a result of climate change and these changes impact humans (Learn More).