The Southwest region of the U.S. includes some of the country’s hottest and driest states. The region has already seen changes in precipitation, which has led to smaller mountain snowpacks and less spring runoff, impacting the region’s water supply.

Drought and higher temperatures have made forests more vulnerable to insects and disease, leading to the deaths of millions of trees. These conditions have also increased the underbrush and other dry fuels that feed wildfires.

Garfin: “We’ve seen more than a tripling of acres burned in our region.”

That’s Gregg Garfin, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona. He says these changes have already impacted the local environment. A recent report forecasts this pattern will continue.

Garfin: “The projections from the National Climate Assessment show the southern half of the region getting drier.”

To help prevent wildfires, the region can conduct controlled burns and thin forests. But to have enough fresh water, the Southwest may also need to invest in expanded water treatment and desalination facilities.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Copyright protected. Landscape of Apache Trail in Arizona.

More Resources
Southwest Chapter, 2014 National Climate Assessment
Gregg Garfin Featured in Arizona Public Media’s recent report on Extreme Heat in the Southwest
2014 National Climate Assessment, Full report

Bud Ward

Bud Ward is Editor of Yale Climate Connections. He started his environmental journalism career in 1974. He later served as Assistant Director of the U.S. Congress's National Commission on Air Quality,...