Home / News / Articles / 2013 / May /

Impacts of climate instability on Southwest

May 08, 2013 Kat Kerlin University of California, Davis
In an era of climate instability, the southwestern U.S. faces many environmental and agricultural challenges, which are addressed in a new book.

In an era of increasing climate instability, the southwestern United States faces strained water resources, greater prevalence of tree-killing organisms, and potentially significant alterations of agricultural infrastructure.

These changes are among those detailed in a new book, "Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States," which features contributions from several researchers at the University of California, Davis.

The book, released May 2, through Island Press, is one of 10 regional technical contributions to the 2013 National Climate Assessment, which was released in draft form earlier this year. The NCA provides input to the United States president and Congress every four years on the status of climate change.

Projected increases in temperature and changes in precipitation in the Southwest — from the California coast to the plains of eastern Colorado and New Mexico — will present challenges for managing ecosystems, water, agriculture, energy supply and delivery, transportation, and human health, the book reports.

"Climate change is affecting ecosystems and society across the Southwest," said Mark Schwartz, an environmental science and policy professor and director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment at UC Davis. "These changes affect California from the Sierra to the sea, where everything from how we produce our food, obtain our water, and protect our natural heritage are impacted. Human communities need to make decisions about where and how they wish to live as climate changes. This volume is a major step in informing critical adaptation decisions."

The book includes major contributions from several other scientists affiliated with the John Muir Institute at UC Davis. Environmental science and policy researcher Erica Fleishman and civil and environmental engineering professor Debbie Niemeier were lead authors on the ecosystems and transportation chapters, respectively.

Other UC Davis contributors include:

  • Louise Jackson, professor in the land, air and water resources department
  • Beth Rose Middleton, assistant professor of Native American studies
  • William Reisen, research entomologist in the Center for Vectorborne Disease
  • Christopher Barker, an assistant adjunct professor in the Center for Vectorborne Disease

The book is a product of the Southwest Climate Alliance, a consortium of researchers from six institutions: UC Davis, UCLA, University of Arizona, University of Colorado, Desert Research Institute, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. The scientists are affiliated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessment Program and the U.S. Department of the Interior Southwest Climate Science Center.

The volume blends the contributions of 120 experts, affiliated with more than 30 institutions, in climate science, economics, ecology, engineering, geography, hydrology, planning, resource management and other disciplines.

The new book stresses the choices available to society to reduce the causes and effects of climate change in the region. It notes the steps governments, businesses, organizations, and individuals are taking to improve energy efficiency, improve water supply reliability, decrease wildfire risk, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

About the John Muir Institute of the Environment

The John Muir Institute of the Environment champions science and technological innovation, provides campuswide leadership, hosts centers and projects, and seeds research and educational initiatives to solve real-world environmental problems. The institute links science and technology to policy by providing the intellectual setting for interactions between researchers, regulatory agencies, policymakers and the public.

About the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of California, Davis, is the leading college of its kind in the world. Its researchers address critical issues related to agriculture, food, the environment, communities, and human and social sciences through cutting-edge research, top-ranked undergraduate and graduate education, and internationally recognized outreach programs. An overarching goal is to develop solutions for a better world, healthier lives, and an improved standard of living for everyone. www.caes.ucdavis.edu

Additional information:


Media contact(s):

  • Erica Fleishman, John Muir Institute of the Environment, (530) 754-9167, [email protected]
  • Kat Kerlin, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-7704, [email protected]


College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences contact:


Student News

Design It, Build It

Aug 21, 2015 Truscott donation allows landscape architecture students to dig in.

Student News - More Student News…
Research News

UC Davis Receives Unique, $1.5 Million Gift from Aggie Couple

Jul 07, 2016 Michael and Joelle Hurlston have pledged $1.5 million to endow a first-of-its-kind chair position.

Research News - More Research News…
Outreach News

Summer Internships

Jul 28, 2015 CA&ES students and Salinas Valley employers find common ground.

Outreach News - More Outreach News…