Earth Notes - Climate Change I: Warming the Jemez

Flagstaff, AZ – Earth Notes: Climate Change I: Warming the J mez

Climate change is a global phenomenon. But it's hard to grasp change taking place over the entire globe. During the next few weeks Earth Notes will take a look at climate change on the Colorado Plateau and what its effects are on plants, animals, and other features of the landscape.

In New Mexico, researchers from The Nature Conservancy recently completed a detailed study of temperature patterns. They concluded that plants, animals, and landscapes are "without question" being impacted by climate change and have been for at least 15 years.

Scientists found that mean annual temperatures in the state increased one-point-eight degrees Fahrenheit from 1976 through 2005. Analyzing precise records, they determined that New Mexico's greatest rise in warmth has come in winter and spring.

Higher temperatures generally mean drier conditions, and no place in New Mexico has warmed and dried more than the J mez Mountains northwest of Santa Fe, where ecosystems are changing visibly.

Researchers Carolyn Enquist and Dave Gori link the overall climate change trend in the J mez to a large-scale die-off of pi on pines and other changes in vegetation patterns.

They're also concerned that many species may not be able to adapt successfully to rapid changes in climate. Particularly at risk are species that need cool conditions and are found only in limited areas, like the J mez Mountains salamander and the Goat Peak pika.

Next week we'll look at how some residents of southwestern mountains are already changing their behavior and perhaps causing themselves problems.

-Richard Mahler