New Book Outlines the Unique Challenges Climate Instability Poses to Southwest


Scripps Institution of Oceanography / University of California, San Diego

In an era of increasing climate instability, the southwestern United States faces strained water resources, greater prevalence of tree-killing pests, and potentially significant alterations of agricultural infrastructure. These threats and challenges, as well as others, are detailed an upcoming book, "Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States" with major contributions by seven researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego,

A hotter future is projected for the southwestern United States –- a region stretching from the California coast to the plains of eastern Colorado and New Mexico – and future heat and changes in precipitation will present challenges for managing natural resources, water, infrastructure, and threats to human health.


The new book is a landmark study that addresses these issues. It focuses on current climate conditions in the region, the environment of the past, and projected changes during the 21st century and how those changes will impact ecosystems, water resources, agricultural production, energy supply and delivery, transportation and human health.

"All regions will be affected by climate change," said Scripps climate scientist and book co-author Dan Cayan, "but the southwest U.S. is highly vulnerable because of its arid landscapes, mountain snowpacks, its exposure to the coastal ocean, and its innate proclivity for extreme wet, dry, and warm and cool spells."

A consortium of researchers from the Southwest Climate Alliance coordinated the assessment. The scientists involved in this consortium 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 book blends the contributions of 120 experts in climate science, economics, ecology, engineering, geography, hydrology, planning, resource management, and other disciplines.

"According to our research, we are already seeing the effects of climate change on snowmelt, and increased temperatures are strongly associated with increased wildfire risk, extensive forest mortality, and longer, more severe heat waves," said University of Arizona climate expert Gregg Garfin, the book's chief editor.

Besides Cayan, Scripps contributors included Alexander Gershunov, Mike Dettinger, Mary Tyree, Kristen Guirguis, Rachel Schwartz, and Francisco Muñoz-Arriola (now at University of Nebraska). They contributed to chapters covering topics ranging from projections of extreme weather to human health impacts of climate change to U.S.-Mexico border issues associated with climate change.

The new book stresses the choices and opportunities available to society in order to reduce the causes and effects of climate change in the region, especially those related to energy efficiency and to the development of renewable sources of energy. It notes the steps already being taken by governments, businesses, organizations, and individuals.

"Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States" is available from Island Press
and at major retailers. The book's website provides access to download full book chapters, two-page summaries of each chapter, and all graphics developed for the book.

About "Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States"

This publication is an extensive examination of climate change in the American Southwest. "Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States" is a critical evaluation of information focusing on climate change and its interactions with other aspects of natural systems and society. Part of the National Climate Assessment Regional Technical Input Report Series, the book is aimed at professionals in the field of environmental science. A publication of Island Press, additional information about the book can be found at

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