Region Sierra Nevada


The Sierra Nevada region is known for its mountains, deserts, alpine lakes and rivers, and recreation destinations, including many of California’s iconic landmarks and unique species and ecosystems. The mostly forested region is characterized by broad geographic, ecological, and climatological diversity. Its watersheds provide around 60% of the state’s developed water supply. The region’s natural resource-dependent economic and cultural activity, such as agriculture, seasonal tourism, and wood-based industries, are strongly linked to the impacts of local climatic conditions on snowpack, streams and lakes, and forest health.


Historically, the Sierra Nevada region has experienced cool, wet winters, and dry, warm summers, with the Northern region typically wetter on average than the Southern region. By the end of this century, the Sierra region is expected to warm by 5-9°F on average; warming has already led to extreme drought impacts. Severe drought and extreme heat increase stress in trees, leaving them more susceptible to diseases and pests such as bark beetles, which have devastated millions of trees since 2010.


With increasing temperatures, shifting weather patterns, longer dry seasons, and more dry fuel loads, the frequency of large wildfires and area burned is expected to increase. Wildfire behavior is also becoming more extreme and burning at higher intensity, resulting in greater risk to communities and forest ecosystem structure and function.

Rain and Snow

Warming will have impacts on precipitation at certain elevations-- more will fall as rain where it has historically fallen as snow. Average projected precipitation will mostly increase throughout the range, with more increase in the Northern Range, especially at the higher elevations. Precipitation extremes are projected to increase as both rain/snow and drought, which will likely lead to more frequent flood-generating conditions. Due to warming, the region’s snowpack is projected to decline by 60% with snow eradicated below 6,000 feet in elevation.

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