Precipitation varied substantially in the Mojave Desert through the 20th century in a manner broadly similar to the other warm North American deserts. Episodes of drought and prolonged dry conditions (1893-1904, ca. 1942-1975, and 1999-present) alternated with relatively wet periods (1905-ca. 1941 and ca. 1976-1998), probably because of global-scale climate fluctuations. These are the El Nin??o-Southern Oscillation that affects interannual climate and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation that evidently causes decadal-scale variability such as prolonged dry and wet episodes. Studies done in the late 20th century demonstrate that precipitation fluctuations affected populations of perennial vegetation, annuals, and small herbivores. Landscape rephotography reveals that several species, particularly creosote bush, increased in size and density during the ca. 1976-1998 wet period. A brief, intense drought from 1989 to 1991 and the ongoing drought caused widespread mortality of certain species; for example, chenopods and perennial grasses suffered up to 100% mortality. Drought pruning, the shedding of above-ground biomass to reduce carbon allocation, increased substantially during drought. Overall, drought had the greatest influence on the Mojave Desert ecosystem. ?? 2006.
Additional publication details
Precipitation history and ecosystem response to multidecadal precipitation variability in the Mojave Desert region, 1893-2001