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Effect of Altitude and Mountains on Climate

Altitude and mountain ranges affect weather and climate, for example with a rainshadow effect.

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Sky Islands

Sky Islands

Credit: Inklein
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mount_Dana_2008_edit.JPG
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Mountaintops, like Mount Dana in Yosemite National Park, have extreme conditions of cold and wind. The mountaintops are isolated from one another and so create a small island of favorable conditions for some plants.

Why It Matters

Credit: Fawcett5
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alpine_flora.png
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Flora found in the Alpine Region of the Alps [Figure2]

  • Yosemite has high flat plateaus at around 12,000 feet elevation. The plateaus stuck up while glaciers carved around them.
  • On these rocky plateaus are plants that grow nowhere else. They are endemic to these high altitude environments.
  • Animals can be found up this high too but they are rare. Some, like the marmot, hibernate during the long winters.

Explore More/Show What You Know/Can You Apply It?

With the link below, learn more about sky islands. Then answer the following questions.

  1. Why are the locations discussed in the video called sky islands?
  2. As you move up in altitude along the Tioga Road in Yosemite, what happens to the vegetation?
  3. What characteristics of the plants in the sky islands are the scientists putting in their inventory?
  4. What is the long-term goal of this type of study? Why are scientists interested in doing studies like this long-term?
  5. As climate warms, what will happen to these plants that live at the tops of mountains?
  6. How much biodiversity is found in sky islands in Yosemite National Park?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Inklein; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mount_Dana_2008_edit.JPG; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Fawcett5; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alpine_flora.png; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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