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What Difference Does it Make?

Have you ever driven from one end of Utah to the other on Interstate 15? Have you noticed the differences in the temperature, land and vegetation between the Salt Lake area and St. George? In the winter, you may have seen snow on the tall, dark mountains and plains all the way to Cedar City, but when you dropped into St. George, the sun was shining and the hills were red.
The state of Utah covers 84,916 square miles. Close to half is desert. Mountain forests make up another huge portion of the state. Wetlands cover a very small section of the state, and include the areas surrounding the Great Salt Lake.
What's the difference? Look closely at each of these images. Try to see what is different in each picture!
Deserts make up much of the landscape of Utah. A desert is an area with less than 25 cm (10 in.) of rainfall per year. Did you know there are hot and cold desertcactuss? Hot deserts reach temperatures over 100 degrees in the summer, but cool off to the 50’s at night because they have few plants to trap the heat. The terrain is sand and gravel, or it also can be salt flats. Cold deserts, like the Great Basin and Bryce Canyon, have cold temperatures in the winter. It can snow there! Cold deserts are not always flat, but are usually covered with sand, gravel and clay. Remember, these areas are deserts because they get very little rain. Deserts have few trees and sparse vegetation.
Forests are found in higher elevations (mountains) where there are four distinct seasons. The winters are very cold; the summers are hot. The spring and fall are mild. Forests are covered with trees and shrubs which change with the elevation.
  • Deciduous_ForestDeciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves) are found on the lower slopes.
  • Coniferous_ForestConiferous trees (trees with needles and cones) are found above the deciduous forests. The weather is much cooler there in the summer, and it snows there in the winter.
The precipitation in forests can range from 75-150 cm (30 – 60 in.) per year.

Wetlands_at_BeaverdamWetlands are areas where water collects forming shallow pools. Ponds, marshes and wet meadows are examples of some of the wetlands found in Utah. Most of the time, the water is not moving, but some wetlands have slow moving water.

Salt_Lake_ShorelineSome wetlands are not covered with water like the salt flats surrounding the Great Salt Lake. You may or may not find plants in wetlands. If you do, they are grass-like plants and bushes. Precipitation in these areas is around 50 cm (20 in.) per year. The weather is warmer in the winter than in the forests, but cooler than deserts. Wetlands provide a habitat for migrating birds.

Let’s Review:
Choose two descriptions from the drop down menus for each of the locations at the right.

Highlight the box below to check your answers.

Forest: Coniferout trees & High elevations

Wetland: Migrating birds & Pond

Desert: 100 Degrees & Sand and Gravel


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Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE 4th grade science core.

Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

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