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 deserts? 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 trees (trees that lose their leaves)
are found on the lower slopes.
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 precipitation in forests can range from
75-150 cm (30 – 60 in.) per year.
Wetlands 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.
Some 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.
Choose two descriptions from the drop down
menus for each of the locations at the right.
the box below to check your answers.
Coniferout trees & High elevations
Wetland: Migrating birds & Pond
Desert: 100 Degrees & Sand
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