× Arches National Park Info Accessibility Activities Amphibians Animals Of Arches Animals Arches National Park Backpacking Bighorn Sheep Biking Birds Cactus Camping Cheatgrass Climate Climbing Colorado Plateau Contacts Cryptobiotic Soil Culture Delicate Arch Desert Animals Deserts Directions Ecosystem Environment Facts Fees For Kids Geologic Questions Geology Grasses Hiking Hours And Seasons Interpretation Lichens Lodging In The Park Lodging Mammals Maps Mosses Natural Features Nature And Science Nearby Attractions Non Native Species Paradox Formation Park Avenue Park Highlights People At Arches Pets Plan Your Visit Plants And Flowers Plants And Wildlife Plants Of Arches Plants Potholes Reptiles Scenic Drives Scenic Ride Skyline Arch Tamarisk Vegetation Woody Plants Popular Topics National Parks Road Trips Wildlife Geology Featured National Parks Arches National Park Bryce Canyon National Park Canyonlands National Park Death Valley National Park Everglades National Park Glacier National Park Grand Canyon National Park Grand Teton National Park Great Smoky Mountains National Park Rocky Mountain National Park Yellowstone National Park Yosemite National Park Zion National Park All National Parks Outdoor Gear Hike & Camp Men's Apparel Women's Apparel Footwear Bike Climb Ski Snowboard Paddle Snowshoe Accessories Shop All Gear Site Info About Us and Mission Privacy Policy Disclaimer Find us on Google+ Contact Us

Arches National Park Colorado Plateau

Arches lies near the heart of a desert called the "Colorado Plateau." Deserts form when weather patterns or geographic land forms create an environment where lack of water limits biotic productivity. Water may exist in an unusable form such as ice, or may be absent altogether. There are four basic types of desert: high pressure, rain shadow, interior continental and coastal. High pressure deserts generally form at the middle latitudes (30 degrees) in each hemisphere where warm, dry air masses descend toward the earth's surface. Rain shadow deserts form in localized high pressure zones caused by warm, dry air descending from mountain ranges.

The Colorado Plateau is also in the interior of a large continent, far away from significant water sources. Because of the elevations throughout the region, with a mean of around 3,000 feet and peaks over 12,000 feet above sea level, the Colorado Plateau is also known as a cold or high desert. Though low humidity allows greater penetration of solar radiation, winter air temperatures frequently drop below freezing. In turn, summertime air and especially ground temperatures can reach levels lethal for many organisms. After sunset, the ground rapidly loses heat to the night sky and ambient air temperatures may drop significantly before dawn.

Temperature fluctuations of over 40 degrees in a 24-hour period are not uncommon. Arches receives more precipitation than many other deserts: about 9 inches annually. August is generally the wettest month, as weather systems from the southwest bring brief, intense tropical storms. However, precipitation is highly variable both temporally and spatially. During a single storm, one area may receive significantly more or less water than a neighboring spot less than a mile away.