Los Angeles Is Not A Desert

It’s hard to go a day in Southern California without overhearing someone say, “Well, you know LA is a desert.” Let’s get this out of the way immediately — Los Angeles is one hundred percent, categorically not a desert. Southern California does have desert environments, but you have to go out to say Joshua Tree or Mojave to experience those kinds of arid conditions. What we have in Los Angeles is a Mediterranean-Type climate, meaning that we experience hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters. We’re talking Barcelona and Tunis here, not the Atacama. 

On average, Los Angeles receives about 15 inches of rain per year. This rain helps sustain our vibrant plant communities, including coastal sagebrush along the Pacific coast, oak woodlands and chaparral in our valleys and mountain foothills, and thick conifer stands in higher elevations. The Pacific Ocean also plays a large role in helping to regulate our climate. Cool ocean air brings fog and atmospheric moisture inland to help keep temperatures mild. The Pacific Ocean’s temperature cycles between hot and cold, known as El Niño and La Niña. Ocean temperatures are incredibly influential to how much rain Los Angeles receives in a given year. When the Pacific is warm during an El Niño event, that warm water and warm air helps carry more rain into Southern California. When it’s cooler during a La Niña event, the weather outlook is drier. 

When people claim that Los Angeles is a desert, they are also discounting the fact that it is part of one of the most diverse, and one of the most threatened, ecosystems on the planet: the California Floristic Province. The California Floristic Province stretches from Baja California north through Southern Oregon and is home to over 8,000 species of plants. 3,400 of those plants are found here and nowhere else. Sadly, since the arrival of European colonizers over the amount of land covered by these truly unique native plants has shrunk by over 70 percent. Dangers such as development, fire and human-caused climate change continue to threaten this special jewel of natural splendor. 

To learn more about the native landscape of Los Angeles and Southern California, join us on an Eco-Tour or Moonlight Hike at TreePeople’s Coldwater Canyon Park. TreePeople’s eco-educators provide a curated, hands-on experience for all-ages that showcases just how special our native trees and plants are and what we can do to help preserve these magnificent species. Visit https://www.treepeople.org/guided-activities/ to book your tour today. 

By Adam Thomas

As Events and Community Partnerships Manager Adam works to create unique experiences and events that bring people and organizations together to connect with the natural world.