Rain shadow cities and planning

Source: en.wikipedia.org

The Rain Shadow Effect – Source: en.wikipedia.org

Rain shadows are a fascinating geological and meteorological phenomenon that results from moisture being squeezed out as weather systems pass over higher elevations on the windward side of the mountains, leaving the leeward side much drier, sometimes even with a desert climate.

For cities situated in rain shadows, there are a number of unique planning challenges to address. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Access and availability of water
  • Potential for wildfires
  • Potential for erosion
  • Need to use native vegetation
  • Need for irrigation for agriculture and landscaping
  • Potential for drought conditions
  • Limited topsoil
  • Potential for flash flooding from irregular storms
  • Potential for duststorms
  • Design which takes advantage of often sunnier and drier conditions
  • Need for sustainable planning
  • Delicate natural environment
Rain shadow created by Cascade Mountains in Eastern Wasington State - Source: sequim-web.net

Rain shadow created by Cascade Mountains in Washington State – Source: sequim-web.net

The following list identifies some of the cities worldwide which are situated in rain shadows. The list is not comprehensive, but meant to be representative of geographic diversity of this geological phenomenon.
  • Alicante, Spain
  • Almeria, Spain
  • Asti, Italy
  • Bakersfield, CA, USA
  • Bend, OR, USA
  • Boulder, CO, USA
  • Carson City, NV, USA
  • Cheyenne, WY, USA
  • Chihuahua, Mexico
  • Clermont-Ferrand, France
  • Colorado Springs, CO, USA
  • Denver, CO, USA
  • El Paso-Juarez, USA-Mexico
  • Fort Collins, CO, USA
  • Geelong, Australia
  • Greeley, CO, USA
  • Lancaster, CA, USA
  • La Rioja, Argentina
  • Las Cruces, NM, USA
  • Las Vegas, NV, USA
  • Lewiston, ID, USA
  • Lhasa, Tibet
  • Longmont, CO, USA
  • Loveland, CO, USA
  • Mendoza, Argentina
  • Murcia, Spain
  • Neuquen, Argentina
  • Palmdale, CA, USA
  • Palm Springs, CA, USA
  • Pueblo, CO, USA
  • Reno, NV, USA
  • San Jose, CA, USA
  • San Juan, Argentina
  • San Luis, Argentina
  • Sequim, WA, USA
  • Sheffield, England, UK
  • Spokane, WA, USA
  • Sterling, CO, USA
  • Tokyo, Japan (in winter months due to prevailing winds)
  • Toliara, Madagascar
  • Trelew, Argentina
  • Tri-Cities, WA, USA
  • Turin, Italy
  • Victorville, CA, USA
  • Walla-Walla, WA, USA
  • Wenatchee, WA, USA
  • Werribee, Australia
  • Worcester, South Africa
  • Yakima, WA, USA
  • Zahle, Lebanon


This entry was posted in cities, climate change, environment, geography, Geology, history, infrastructure, land use, Maps, nature, planning, seasons, spatial design, Statistics, sustainability, topography, urban planning, weather and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Rain shadow cities and planning

  1. Mehr Asehaq Ahmed Khan says:

    Yes You are right every location has its own limitations regarding the life existence and sustainability as we say self contained neighbourhood is not possible every where in the world. Why we go for such drastic areas where we can use to put our lives on risk. Why not we explore those areas for planning where people can live and breath easily. this kind of location like rain shadows, we may prefer to live for few days of our life like a picnic or some visiting trip, not for long life. I think the investment in such type of locations is not more than a wastage of money.


  2. Unless you’re going to take it back all the way to the plate-tectonic forces which created the mountains which capture most of the precipitation, it’s too much of a stretch to include “geological” in the adjectives applied to the rain shadow situation. “Topographic” is a better replacement word to go with meteorological. I didn’t find it “fascinating” when I learned about rain shadows in college, but that’s just me.


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