Most of the precipitation comes in winter, and in the mountains much of it is snow. Summer rainfall is generally slight. However, heavy thunderstorms occasionally occur, bringing cloudbursts that in a few minutes drench an area with as much rain as would normally fall over a period of several months.
Precipitation over the state as a whole averages less than 230 mm (9 in) annually. It is lowest in west central and southern Nevada, where the average drops to less than 100 mm (4 in) a year in some localities. Mountain areas above 1,800 to 2,100 m (6,000 to 7,000 ft) receive more than 380 mm (15 in) of precipitation annually.
The greatest annual precipitation, 690 mm (27 in), occurs at Marlette Lake, on the lee slope of the Sierra Nevada.
The scarcity of precipitation in Nevada is due largely to the state’s location on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, which is a barrier to moisture-laden air. Nevada is said to lie in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada. As warm, moisture-laden air from the Pacific Ocean moves eastward and rises against the Sierra Nevada, it cools, and most of its moisture falls on the western slopes in California. Major storms may cross the Sierra, however, and some summer storms come from the Gulf of California up the east side of the Sierra. They occasionally produce large rainfalls.
For the most part the soils of Nevada are so-called gray desert soils, developed from material washed down into the valleys from the mountains. Where the desert vegetation is thin, the ground often has a layer of gravel and small stones, called desert pavement. However, in the low areas of the basins and along the rivers there are narrow belts of alluvial soils that are of finer texture. The better of these soils, such as Fallon fine sandy loam, are farmed successfully under irrigation. Others, such as Lahontan silty clay loam, are too salty to be used for agriculture, although they produce brush and grass suitable for grazing. In southern Nevada the soils are pinkish in color and are known as red desert soils. The mountains contain much rough and stony land without soil covering. Almost all Nevada soils are low in nitrogen and organic matter. "Nevada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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