Several larger mountain ranges include the Sierra Madre, the Sierra del Carmen, the Sacramento Mountains, the Sandia-Manzano Mountains, the Magdalena-San Mateo Mountains, the Chisos, the Guadalupe Mountains, and the Davis Mountains. These create "sky islands" of cooler, wetter, climates within the desert, and such elevated areas have both coniferous and broadleaf woodlands, and even forests along drainages and favored exposures.
The Chihuahuan Desert is higher in elevation than the Sonoran Desert to the west, mostly varying from 600 m to 1,675 m (1,970-5,500 feet) in altitude. As a result, it tends to have a slightly milder climate in the summer (though usually daytime June temperatures are in the range of 35 to 40 °C, or 95 to 104 °F). Winter weather varies from relatively mild to quite cold depending on altitude and the ferocity of northerly winds. Precipitation is somewhat more abundant than most of the southern Great Basin, the Sonoran, and Mojave deserts, however it is still usually less than 10 inches (254 mm) per year, with much of the rain falling during the "monsoon" of late summer. Snowfall is scant except at the higher elevation edges.
The Chihuahuan Desert is an ecoregion that has received little exploration and study. Therefore, it has not been classified or had subdivisions applied to it, as has the Sonoran Desert to the west.
There are a few urban areas within the desert: the largest is Ciudad Juárez with almost 2 million inhabitants, neighboring El Paso; Chihuahua and Torreón are smaller, though growing in population; and Las Cruces and Roswell in New Mexico are among the other significant cities in this ecoregion.
According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Chihuahuan Desert may be the most biologically diverse desert in the world, whether measured on species richness or endemism, although the region has been heavily degraded over time. Many native species have been replaced with creosote shrubs. The Mexican wolf, once abundant, has been extirpated. The main cause of degradation has been grazing.