In this paper, we analyzed 3 years of carbon flux data from continuous eddy covariance measurements to investigate how soil moisture, rain pulses, and growth alter the response of ecosystem respiration to temperature. The data were acquired over an annual grassland and from the grass understory of an oak/grass savanna ecosystem in California. We observed that ecosystem respiration was an exponential function of soil temperature during the winter wet season and a jump in ecosystem respiration occurred, at comparable temperatures, during the spring growth period. The depletion of the moisture from the soil reservoir, during spring, limited ecosystem respiration after its volumetric water content dropped below a threshold of 0.15 m3 m−3. The senescence of grass during the summer switched the source of ecosystem respiration to heterotrophic bacteria and fungi. During the summer, respiration proceeded at a low basal rate (about 0.10 to 0.3 g C m−2 d−1), except when summer rain events stimulated large dynamic pulses in heterotrophic respiration. Peak respiratory pulses were on the order of 60–80 times baseline and could not be explained by functions that depend on mean soil moisture and temperature. We found that the magnitude of the respiratory pulses was inversely related to its prerain value and that the time constant, describing the exponential decay of the respiratory pulses after the rain event, was a function of the amount of rainfall. The amount of carbon lost, in association with a few summer rain events, was greater at the site with higher primary productivity and soil carbon content.