Climate change may be wreaking havoc on the country’s favorite national parks.
A new study led by several climate scientists from the University of Wisconsin and the University of California, Berkeley found that several hundred of the National Park Service’s parks will be affected in some form. The reviewed climate data between 1895 and 2010. It found that America’s national parks could see an annual average temperatures rise twice as fast as the rest of the country. Looking at the worst case scenario, the nation’s parks may see a 3 to 9 temperature rise, which would be devastating for many species of plants and animals. Another scenario assesses the potential rise in temperature at a 2 threshold, which would still affect over 50% of park land, compared to 22% of the rest of the country.
The reason the nation’s parks are more vulnerable to climate change has everything to do with their geography in mostly extreme weather climates. Many parks, such as Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Glacier National Park in Montana, are located in higher elevations, leaving less atmosphere to act as a buffer between the land and the weather happening above. Other parks are located in weather extremes, such as Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. Alaska has been coping with warmer temperatures that melt the winter snowpack and allow more sunlight to warm the land. Climate change has only amplified this process, with greenhouse gases reflecting the sun’s rays back to earth.
In the desert Southwest, rising temperatures and drought threaten to not only undermine national parks but the water sources that they provide. Less precipitation has resulted in even less snow cover in the winter. While Arizona and Utah tourism officials have begun lengthening the Grand Canyon North Rim’s tourism season due to a shorter winter, less snowfall could be of concern for the Colorado River and its subsequent watershed. Snowfall at the Canyon’s North Rim has decreased by 3 feet in the past decade.
The study was created with the intention of finding a way to adapt to and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the lead author of the study Patrick Gonzalez. Some parks have already began adapting to the possible effects of climate change. Assateague Island National Park in Maryland has begun building structures higher and away from the shore. Acadia national Park in Maine has planted trees suitable for warmer climates. If parks learn to adapt to climate change, it should make coping with the effects a little easier.
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©2018 Weather Forecaster Jacob Dolinger