Yellowstone Iconic Park faces startling climate threats
In 1872, when Yellowstone was designated as the first national park in the United States, Congress decided that it should be “reserved and withdrawn from placement, use, and sale, and set aside si as a public park or land of pleasure for the good and the People.” . ” Yet today, Yellowstone – which stretches 3,472 square miles across Montana, Wyoming and Idaho – is facing a threat that no national park designation can protect against: rising temperatures.
Since 1950, the iconic park has experienced a host of changes caused by man-made global warming, including snow packaging, shorter winters and longer summers, and an increased risk of fires. These changes, as well as predicted changes as the planet continues to warm this century, are presented in a newly released climate assessment it was years in the making. The report examines the impacts of climate change not only on the park, but also on the Great Yellowstone Ecosystem – an area 10 times larger than the park itself.
The climate estimate says temperatures in the park are now as high or higher than at any time in the last 20,000 years – and most likely the warmest in the last 800,000 years. Since 1950, Yellowstone has experienced an average temperature rise of 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit, with the most pronounced warming occurring at altitudes above 5000 meters.
Today, the report says, the Yellowstone spring thaw begins a few weeks earlier and the peak annual flow rate is eight days earlier than in 1950. The region’s agricultural growth season is nearly two weeks longer than 70 years ago. Since 1950, snowfall has fallen in the Greater Yellowstone Area in January and March by 53 percent and 43 percent, respectively, and snowfall in September has virtually disappeared, dropping by 96 percent. Annual snowfall has dropped by almost 2 meters since 1950.
Because of the steady heat, rainfall that once fell like snow is now increasingly coming as rain. Annual rainfall could increase by 9 to 15 percent by the end of the century, the estimate says. But as luggage decreases, and temperatures and evaporation increase, conditions in the future are expected to be drier, stressing vegetation and increasing the risk of fires. Extreme weather is already more common and blazing as well 1988 Yellowstone Mass Fires– which burned 800,000 hectares – is a growing seasonal concern.
Future valuation forecasts are even darker. If heat-blocking emissions are not reduced, cities and towns in the Greater Yellowstone Area – including Bozeman in Montana and Jackson, Pinedale and Cody in Wyoming – may experience 40 to 60 more days a year when temperatures exceed 90 degrees F. And under Current Greenhouse Gas Emission Scenarios, temperatures in the Greater Yellowstone Area could rise by 5 to 10 degrees by 2100, causing ecosystem upheaval, including shifts in forest composition.
At the heart of the issues facing the Greater Yellowstone Area is water, and the report warns that communities around the park – including ranchers, farmers, businesses and homeowners – need to make plans to deal with the growing prospect of drought. Snow pack fall and seasonal shifts in water availability.
“The climate will challenge our economies and the health of all the people who live here,” he said Cathy Whitlock, a paleoclimatologist at Montana State University and co-author of the report. It hopes to “engage residents and political leaders in relation to local consequences and develop lists of most endangered habitats and specific human health indicators to be studied”, such as link between increased fires and respiratory diseases. The sound of the alarm is not new, but the authors of the Yellowstone report hope that their approach, and the body of evidence presented, will convince those skeptical about climate change to accept that it is true and intensifying.