August 28, 2019
The National Park Service (NPS) turned 103 years old this week. Since their inception on August 25th, 1916, America’s national parks have become treasured areas of wilderness and beauty among American and international tourists, exceeding 318 million visitors in 2018.
How has the temperature been changing in your favorite national park?
We updated our earlier analysis of historical temperatures in 62 national parks and found that all but one of the parks analyzed showed a warming trend since 1916. Of those parks, 39 have experienced two degrees F or more of warming in that period. Eight of the top ten warming parks are all outside the contiguous U.S.—in Alaska, Hawaii and the Virgin Islands.
While the U.S. as a whole is already seeing strong warming effects, a 2018 study published in Environmental Research Letters found that park areas have warmed at twice the national rate between 1895 and 2010. Reflective snow and ice in many parks is disappearing, meaning more solar energy is absorbed by the ground, raising temperatures further. And for national parks in the southwestern U.S., warming exacerbates dry conditions and leads to prolonged periods of drought, drier soils and reduced spring snowpack.
Across all parks, climatic warming is already driving a range of impacts, such as heavy rain, seasonal shifts, coastal and soil erosion, habitat degradation, poor air quality and invasive species. These impacts threaten some of the most iconic and prized features of our favorite parks, many of which—like the glaciers of Glacier National Park, the historical Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park and the ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park—can never be recovered.
Source: Climate Central
Land trusts are engaging in strategic conservation planning to build resilience and minimize vulnerabilities to impacts of climate change in different ways. Learn more.