Climate Change

Climate Change and National Parks: A Survival Guide for a Warming World -- Yellow-Legged Frogs of the Sierra Nevada

The mountain yellow-legged frog was once one of the most abundant vertebrates in the Sierra Nevada. The flash of its yellow legs could be seen and the echo of its croaking could be heard across the Sierra’s alpine lakes, even those nestled at 12,000 feet that contain watery habitats typically too cold for amphibians. Unfortunately, that empire began to crumble as long ago as 1850 when non-native trout were first transplanted into some of those lakes to increase fishing opportunities.

Climate Change and National Parks: A Survival Guide for a Warming World -- Oysters, Icon of the Chesapeake

Whether you call them Eastern oysters, American oysters, Rappahannock oysters, or simply “white gold,” the iconic shellfish plucked from the Chesapeake Bay are a salty delicacy that some think is best served with a dash of horseradish and a squirt of lemon juice. Sadly, it’s a delicacy that is not as abundant as it once was. The Chesapeake once harbored oyster beds so rich and bountiful that they formed reefs. Now climate change is threatening to wipe them out.

Climate Change and National Parks: A Survival Guide for a Warming World -- Loon and Other Birds of the Great Lakes

Change is under way in the Great Lakes, the source of 84 percent of North America’s fresh water and more than 20 percent of the world’s supply. It is a progressive sweeping change that threatens to greatly transform the ecosystems of these inland seas by warming their waters and supplanting native species with harmful invasives. And it is a change that ultimately may threaten the viability of the common loon and dozens of other birds that depend on the lakes.

Climate Change and National Parks: A Survival Guide for a Warming World -- Grizzly Bears

Natural events — wildfires, floods, windstorms — often leave behind obvious marks on the landscapes they touch. Charred trees and scorched meadows, washed out trails, and swaths of fallen trees are some of the reminders of these powerful forces. The impacts wrought by other naturally occurring events and cycles are not always so easy to discern.

Climate Change and National Parks: A Survival Guide for a Warming World -- Salmon of the Pacific Northwest

Life is not easy for salmon in the Pacific Northwest. They’re born inland, usually in a stream far from the ocean. Then, when they’re old enough, they have to swim all the way to the ocean, hopefully timing it right so there will be plenty to eat when they arrive. Some years later, if they’ve managed to avoid the Pacific’s predators, they have to retrace that journey to return to where they were born so they can mate. And then they die.

Climate Change and National Parks: A Survival Guide for a Warming World -- Coral Reefs

Neon-hued parrotfish. Graceful angelfish the size of dinner platters. Delicate sponges that sway in the currents. Coral communities teeming with colorful marine life. Our fascination with the oceans and their denizens has led Congress to include within the National Park System some of the nation’s most incredible and beautiful marine ecosystems. Ninety-five percent of Biscayne National Park, for instance, is underwater.

Climate Change and National Parks: A Survival Guide For a Warming World

The effects of climate change have been visible for years in our national parks. Glaciers are disappearing faster than scientists had predicted even a few years ago. Native trees and animals are losing ground because changing temperature and weather patterns are making the availability of food, water and shelter less certain.

Interior Department Releases Study That Tracks Decline Of Glaciers in Alaska and Washington State

A half-century worth of data on glacial advance and retreat released by the Interior Department clearly illustrates how climate change is affecting these rivers of ice in Alaska and Washington state.

Scientists: Climate Change Seems Responsible for A Loss of Large-Diameter Trees in Yosemite National Park

Climate change with its warmer and drier seasons appears to be responsible for a decline in large-diameter trees across much of Yosemite National Park, according to a recently released study.
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Updated: Greenpeace Climbers Arrested for Climate Change Protest at Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Eleven Greenpeace members were arrested Wednesday for mounting a protest on the granite presidential faces of Mount Rushmore National Memorial to urge President Obama to "show real leadership on global warming."

Don't Take National Park Landscapes for Granted

How comfortable have we become with national park settings? With the big sweep of granite that frames the Yosemite Valley, with Old Faithful's not-quite-so-faithful demonstrations of steam and hot water, with the fall's colorful deciduous forests of Great Smoky and Shenandoah?

Endangered Species Day, What Have We Lost, What Might We Lose In the National Parks?

For many going to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pigeon Forge is a town they pass en route to the park. Others spot the Pigeon River, or even spend a day rafting it during their stay. The pigeon that influenced these place names no longer darts through the skies nor perches in the forests. It's extinct.

Rocky Mountain National Park Crews Battling Bark Beetles With Insecticide

To what lengths should national parks go to combat climate change? Do such efforts run contrary to the National Park Service's mission, to let natural processes run their course? And in some cases, are those efforts akin to turning back a flood with a rake?

NPCA Launching "Do Your Part!" Program To Encourage You to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Regardless of whether you believe climate change is being driven by human causes, efforts to see a reduction in greenhouse gases and other pollutants can only benefit society. To help you reduce your own "carbon footprint," the National Parks Conservation Association is launching a public awareness campaign.

Are Yellowstone National Park's Grizzlies Changing Denning Habits Due to Climate Change?

Are grizzlies in Yellowstone National Park altering their long winter's slumber due to a changing climate? Federal wildlife biologists think so, and want to take a closer look into this possibility.

NPCA: Climate Change Greatest Threat Facing the National Park System

When you think about threats to national parks, you can point to air pollution, water pollution, development on a park's boundaries, and genetic bottlenecks affecting a park's wildlife. But few people seem to think about climate change. Well, the National Parks Conservation Association wants you to start thinking about it.

Climate Change and Coral Bleaching: Changing the Seascape of Virgin Islands National Park

Forget what you might have heard about polar bears being the first species to gain Endangered Species Act protection due to climate change. Two species of coral lay claim to that unfortunate distinction.

Lecture Series On Yellowstone Ecosystem and Climate Change On Tap

A series of discussions on how climate change could impact the greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is coming to Big Sky, Montana, in the weeks ahead.

Climate Change: Fact or Fiction?

Back in 1925 Glacier Bay National Monument was established, in part, to protect "a number of tidewater glaciers ... in a magnificent setting of lofty peaks ..." Well, as these photos show, those glaciers are slip-sliding away.

NRDC Calls For Endangered Species Act Protection for Whitebark Pine Tree

While most often we hear about fish, bird, or animal species needing Endangered Species Act protection, today a group is asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to extend that protection to a tree, the whitebark pine.
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National Parks the World Over are Preparing for Climate Change

Devils Postpile, Middle Fork of San Joaquin River. Kurt Repanshek photo.
Climate change is global. No one country or hemisphere has a monopoly on calmer or stormier weather, on drier or wetter climates, on higher or lower lake, sea, and river levels. While here in the United States the National Park Service is trying to confront the change, on the far side of the world another country is doing what it can to protect its parks from climate change.

Imagine the Impacts of Climate Change on the National Park System

Waterless Yosemite Fall, Kurt Repanshek photo
Imagine Yosemite National Park without Yosemite Fall. Or Glacier National Park without glaciers. Or Old Faithful becoming less faithful. Across the National Park System, the effects of climate change could be quite dramatic.
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Mountain Pine Beetles Chewing into Grand Teton National Park Forests

There are splashes of fall color showing up in Grand Teton National Park, but the reds and rusts are not associated with the changing of the seasons. Rather, they're a dire harbinger of what climate change could exact from the park's forests.

Is Climate Change Driving A New Forest Regimen in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem?

As ecological drivers go, you wouldn't think an insect roughly the size of a rice grain would be that significant in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. And yet, the mountain pine beetle, aided by a warming climate, is poised to send quite a shudder through the ecosystem.

Climate Change and the National Parks

Climate change slowly is changing the landscape of America’s national parks. As temperatures warm and storm traits alter, ecosystem change is anticipated and expected to carry a range of impacts.

Hurricane Ridge Road in Olympic National Park Closed Due to Storm Erosion

A week after a powerful storm pounded Olympic National Park erosion continues to eat away at the Hurricane Ridge Road. Park officials say the road will be closed this weekend while crews work on it.

Pacific Storm Shuts Down Most of Olympic National Park

The Elwha River at flood stage on December 3, 2007, NPS photo.
If this keeps up, we're going to have to redefine the "100-year storm." For the second time in 13 months Olympic National Park has been hit hard by a Pacific storm.

Glen Canyon NRA Officials Thinking Of Digging For Water

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is one of the Southwest's premier boating areas, but in recent years the drought has really lowered Lake Powell. While that has opened up some fascinating canyon landscapes that had been underwater, the drought also has created some logistical problems for boaters.

Climate Change in Alaska Opens Window to the Past

Warming temperatures are remaking the Alaskan landscape. Sea ice is shrinking, permafrost is melting, glaciers are retreating, polar bears are changing their habits. In Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, the warming trend is opening a window into the past, as melting glaciers are revealing artifacts from both the somewhat recent past and prehistoric cultures.
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Climate Change: What Implications Does it Carry for the Parks?

Melting in Glacier Bay National Park; NPS Photo, Rosemarie Salazar photographer.
Whether you believe in climate change or global warming doesn't really matter these days. There is change ongoing with our climate. Evidence exists in melting icecaps, unusually potent storms, droughts, and warming temperatures in general. How these changes are affecting our national parks is a question that the National Parks Conservation Association explores in a special report.
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