Climate Change is having a Drastic Impact on the National Parks

Climate Change is having a Drastic Impact on the National Parks

The annual amount of rainfall decreased by more than 12% in the National Parks from 1895 to 2010 while it got hotter by more than 1oC.

Climate change is probably the most critical challenge faced by the humanity in today’s world. Experts have predicted some seriously destructive results if it continues to occur at the current rate. Global efforts are being made these days to improve the situation but there is a whole lot more to be done to ensure the safety of our planet. In a recent study, scientists found that National Parks are becoming hotter and drier at twice the rate of the United States as a whole. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and UC Berkeley explained that several small mammals and plants will arrive at the brink of extinction by the end of this century if we do not limit the emission of greenhouse gases.

They analyzed all the 417 parks in the system and quantified the extent of climate change in all of them. This has happened for the first time ever that such a detailed study was performed on these parks. This examination revealed that not only the average temperature in National Parks increased at twice the rate as the rest of the nation but the amount of yearly rainfall also decreased more in these parks than other parts of the country. Researchers claim that the temperatures in the most exposed National Parks may increase by up to 9o C by the end of this century if the current rate of emissions is not controlled. Patrick Gonzalez, an Associate Adjunct Professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley, talked about the severity of the situation and said,

Human-caused climate change is already increasing the area burned by wildfires across the western U.S., melting glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park and shifting vegetation to higher elevations in Yosemite National Park. The good news is that, if we reduce our emissions from cars, power plants, deforestation, and other human activities and meet the Paris Agreement goal, we can keep the temperature increase in national parks to one-third of what it would be without any emissions reductions.”

The research published in the journal ‘Environmental Research Letters’ covered all the 50 U.S. states, 4 territories in the Pacific and Caribbean, and the District of Columbia. Gonzalez mentioned that the geographical location of these unique ecosystems has a massive role to play in this climate change. The fact that a lot of these parks are situated in high mountains, dry deserts, or in the Arctic region of Alaska contributes to these horrifying statistics. He mentioned that these climates have affected the most due to the Global Warming by saying,

National parks aren’t a random sample — they are remarkable places and many happen to be in extreme environments. Many are in places that are inherently more exposed to human-caused climate change.”

The data used for this research came from the weather stations scattered throughout the country. Researchers used the maps of the average annual rainfall and temperature created by the climate experts on the basis of the data recorded by weather stations. The researching team calculated historical rainfall and temperature trends within all parts of the United States including National Parks through these maps. From 1895 to 2010, a decrease of over 12% was experienced in the annual rainfall totals in the regions of the National Parks while a drop of only 3% was found in other parts of the country. Similarly, it was observed that the temperature in the parks incurred an increment of slightly more than 1o C. Rest of the country became only half as hot as these parks during the same time period.

In this study, researchers predicted changes in rainfall and temperature trends for all the four climate change scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In case of sticking with the Paris Agreement, the average rise in temperature could be kept in the range of 1-3o C. On the hand, the average temperature will increase between 5o C and 7o C under the most extreme scenario of climate change. Irrespective of the climate change scenario, the rainfall will decrease the most in the Virgin Islands while the temperature will rise the most in Alaska.

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