Yellowstone is one of the oldest national parks in the United States and was established in 1872. It houses some of the most famous attraction such as the Old Faithful geyser and is known for its wildlife such as the bison, grizzly bear, dear, elk, pronghorn etc. It is currently facing the threat of global warming.
A research conducted by the Montana State University, the US Geological Survey and the University of Wyoming analysed the effects of climate change on not only the parks, but also in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem that are affected by it.
Steve Hostetler, a USGS scientist and co-lead author of the report said in a statement “The Greater Yellowstone is cherished for its forests, rivers, fish and wildlife.” He also stated that the warmer & drier climate will affect the ecosystem in the region and the communities that thrive on them.
Analysis shows that temperatures in the park are as high or higher than any period in the past 20,000 years and this is the warmest it has been in the last 80,000 years. Since 1950, Yellowstone has been experiencing an average increment in temperature by 2.3F, with the most prominent warming occurring at elevations above 5,000ft.
These temperature and climate changes are likely like to be more severe in the future. Researchers claim that by the end of the century, the temperature could increase by 5-10F given the current emission scenarios. For the parks this could mean that peripheral areas could swelter for an additional 40-to-60 days, yearly with temperatures above 90F. Spring thaw now begins weeks earlier due to the increased heat while the yearly stream runoff occurs 8 days earlier than in the 1950. Additionally, soaring temperatures, imply that much of the precipitation that once fell as snow will now fall as rain. The yearly snowfall has decreased by nearly 20ft since 1950 & is expected to decrease further.
According to the report’s co-author Bryan Shuman of the University of Wyoming, “The decrease in snow is due to the increase in temperature over time, which caused more precipitation to fall as rain instead of snow.”
The Old Faithful Geyser was named for its recurrent & expected eruptions, which amounts to more than a million since Yellowstone emerged as the world’s pioneer national park in 1872. The study also questions the reliability of the geyser, which is known for blasting water into the air at a regular 90-94 minutes intermission. Scientists discovered evidence that due to a drought the old faithful stopped erupting 800 years ago for decades.
Yellowstone’s forests are changing too, covering 80-percent of the park, these forests may transform into grasslands after the wildfire instead of retaining itself. However, Yellowstone is not the only national park experiencing the adverse effects of climate change, the extreme temperatures have also jeopardized the endangered flora in Joshua tree, California. Due to drought and wildfires the park could lose about 80 percent of its renowned Joshua trees, by 2070. In Montana National Park, glaciers have fallen significantly from 150 to 26, whilst scientists foresee the melting of these by the end of the century.
Cathy Whitlock, co-lead author of the report, said that in order to conserve the ecosystem, preparation and amendments need to take place now. She also added that “the assessment intended to provide the best available science on past, present and future conditions in the Greater Yellowstone Area so that stakeholders have needed information to plan ahead.”