Grand Canyon National Park
Denali National Park | Photo: lwtt93 | Cover: Stuart Seeger

Data from a recent report shows that our parks are more heavily affected by climate change as compared to other areas of the USA. This is disconcerting news for everyone but snow lovers will be particularly distressed by the findings.

The average annual temperature of America’s national parks increased twice as fast as the country as a whole between 1895 and 2010, and parks are expected to bear the brunt of climate change in the coming century. – WBUR

According to Patrick Gonzalez, an adjunct professor at the University of California Berkley, National Parks are particularly susceptible to climate change due to their extreme locations. Mountains, glacial zones, and deserts are more likely to be affected by climate change than a suburb of a city. According to the WBUR article, Alaska will be particularly hard hit.

“This occurs because extensive parts of the national park area are in the Arctic, at high elevations, or in the arid southwestern US. Between 1895 and 2010, mean annual temperature of the national park area increased 1.0 °C ± 0.2 °C century−1 (mean ± standard error), double the US rate.” – Patrick Gonzalez, University of California

Global warming is terrible for skiers but it’s even worse news for the delicate ecological systems that make up our national parks. A slight tip of the delicate environmental balance could force some species to go extinct and that is unsettling to say the least.

“With continued greenhouse gas emissions, projected rates of 21st-century temperature increase under the highest emissions scenario (RCP8.5) would be six times greater than 20th-century rates for the national park area and the US” -Patrick Gonzalez, University of California

A substantial reduction in greenhouse emissions will be required to slow down this warming trend. The largest sources of greenhouse gasses in the world are the use of fossil fuels, industrial processes, and methane produced by excessive farming of livestock. According to the Washington Post, National Parks comprise 4% of total U.S. lands.

Find the entire report here: Disproportionate magnitude of climate change in United States national parks

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