According to a new study, the Yellowstone National Park could see less snow and higher average temperatures this year as a result of climate change.

Known for its active geysers and hot springs, as well as its diverse wildlife, the Yellowstone National Park is no longer safe from the effects of global warming. The new report came from government and university researchers, including members of the US Geological Survey, Montana State University, the University of Wyoming, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and Mountain Works Inc. In it, the average temperatures logged by the national park in the previous decades were probably the highest ever experienced in the last 800,000 years. Furthermore, the average annual snowfall in the Yellowstone National Park area has significantly decreased by about 2 feet (1 meter) since 1950.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone
(Photo: Clément Bardot via Wikimedia Commons)

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Expect Changes in the Yellowstone

As climate change continues to reshape the megafauna location, it is also expected to affect some of its most famous features including the Old Faithful - a cone geyser renowned across the world for its predictability, with its eruptions occurring at regular intervals.

While it is known to erupt columns of boiling water anywhere from 44 minutes to two hours, droughts have been known to affect its frequency - if not shutting the Old Faithful temporarily. An October 2020 study, published in the Geophysical Research Letters, showed that a severe drought back in the thirteenth century managed to effectively shut down the Old Faithful. The same ideas were presented by Bryan Shuman, a University of Wyoming geology professor, in a news conference Wednesday, June 23.

The latest report also noted that temperatures in the region surrounding the Yellowstone National Park have increased by more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) since 1950. This trend is expected to continue, leading to temperature increases by five to ten degrees Fahrenheit (3 to 6 degrees Celsius) by the end of the 21st century.

A Call to Action

In the report, researchers collated existing data and made projections to the area's weather conditions - temperature, precipitation, and water levels - in the region that covers sections of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. According to the researchers, the report is aimed at being a starting point for discussions to respond to the effects of climate change.

Also, communities near the Yellowstone National Park such as the cities of Bozeman in Montana and Jackson in Wyoming can expect to see 40 to 60 additional days in a year where temperatures soar above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius). Additionally, by the end of this century, park visitors could see more rainy days in a year, but at the cost of higher temperatures. This means drier summer days and increased risks of wildfires.

Previous years have seen increased popularity for the Yellowstone National Park, posting average annual visitor counts of about 4 million. As the coronavirus restrictions begin to ease in the US, park officials expect a record number of visitors before the year ends.

Even worse, climate change in the region could also affect the indigenous peoples that have called the land their home for hundreds or even thousands of years.


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