I’d heard of the disasters happening in our national parks, but I didn’t really know why:
Climate change has increased temperatures across the United States. But because so many national parks are at high elevations, in the arid Southwest or in the Arctic, they are being disproportionately affected by global warming. A 2018 study found that temperatures in national parks are rising at twice the rate as the country as a whole.
The examples of what’s happening at our parks are devastating.
Joshua trees are dying from both rising temperatures and wildfires. A blaze in the nearby Mojave National Preserve in 2020 killed 1.3 million trees, leaving the park management to describe one area as “a graveyard of Joshua tree skeletons.”
The floodwaters that raged through Yellowstone this week changed the course of rivers, tore out bridges, poured through homes and forced the evacuation of thousands of visitors from the nation’s oldest national park.
The storm that caused the flooding and mudslides this week began with two to three inches of rain over the weekend. Combined with warming temperatures that melted 5.5 inches of snow, the rain created the flood.
Rangers in Glacier National Park in Montana are counting down the years to when the park will have no glaciers left.
Wildfires are a constant threat during summer months in and around Yosemite National Park, the gem of the Sierra Nevada. For the past several years, visitors to the popular park have driven through vast landscapes of charred stumps.
Park rangers have also been confronted by freak weather events they had never before witnessed: In January last year, gusts tore through a grove of giant sequoias and brought down 15 mature trees, wrecking recently constructed visitor facilities.
At Everglades National Park, the vast wetlands southwest of Miami, rising sea levels are causing the salinization of groundwater, endangering tropical orchids and other endangered wildlife.
Wildfires over the past two years also killed thousands of giant sequoias in nearby Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks.