Story at a glance

  • Yellowstone National Park is expected to see increased temperatures and less snow due to climate change, according to a new report.
  • The park’s surrounding areas are projected to experience 40 to 60 more days per year in which the temperature will reach above 90 degrees.
  • The increased temperatures and elongated summers will cause water to evaporate at a higher rate, increasing the risk of wildfires and depleting resources for wildlife, local communities and agriculture.

Yellowstone National Park is expected to see increased temperatures and less snow, as climate change alters the park’s natural habitat, according to a new report.

Released on Wednesday by the U.S. Geological Survey, Montana State University and the University of Wyoming, the report analyzed existing data to create projections surrounding the national park’s temperatures, weather and wildlife.

The study found that the park’s surrounding areas, such as Bozeman, Mont., and Jackson, Wyo., are projected to experience 40 to 60 more days per year in which the temperature will reach above 90 degrees.


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And though visitors can expect to witness more rain in the area by 9 to 15 percent, the increased temperatures and elongated summers will cause it to evaporate at a higher rate, leaving the area drier and increasing the risk of wildfires.

“Greater Yellowstone is valued for its forests, rivers, fish and wildlife,” Steve Hostetler, a USGS scientist and co-lead author of the report, said in the press release. “The trend towards a warmer, drier climate described in this study will likely affect ecosystems in the region and the communities that depend on them.”

The report also states that in recent decades, the average temperature was already higher than any previous period in the last 20,000 years, depleting the water supply that wildlife, local communities and agriculture depend on.

The study also puts the reliability of geyser Old Faithful into doubt. Known for blasting water into the air at reliable intervals of about 90 to 94 minutes, scientists recently found evidence that Old Faithful had ceased to erupt 800 years ago for several decades due to a drought. Another instance of intense drought in the area could plausibly cause it to cease again. 


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“Based on nearly 50 interviews with community leaders, city officials, agencies, businesses, citizens, ranchers and Tribal leaders,” said co-author Charles Wolf Drimal from the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, “water and the need for more climate information are top concerns for folks in the [Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA)].”

And according to Cathy Whitlock, co-lead author and a professor at Montana State University, changes and preparation need to be made now if the ecosystem will be preserved.

“The assessment is intended to provide the best available science on past, present and future conditions in the GYA,” Whitlock said, “so that stakeholders have needed information to plan ahead.”


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Published on Jun 24, 2021