Study Warns US National Parks Are Being Hit Hard By Climate Change

A new study warns that US national parks are being hit particularly hard by climate change, the result being faster warming and less moisture. Changes within the parks due to the state of the environment have already been detected; the research found that by 2100, temperatures within them could increase drastically with major effects on plant and animal life.

The study was recently published in Environmental Research Letters, where it notes that US national parks are being hit hard by climate change due to where many of them are located: in the Arctic and in the southwest, both places seeing the most change resulting from a warming planet.

The team looked at both historical and projected precipitation and temperature data for the United States' complete 417 national park roster. Using that info, the study reveals that from 1985 to 2010, the national park mean annual temperature increased 1C, which is double the US rate.

As well, the annual precipitation in US national parks saw a strong decrease on 12-percent of the area, this compared to only 3-percent for the US as a whole. Experts have already spotted ecological and physical changes within these parks, and most of them can be linked to climate change in places were there has been a significant increase in temperature.

National parks in Alaska appear to be at particular risk from climate change, this due to increasing temperatures causing permafrost melt. As the permafrost melts, the the land becomes darker and is able to absorb more sunlight, causing it to warm up even more. Assuming a worst-case emissions scenario, the study says temperatures in these parks could rise by 9C, and may still rise more than 2C across more than half of the parks even if emissions are reduced.

SOURCE: Environmental Research Letters