Climate Change

Comparison of full-pool and historic lows in Iola Basin in Blue Mesa Reservoir

Low water levels in Iola Basin Oct 2018 Low water levels in Iola Basin Oct 2018

Left image
Low water levels in Iola Basin Oct 2018
Credit: NPS Photo / Lynch

Right image
Full Pool of Iola Basin
Credit: NPS Photo / Lynch

Slide panel back and forth to see the photo comparison. Pictures are of the Lake City bridge taken from the same spot looking west.  


What is climate change?

Climate change refers to long-term changes to temperature and precipitation patterns. Human activities, including burning fossil fuels, release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. These greenhouse gasses (GHGs) act like a good sleeping bag, insulating and holding heat inside our atmosphere. As GHGs in our atmosphere increase the earth becomes layered in more and more sleeping bags, causing our global temperature to rise. Scientists agree that human activities are causing global climate change. Read more.

Weather vs. climate

Climate Change is different than a September blizzard or a few days of extreme heat in June. Climate change is distinct from weather. Climate includes longer term trends and average weather patterns over decades.

Weather is short-term, it’s the reason you check a forecast before a trip to choose what to wear on a given day. A sweater or a tank top? Climate dictates what types of clothes you have in your closet. If you live in a warm, tropical place, your closet will likely have more flip flops than wool socks and parkas. You would have to change your whole wardrobe to adjust to a change. Understanding climate change means taking a long view.

Effects of Climate Change at Curecanti

Human-caused climate change is causing dramatic effects throughout the world. At Curecanti, the most dramatic observable effect of climate change is the low water level at Blue Mesa Reservoir. At Blue Mesa, water levels in 2021 and 2018 dropped to some of the lowest levels since the dam was completed in 1968. The effects of prolonged drought are visible from everywhere in Curecanti.

In addition to drier conditions throughout Colorado and the American Southwest, climate change is affecting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Warmer and drier summers enable invasive plant species to spread which affect native bird populations. Warming air temperatures also affect aquatic and human health, and more.

Climate Change and the National Park Service Mission

The National Park Service was created in the Organic Act of 1916. The new agency's mission as managers of national parks and monuments was clearly stated." conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.".

Human-caused climate change is affecting wildllife and resources in park units all across the country. Therefore, it is within the mission of the National Park Service to address climate change.

To address the changes that are occurring or will occur, the National Park Service takes a proactive approach to respond to climate change. Learn more about the NPS response, how the agency is studying climate change, and how you can get involved to be part of the solution.


Climate and Curecanti


Climate Change and the National Park Service

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    Last updated: March 4, 2022

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