Climate Monitoring

Researcher servicing a SNOTEL weather station in winter
Researcher servicing a SNOTEL weather station at Olympic National Park

NPS Photo

Importance & Issues

Climate is a dominant driver of the physical and ecologic processes of parks in the North Coast and Cascades Network. Precipitation and air temperature influence how an ecosystem and dependent organisms function. The quantity, intensity, and timing of rainfall and snow can influence the productivity and health of forests, the amount of water flowing in streams, and the increase or decrease in size and terminus position of mountain glaciers. Likewise, temperature can influence the quantity and timing of plant growth and stream runoff, or the extent and duration of winter snowpack and lake ice. Climate directly and indirectly affects the behavior and reproduction of terrestrial and aquatic animal species. Disturbance events such as forest fires, windstorms, and floods are strongly related to climate. These events can have a major impact on park landscapes and their associated ecosystems. Climate has been identified as a key vital sign by all 32 Inventory and Monitoring networks.

Parks Monitored

  • Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve

  • Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

  • Lewis & Clark National Historical Park

  • Mount Rainier National Park

  • North Cascades National Park Complex

  • Olympic National Park

  • San Juan Island National Historical Park

Monitoring Objectives

  • Determine the spatial (climate zone, elevation, aspect), and temporal (monthly, seasonal, annual, decadal) trends in air temperature, precipitation (including snow, snow depth, and snow water equivalent), wind speed, wind direction, soil moisture, relative humidity, and solar radiation in each network park.

  • Determine annual variability and long term trends in the winter snowpack in Mount Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic National Parks.

Primary Measures

  • Temperature
  • Precipitation
  • Snow depth
  • Snow water equivalent

Additional Measures

  • Snowfall
  • Wind speed and direction
  • Relative humidity
  • Solar radiation
  • Soil temperature
  • Soil moisture

Management Applications

Annual weather data, as well as short and long term trends in climate, are essential for understanding and interpreting park ecosystems. North Coast and Cascades Network scientists as well as cooperating researchers, use these data regularly to interpret variations measured in many park resources. Data also support daily park operations and are commonly used to model future impacts to park facilities and resources.

Reports and Documents

Last updated: September 13, 2018