Understanding Climate Science

Woman in kayak measuring the end point of a glacier
To track the rate at which glaciers are shrinking, a scientist here takes GPS data points at the terminus of the Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park

USGS/Lisa McKeon

Scientists who study Earth's climate are looking at more than just weather statistics over time. Rather, climate science is a complex field spanning multiple disciplines like atmospheric science, physical geography, oceanography, and biogeochemistry. Climate scientists look at the sum of evidence across Earth to explain how and why the climate is changing and what broad-scale impacts are occurring. Often, this information is then modeled to inform projections for the future.

The National Park Service relies upon authoritative sources of climate science, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. Global Change Research Program. These organizations provide robust projections which can be downscaled to better understand continental, regional, or local patterns and impacts. Downscaled data is then coupled with tools, expertise, and additional data from governmental and nongovernmental partners to help inform the management of the National Park System.

Learn more

Find examples of how climate science is applied to park planning efforts on the scenario planning showcase page or view a 2021 journal article for more technical information.

More climate science stories from around the National Park Service

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