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Snowfall in Yellowstone melts into rivers that span the continent from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. Scientists are documenting significant changes in the amount of snow that falls here as well as the intensity and timing of spring runoff. These trends could affect everything you see when you come to the park, as well as everyone and everything living downstream.
Yellowstone's climate is changing. Climate is one of the primary drivers of the processes that make an ecosystem look and function the way it does. Weather reflects the short-term conditions of the atmosphere. Climate consists of the long-term averages of daily weather, usually in 30-year periods. Change in climate can greatly alter ecosystems.
Scientists have monitored Yellowstone's climate for decades. Studying climate is complicated and the impacts of climate change are difficult to predict. Current research indicates Yellowstone's temperature will continue to rise over the next century, but the behavior of precipitation is more difficult to predict. Scientists have already documented these changes in Yellowstone:
You can compare historic averages to projected averages for Greater Yellowstone's temperature, precipitation, snow water equivalent, and more with the Greater Yellowstone Area Climate Explorer. Data from weather stations and stream gauges in the greater Yellowstone area are available at The Climate Analyzer.
A continued rise in temperature will fundamentally alter Yellowstone's ecosystem:
Scientists continue to monitor climate in Yellowstone and are developing models to help predict how park resources might respond to changing conditions. Park managers are reducing the park's carbon footprint by helping employees and visitors replace consumptive habits with more sustainable practices and by sharing the best practices and resources with local communities and partners.
Yellowstone will continue to preserve the park's biodiversity, natural processes, and cultural resources, while also protecting the trails and infrastructure that allow visitors to experience those wonders. As climate change unfolds, the park will share stories of how nature and people adapt to our changing environment.
Changes in Yellowstone Climate
Scientists with the National Park Service and other organizations closely monitor variables that may reflect a changing climate.
Climate Change Explorer
The Climate Change Explorer is a tool that compares past averages to future predictions for variables in the Greater Yellowstone Area.
Examining the Evidence
Climate change is predicted to cause birds to shift their range, migratory patterns and timing, and interfere with reproduction.
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Last updated: April 19, 2019