Report Shows Climate Effects Hurting Yellowstone

Sep 20, 2018

The Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park.
Credit Public Domain / Max Pixel

Yellowstone is showing signs of the effects of climate change, according to a "Vital Signs" report by the Yellowstone Center for Resources. Greater Yellowstone Network Program Manager Kristin Legg said the Lamar Valley is now seeing an increase in the invasive species cheatgrass, even though most scientists didn’t think it would invade that high in elevation. Legg said this could lead to more fires in higher elevations. And she said years with more rain and snow isn’t necessarily helping.

“What’s hard to wrap your mind around,” Legg said, “is that it’s getting hotter and the increases of temperature are going to offset any possible increases in precipitation.”

She said the heat and evaporating moisture is hurting Yellowstone’s ecosystems.

“We’re seeing wetlands drying more frequently and also lower flows in rivers as a result, which can have impacts to fisheries.”

The report shows that the amount of snow has decreased at the northeast entrance by 15 percent since 1966, and daily temperatures have increased by almost 4 degrees at Mammoth Hot Springs since 1941.

The "Vital Signs" report is conducted every three or four years and Legg said that helps accumulate long-term data. 

“This is starting to accumulate data over multiple years and even decades,” Legg said, and added that’s helpful when you’re trying to see long-term trends from increased visitation, development and climate change.