Yellowstone Faces Accelerating Climate Change

The recent floods around Yellowstone National Park (YNP) and its surrounding areas have been well reported by the national news media.

As someone who has made many trips to YNP over the years, including driving through the magnificent Paradise Valley to enter the park via Gardiner and the north entrance, it’s somewhat distressing to know what has been lost, or will take perhaps years and millions of dollars to repair. I feel similarly about the destruction in Red Lodge, which is on the Beartooth Highway (a drive I can’t recommend enough).

The human costs of the flooding fortunately will be measured only in terms of loss of property and economic considerations – no lives were lost. Still, those costs may be significant. Coming out of the economic downturn of the COVID pandemic, many of the small businesses hoped they would see better days.  And, unfortunately, now the flooding and closures only add to the problems of rising gas prices that appeared might limit the number of expected visitors through the summer of 2022.

Over time, there will be recovery for those who lost homes and businesses. Some will fare well; others perhaps not so much. But the human dimension will be as it always is: transitory concerns for an individual or a group that fade over the years to become memories of life’s challenges.

Perhaps of more significance – both to those living now and those who come after us – is what the flooding says about the climate.

As described in a recent article, the 2021 Greater Yellowstone Climate Assessment predicted a 30 to 80 percent increase in spring precipitation.

While one storm can’t be blamed on climate change, when taken with other environmental phenomena being observed, it is terrifying. Consider that Lake Mead is at 28% of its basin capacity; there are heat waves in the US southwest and US southeast – as well as in Europe (and it’s only June – the typically hotter days of July and August are still to come). California is on fire seemingly all year around. There are other fires and dust storms throughout the West.

We may be at the tipping point of dramatic climate change. Taking a quote out of context from Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises), the question can be asked how climate change occurs?  The answer is two ways: Gradually, then suddenly.

Our time to act is very short, if it’s not already too late.

You can read more here.

Author: Tom

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