Yellowstone National Park

Page - December 10, 2009
As conditions become warmer and drier and precipitation declines, geysers in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem will likely erupt less frequently. Research by the U.S. Geological Survey found that in recent years the time between Old Faithful's eruptions increased by 15 minutes, in part because of changes in precipitation patterns. Other geysers have experienced similar trends. Extended drought could result in longer intervals between eruptions, and perhaps even cessation of activity in some geysers.

Greenpeace image Yellowstone National Park

More climate impacts:

• Climate change threatens pine and grizzly populations through a chain reaction of events: Shorter winters have made it possible for pine beetles to reproduce faster. In addition, drier conditions make it more difficult for pines to produce natural defenses against the beetles. This has resulted in drastic increases in pine beetle populations within the park, and is devastating lodgepole and whitebark pines that grizzlies rely on for food. In some parts of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, beetles have destroyed up to 90 percent of pine forests. When pine nuts are in short supply grizzlies are more likely to come near people in search of food. Elk, birds, and hundreds of other animals also rely on pine forests for food and shelter.

• Higher temperatures, summer dryness, long-term drought, and trees killed by pine beetles make Yellowstone one of the national parks most vulnerable to wildfires.

• The winter sport season is becoming shorter and less predictable. While the park has historically opened the season in mid-November, it has recently opened in December and even January. As temperatures continue to increase, the winter season will likely start even later and end earlier in coming years.

• The National Academy of Sciences recently reported that climate change appears to be responsible for a drop in the population of amphibian species, including salamanders, frogs and toads, once common to Yellowstone National Park. The populations have declined by more than half since the early 90s.

• Trout populations are threatened by warmer river water temperatures.

• The park's expansive meadows are also at risk. Meadows rely on a combination of heavy snow cover in the winter and a brief growing season in the summer, which make it difficult for tree seedlings to survive. Warmer temperatures would make conditions more tolerable to tree species, and would lead to forests squeezing out the meadows.