You are here

Climate Change Poses Risks Of Flooding, Erosion, And Fires To National Park Units And Their Treasures

Alternate Text

Treasures of history, culture, and natural beauty contained within the National Park System are increasingly at risk to the perils of climate change, with flooding and wildfire likely to sweep numerous park sites across the country, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Coastal parks such as Everglades National Park in Florida, the Boston Historic District in Massachusetts, and the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve in Alaska stand to be inundated by rising oceans, while Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado and Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico are at risk of wildfires spurred by the warming, and drying, climate in the Southwest.

The scenarios laid out in National Landmarks at Risk, How Rising Seas, Floods, and Wildfires Are Threatening the United States'™ Most Cherished Historic Sites are not theoretical predictions, but rather case studies of landmarks that must be protected against the impacts of climate change, the authors write.

Now, nearly 100 years since the founding of the NPS, the agency finds itself forced to develop new ways to protect the natural and cultural resources in its care from the impacts of a changing climate. A recent NPS analysis shows that 96 percent of its land is in areas of observed global warming over the past century and that at least 85 sites have already recorded changes attributable to climate change. Many more have seen consequences such as increases in winter temperature, decreased snowpack, and shifts in precipitation that are consistent with climate change. Another study by NPS scientists has determined that more than 100 national parks are vulnerable to the combined impacts of sea level rise and storm surges.

With that evidence in hand, the Union of Concerned Scientists says it's urgent that the country begin work "to prepare our threatened landmarks to face worsening climate impacts; climate resilience must become a national priority and we must allocate the necessary resources. We must also work to minimize the risks by reducing the carbon emissions that cause climate change. The science is clear that by abating our carbon pollution we can slow the pace of change and thereby lower the risks posed by extreme heat, flooding, and rising seas."


If climate change is real, so is population growth also real--and still the fundamental cause of climate change. Seven billion people--double the world's population since 1975--have to do SOMETHING to survive, and so they do that something and many other somethings that have deleterious effects on the planet. Where is the courage in these so-called reports to admit the underlying causes of climate change? Instead, most scientists continue to respond that the Green Revolution has saved the world from population growth. We're smarter at manipulating food production, and so we can support more people. The problem is: We forget the consequences of trying to resolve any problem by reacting to just one symptom. 

Simply, as I interpret this report, American scientists are looking for another "mission" that will keep their bloated university bureaucracies afloat with government money. Now they want to "save" our landmarks. Thank you, but how about addressing the fundmamental problem first. Solve population growth and we solve climate change. There. And my "report" didn't cost the taxpayers a dime.

I believe that there have been instances of our insight into manmade causes of climate change which have been addressed. When I spent a few years of my childhood in southern California, the air was visible and caustic. I can remember driving from SF to LA and seeing a large dark mass ahead of me in the south. Working on emission control, despite the population explosion, has improved this. Applying this same attitude to other embracable portions of the manmade problem could piecemeal improve things, with the attitude that it takes a lot of nickles ot add up to the buck of change we need.

Simply, as I interpret this report, American scientists are looking for another "mission" that will keep their bloated university bureaucracies afloat with government money.

And sell books.

Its refreshing Alfred that you see the real motive.  But if "population explosion" is the real issue, you need to go outside the US to address it.  We are at our lowest birthrate in a century. And half the rate of a century ago.

BTW - what would be your resolution?  China's one child policy"





Wow Alfred, I thought we were on opposite sides of the spectrum but in this post, we are kindred souls.

The tax code should raise revenue and nothing more.

100% agree.  Unfortunately our current tax code tries to influence behavior

every immigrant should be a legal immigrant,

100% agree

Now the system encourages what? Self-reliance? No, just the opposite

100% agree

I believe that climate change is real

100% agree - I just don't think humans are the major cause.

Maybe I should have signed up for the raft trip but at this point am committed to a Yellowstone, Lassen, Yosemite (Half Dome Summit), Great Basin trip.

In just three years, i've witnessed some interesting phenomenon in the Smokies.  Before I arrived here, an F4 tornado ran 13 miles over the west side of the Smokies during the torando outbreak of April 25th-29th, 2011.  The damage this tornado did to the park was well documented, and it basically has altered the forest and landscape in the sections it ran through.  Up to this point, no one said a torando could ever hit the mountains.... Not exactly true, because two years later the same thing would occur.

In July 2012 a few days after the holiday, I was driving home to my house when a fast moving dark clould of death, called a derecho hit the Smokies, blowing down an extensive part of a forest, and killing 2 people and injuring many others.  This derecho was spurred from a week of record high temperatures that were over 100 degrees during this period.  The hail and winds were like something out of a horror movie during a 2 minute stretch as this "land hurricane" passed over. It basically bent sections of the forest over quickly.  Tree limbs and debris were flying all around as it hit.

In October 2012, we had hurricane Sandy dump record snow on us during that period. That was a great event for the Smokies, because it created the most scenic picturesque landscape of a heavy blizzard mixed with the peak of fall color.  It wasn't so scenic for New Jersey and New York and the damage done was noted.

In January 2013, we had one of the warmest and rainiest months on record.  There was a stretch in mid-january where we recieved something close to 6 inches of rainfall in 3 days time.  It never stopped raining during this period it felt like as this big warm air mass that stretched from the gulf to new england stalled over the area.  This caused flooding, and altered terrain.  In late January, another storm hit that dumped 5 more inches of rain.  This caused a section of the main road on NFG to wash off from it's embankment during a landslide.  This led to major road repairs, and the parks main road being shutdown for about 3 months. Many bridges, and trails were also damaged during this period.

In June 2013, I was up on Maddron Bald filming heath balds. . . This was a day after another derecho came through on the eastern side of the park.  I stayed at a campsite up near maddron bald, and encountered 4 backpackers that told me their situation.  They were planning on doing 2 night loop, but got stuck when the derecho hit, that dumped inches of rain and swelled the streams in this area.  They had to lay down for a night next to a fast moving stream they couldn't cross (inudu creek).  What they didn't know was that a tornado was going through the area behind them by about a 1/4th of a mile.  It took down a section of the forest, and did some damage at a campground.  I asked these people if there was damage along this trail, since I was going down it the next day, and they said they didn't see anything.  Well, they were wrong.  As I hit this area, snags after snags were blown apart from this tornado.  It was quite dangerous to get through this area.  When I got out of the trail, the park service was looking for me because they knew I was coming out of that area and was registered at that campsite.  They found another guy on another trail that was caught in this storm, and had a tree fall on him.  He was found 24 hours later pinned under a tree with a broken leg, and had to be airlifted out. 

That's basically 2 years time period. All those events cost the country money, took some lives and that was just in a 500,000 acre park.   These sort of chaotic weather events are increasingly more frequent. 

Where I used to live, a major fire even hit last year that burned hundreds of thousands of acres in a conflagration event that lasted about a month and had 5 large seperate fire outbreaks.  Yosemite also had a major conflagration event too.  One of the reasons I grew tired of Idaho was because that during the best parts of backpacking season, you had to deal with major fires which seemed to increase in frequency every year, and then you basically breathed in smoky bad air for a full month. I always hated late August to early October because the smell of forest fires was everywhere..and there was no escaping it.  Droughts will continue to make it worse. 

Rocky Mountain National Park also experienced one of these massive moisture shedding events last year that damaged park roads.  These sort of moisture shedding events where 5 to 15 inches of rain fall in a quick period of a few days seem more common coming out of the gulf, but happened there as well.  Florida just recently had it happen in the peninsula region a month ago, as 12 inches of rain fell in a mere 2 days time period.

So, count me in on the "non-denier" side.  There has always been fires, and rain storms, but lately it's becoming a lot more frequent.   Air quality monitoring stations in Hawaii have been monitoring CO2 in the atmosphere for a long time, and it keeps breaking record year after year as man dumps more into the atmosphere. Anyone that sticks their head in the sand saying man doesn't have any effect isn't paying attention.

Thanks.  Next time, I want to do research on climate, i'll make sure to consult a realtor that thinks yearly trends make up the overall mean.

These sort of chaotic weather events are increasingly more frequent.


Weather and climate change - few will deny that.  Your annecdotal accounts which you falsley extrapolate into national trends prove nothing about "climate change" and even if they did, they don't provide any link between man and the change.  In fact, the real evidence has proven the dire predictions wrong despite continued growth in human activity and carbon emissions.  AGW is a business, not science. 


i'll make sure to consult a realtor that thinks yearly trends make up the overall mean.

That will certainly be more informative than annecdotal evidence from a tiny fraction of the country. 

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide

Recent Forum Comments