National Park Temperatures Are Increasing At Double The Rate Of The Rest Of The U.S.

Alaska's North Slope is being hit the hardest.

Global warming is having damaging effects in many areas across the country, but national parks are getting the worst of it. Temperatures in beloved U.S. parks have risen twice as fast as in the rest of the nation, according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin.  

In their investigation, researchers at the universities examined historic temperature increases dating back to 1895. They then projected temperature hikes and rainfall totals for all 50 states through the year 2100. The study concluded that temperatures in protected zones were increasing at an alarmingly rapid pace — much faster than that of the rest of the United States.

Areas full of national parks, like Alaska and the Southwest, have seen particularly significant temperature hikes, resulting in an increase in wildfires, prolonged droughts, and melting frost. But the effects could get much worse. According to the study, these parks will see the largest heat waves and rainfall declines in the future if the country does nothing to drastically reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions.

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Alaska's North Slope would be hit the hardest, hurting the various species of bears, including grizzlies and polar bears, in the area. But researchers say that dramatic temperature hikes will happen in essentially all national parks, from the desert-like settings of Southern California's Joshua Tree to the mountainous regions of Montana's Glacier National Park.

The study concluded that these settings could see an increase of anywhere between 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit and 16.2 degrees Fahrenheit should no further action be taken. "Before our research, the severity of climate change across all national parks was unknown," Patrick Gonzalez, a lead author of the study, told NBC News. "The surprising result is the magnitude of the difference; that national parks are exposed to temperature increases and conditions that are double the national increases. That is a major difference."

Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park in southern California  tostphoto / Shutterstock

There are dozens of organizations working to preserve the country's national parks, including the National Parks Conservation Association, The Nature Conservancy, and The Sierra Club Foundation among others. Many of these groups team with advocates, lawyers, and scientists to raise money and awareness of their cause and fight for permanent protection of the nation's lands. Some, like The National Park Service, have also helped fund research searching for areas of the various parks where preventative measures can be taken to protect wildlife and plants.

As they and other environmentalists continue to fight for policy change on a global scale, this study marks an important indicator of the clear and widespread impact climate change is having on the world — including the iconic national parks that many of us love to visit.

Cover image via  ARSUEMING BINMUTTOFA / Shutterstock.

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