From WyoFile (Dustin Bleizeffer):
Average temperatures are rising in the Greater Yellowstone Area, resulting in less snow, earlier runoff and major economic implications in the western headwaters region, according to a newly released climate study. The changes threaten to upset traditional land uses and commerce for a region that has seen its population more than double in the past 50 years.
“Temperature increases will bring warmer days and nights, warmer winters, and hotter summers in the coming decades,” according to the draft climate and water assessment for the region. “These warmer conditions will affect water supplies, natural and managed ecosystems, economies, and human and community well-being in the [Greater Yellowstone Area].”
The peer-reviewed Greater Yellowstone Climate Assessment; Past, Present, and Future Climate Change in Greater Yellowstone Watersheds is open for public comment until April 30. The final report is scheduled for release in late June.
It’s the first major climate assessment to focus on the Greater Yellowstone Region, which the National Park Service describes as “one of the largest nearly intact temperate-zone ecosystems on Earth.” The region is the ancestral home to more than a dozen Native American tribes, a diversity of wildlife, hydrothermal features and, of course, the nation’s first national park.
According to the study:
Average temperatures are projected to increase 0.31°F per decade. Snowpack is shrinking between 5,000 and 7,000 feet of elevation. Drier conditions will make the region more prone to fire. Mature whitebark pine trees are dying off. The region is more prone to invasive species outbreaks. Changes in the timing and rate of snowmelt are affecting fish spawning and the health of aquatic systems. Changes in grassland habitats are altering bison migratory patterns. Rising temperatures are affecting food availability for songbirds.
The assessment has implications for a large portion of Wyoming beyond the borders of Yellowstone National Park and the Greater Yellowstone Region, said Bryan Shuman, director of the University of Wyoming-National Park Service Research Center at the AMK Ranch in Grand Teton National Park, a lead author of the report.