By Alex Horton | Washington Post
By 2100, visitors walking the grounds of California’s Joshua Tree National Park may view exhibits showing what will have been lost – the spiky yucca palms that inspired the park’s name, dwindled to a few rare husks.
Climate change could kill most of the park’s iconic trees, wildfires may transform the towering conifer forests at Yellowstone National Park into scarred grasslands, and once-mighty ice sheets in the north will probably melt and flow into the sea, making Glacier National Park both an obsolete name and a hard lesson about environmental degradation.
A new study published Monday has warned that climate change has adversely and uniquely affected many of the 417 national parks spread across the United States and its territories, according to scientists from the University of California at Berkeley and University of Wisconsin.
“Human-caused climate change exposes the U.S. national parks to severely hotter and drier conditions than the U.S. as a whole,” Patrick Gonzalez, a climate scientist at Berkeley and a lead author of the study, told The Washington Post on Tuesday.
The consequences are alarming, the study suggests. Some of the most sacred and ecologically sensitive areas in the country, from the Grand Canyon to Yosemite and Denali, may decay into ghosts of their former mighty selves and be unrecognizable to future generations expecting to inherit a planet hotter than they received.
Researchers looked at data between 1895 and 2010 and concluded temperatures in national parks increased twice as much compared with other parts of the country, while precipitation fell dramatically at those parks.
That is because parks are often in places sensitive to shifts in climate. Many parks are at high elevation, where the Earth warms quickly due to a thinner atmosphere, researchers said. Alaska is severely affected because melting snow uncovers darker surfaces that absorb heat.
Alaska …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Business