When you visit Yellowstone National Park, you’ll see mighty canyons and roaring geysers like “Old Faithful.” You may even catch a glimpse of a bison, bear, or elk. But senior park scientist Ann Rodman says the landscape is changing.

Old Faithful geyser, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

Rodman: “The combination of the changing climate and potential fires coming through the area could cause Yellowstone to look like a completely different place than it does now – much more shrub-lands, grasslands, and fewer areas covered in forest.”

Today, average temperatures in the park are higher than they were just 50 years ago. And there are about 30 fewer days per year with snow on the ground. And at the northeast entrance of the park, there are now 80 more days each year above freezing.

The warmer, drier conditions are likely to change the plants found in the park and disrupt the migration of animals. Rodman says it could also cause more frequent and intense wildfires, setting off a chain of devastation.

”This Click To Tweet

When fires destroy old growth trees, they leave the land vulnerable to invasive species such as cheatgrass. This grass spreads quickly and could completely take over the landscape.

Rodman: “… which would be an ecological disaster for Yellowstone.”

Reporting credit: Rosie Simon/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Copyright protected.

Diana Madson

Diana Madson has been a regular contributor with Yale Climate Connections since April 2014. She enjoys exploring U.S.-based stories about unexpected and innovative solutions to climate change. In addition...