Climate Changes Threaten Glacier National Park

Report highlights potential consequences of global warming

By: By Gabrielle Hendren

The Grinell Glacier in 1981 // (c) Glacier National Park 1981

The Grinell Glacier in 1981 // (c) Glacier National Park 1981

The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the Natural Resources Defense Council have released a study drawing attention to the climate changes affecting Glacier National Park in Montana, one of the 25 national parks most vulnerable to the effects of an altered climate. Climate impacts could potentially severely affect the future of Montana jobs, tourism industry and the overall economy.

In the last decade, Glacier National Park has suffered double the temperature increases faced by the planet as a whole as well as the highest temperatures recorded yet, threatening the park’s resources, notably its glaciers, snow-capped mountains, wildlife and forests.

The Grinell Glacier in 2009 // (c) Glacier National Park 2009

The Grinell Glacier in 2009 // (c) Glacier National Park 2009

These climate changes could disrupt the unique natural wildlife composition the park hosts, including grizzly and black bears, wolves, lynx, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk and more. In addition, glacier acreage decreased by 18 percent in 2005, reducing the number of glaciers from 37 to 25. Scientists predict that all glaciers in one basin of the park could disappear by 2030, but recent trends pose this threat 10 years earlier than predicted. Snowfall and snowpack are also severely affected by this hotter climate, leading to 70 fewer snow-covered days per winter. Reducing heat-trapping pollutant and protecting park resources are therefore crucial to limiting the damages of this human-caused climate change.

Glacier National Park, the 11th most visited national park in the U.S. and a top attraction for tourists visiting Montana, accounts for 2 million — or nearly one quarter of all — visitors to Montana, $1 billion in tourism revenue, and more than 4,000 state jobs.