How will Climate Change Affect Yellowstone in 100 Years?

Things will die off. Other things will come in. Yellowstone could go from a forest to a sagebrush prairie. Draught could affect the geysers.
Mammoth Hot Springs Upper Terrace.

Has Yellowstone National Park's climate change over time? According to park officials, yes.

"There are roughly 80-100 days more per year above freezing than there were in the mid sixties" says Mike Tereck of the National Park Service

In the next 100 years, we will see less snowpack. This snow feeds the rivers and geysers. As a result, geothermal features like Old Faithful could erupt less often. There are already geyser eruption patterns that have changed. As park superintendent Dan Wenk notes, geothermal systems are dynamic. Thirty-one years ago, Echinus Geyser was his favorite because it erupted frequently. Today, it erupts a couple of times a month.

Animal migrations, hibernation, and predator behaviors will change when greening happens earlier and winter temperatures happen later.

With less rain and snow, fire patterns change. Yellowstone could possibly have a fire every three to five years in the scale of the one that happened in 1988.

Ann Rodman, physical sciences branch of the National Park Service is worried that the timing of the seasons "has a cascading effect through the whole ecosystem. The part that we're really paying attention to is how fast that is going to happen."

"Things will die off," he says. "Other things will come in."

What does this mean? It could be major landscape changes over the long term. Instead of seeing a forest in Yellowstone, you might see a sagebrush prairie.


Steamboat Geyser in the Norris Geyser Basin

Geothermal Features Constantly Changing in Yellowstone

With a jet engine roar and a mighty burst of steam and water, a large geyser that hadn't erupted since 1998 surprised two hikers near the edge of Norris Geyser Basin in early June, 2008.


Yellowstone Lake Cutthroat Trout Threatened by Non-native Lake Trout

Yellowstone National Park fisheries biologists resort to "netting" and help from anglers to save thinning population of native cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake.


Reintroduction of Wolves in Yellowstone vs. Midwest

It is as predictable as sunrise in the morning. Almost every time federal wolf recovery coordinator Ed Bangs goes to a meeting about wolves in the Northern Rockies...

Gray wolf

Yellowstone Wolves Protected But Opinions Differ

Inside Yellowstone, wolves are considered a national treasure. Outside, in the states of WY, MT and ID, they are received with slightly less verve.

A grizzly bear wandering among the pine trees near Swan Lake in Yellowstone

Important Food Source for Yellowstone Bears In Trouble

A history of fire suppression, rampant insect infestation, an invasive fungal plague, and global warning adds up to likely extinction for the whitebark pine.

Couple smoking and hiking

Can I Smoke in Yellowstone? How about marijuana?

Smoking is permitted only inside vehicles and designated areas. It's forbidden in thermal and natural areas. Boom! As for possessing marijuana, it's illegal on Federal land.

A woman watching a bison from a safe distance in Yellowstone

How close can I get to wild animals in Yellowstone?

Stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards away from other large mammals like bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose and coyotes.

Early Yellowstone visitors at Handkerchief Pool (1923)

100 Years in Yellowstone - Then and Now

Since the National Park Service took over park management, Yellowstone has changed profoundly. Here's how things looked then and now.

This 1894 photo of Yellowstone soldiers posing with bison killed by a poacher led to national public outcry and spurred Congress to give the Army the power to prosecute park violators. Photo by NPS

The Photo that Saved the Bison in Yellowstone

A 1894 photo of Yellowstone soldiers posing with bison killed by a poacher led to national public outcry and spurred Congress.