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National Parks Facing Dramatic Changes

It's getting warm in here and national parks are paying the price

Unless you live in a vacuum, you've heard of global warming. Al Gore has done a good job.

I'm not an extreme adventurist, but I'm going to miss the snow - especially on the mountains. Think I'm greenwashing you? Look at these stats:

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National ParkYosemite National ParkSierra snow levels melt away an average of 3 weeks earlier than they did 50 years ago. Not only does that shorten the ski season, the earlier melt dries up streams a full month earlier as well. Even if we start reducing our CO2 right now, forecasters predict a 30% loss of the Sierra snowpack over the next 30 years. Doing nothing could mean a 90% loss.

Denali National Park

More than 80% of Denali sits on permafrost, a permanently frozen layer of ground. Rising temperatures could thaw the top 10 ft of that frosty ground by 2050, and by 2100 (if we don't change our wicked ways) 90% of the world's permafrost will be a soupy nightmare. Routes to far-flung villages and most northern hiking trails will be impassable, but even worse is the methane gas that will be seeping from all those bogs.

Mount Rainier National Park

Retreating glaciers mess up Mother Nature's nicely arranged landscape, creating unstable slopes, landslides and powerful floods filled with debris. Destructive ice flows can happen anytime, but they tend to be at their worst in late fall and early winter when there's precious little snow to absorb and buffer the debris pushed along with the surge. Forecasters predict a 140% increase in "extreme precipitation events" over the next century, which means you can kiss visiting this mountain goodbye.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Enjoying WinterEnjoying WinterPlants and animals pay the price when the climate changes too fast. Species that have adapted over centuries to alpine zones can't just pack up and move up or down the mountain. In the Great Smokies, flying squirrels and salamanders top the endangered list, but just a few states north, a plethora of wildflowers are waving farewell as rising temperatures push tree lines higher.

Thought about what you'll miss when all the predictions come true? Are you doing anything to reduce your carbon emissions?

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