Climate change impacts

in the Crown of the Continent

Changes in our climate have impacted the Crown of the Continent in a huge variety of ways, from the valley forests to the mountaintops, and from the native trout to alpine communities of flowers, ptarmigan, and mountain goats.

Among the most obvious changes thus far is an upward shift in temperatures that has led to more very hot days (above 90 degrees F.) in the summer and fewer cold days (below 0 degrees F.) in the winter.

With steady increases in temperatures over the course of the last century has come the loss of ice and snow in the mountains of the Crown.

Since 1850, we have now lost 125 of the original 150 glaciers in Glacier National Park, and scientists (pictured above) expect the remaining glaciers to disappear completely in the next 10-15 years.

With the loss of glaciers has come the loss of key water sources during the summer, which has also impacted native trout fisheries that rely on the cold, clear water of glaciers to cool streams in the summer.

This loss of water, combined with warmer temperatures, has already disrupted plant communities throughout the Crown, with subalpine fir trees moving up into alpine meadows, for example.

All of these changes, in turn, affect the animals that live in the Crown's habitats, whether it is mountain goats that now have fewer alpine meadows in which to graze, or lynx and wolverines that depend on deep snowy conditions for much of the year. 

While some species of wildlife will be able to move up in elevation as temperatures continue to warm and habitat conditions continue to change, others, like those already living on the tops of mountains, have nowhere to go.

To learn more about the impacts of climate change in the Crown of the Continent, check out the links at right.

To read more about scientists' work to better understand the impacts of climate change in the field, click here, or check out their work to give some wildlife species a fighting chance in the era of climate change.

COMING SOON! A slide show about the impacts of climate change on the Crown of the Continent...

Photo, top of page: U.S. Geological Survey