Global Warming to Flame Wildfires at Yellowstone: Study

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Global warming will cause more wildfires at Yellowstone National Park. The combination of the wildfires and rising temperature will fundamentally change the ecosystem at Yellowstone, possibly by as soon as 2050, according to a new study led by Professor Anthony Westerling of the University of California, Merced.

The study claims that by 2050, wildfires will burn up 400 square miles of land per year. By 2075, it's expected to burn up 1,200 square miles per year. The entire area of Yellowstone National Park is under 3,500 square miles. 

Furthermore, the study claims "years with no large fires - very common in the recent past - become extremely rare by 2050 and are all but eliminated after 2050."

Global warming and its effects on the entire ecosystem of Yellowstone, not just on plant life, are expected to be significant.

Dense forests are expected to give way to more open woodland, grass, and shrub vegetation. Forests will become younger on average (because trees will be frequently killed by fires). Moreover, entire populations of trees are expected to disappear.

As plant life changes, many animals are expected to either migrate or die off.

The overall impact affects "the region's wildlife, hydrology, carbon storage and aesthetics," said a press release from the University of California, Merced.

"What surprised us about our results was the speed and scale of the projected changes in fire in Greater Yellowstone. We expected fire to increase with increased temperatures, but we did not expect it to increase so much or so quickly. We were also surprised by how consistent the changes were across different climate projections," Westerling said.

Westerling and his colleagues made the projections by studying the impact temperatures had on large wildfires in the northern Rocky Mountains from 1972 to 1999. 

 

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