Climatic Change

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 35-45

First online:

Climate change in Yellowstone National Park: Is the drought-related risk of wildfires increasing?

  • Robert C. BallingJr.Affiliated withOffice of Climatology and Department of Geography, Arizona State University
  • , Grant A. MeyerAffiliated withDepartment of Geology, University of New Mexico
  • , Stephen G. WellsAffiliated withDepartment of Earth Sciences, University of California-Riverside

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The increased frequency of wildfires in the United States has become a common prediction associated with the build-up of greenhouse gases. In this investigation, variations in annual wildfire data in Yellowstone National Park are compared to variations in historical climate conditions for the area. Univariate and multivariate analytical techniques reveal that (a) summer temperatures in the Park are increasing, (b) January-June precipitation levels are decreasing, and (c) variations in burn area within the Park are significantly related to the observed variations in climate. Outputs from four different general circulation model simulations for 2 × CO2 are included in the analyses; model predictions for increasing aridity in the Yellowstone Park area are generally in agreement with observed trends in the historical climate records.