Skip to main content

Recent Wyoming temperature trends, their drivers, and impacts in a 14,000-year context

Abstract

Wyoming provides more fossil fuels to the remainder of the United States than any other state or country, and its citizens remain skeptical of anthropogenic influences on their climate. However, much of the state including Yellowstone National Park and the headwaters of several major river systems, may have already been affected by rising temperatures. This paper examines the historic climate record from Wyoming in the context of ∼14,000-year temperature reconstructions based on fossil pollen data. The analysis shows that 24 of 30 U.S. Historical Climatology Network records from the state show an increase in the frequency of unusually warm years since 1978. Statewide temperatures have included 15 years (50%) from 1978 to 2007 that were greater than 1σ above the mean annual temperature for 1895–1978. The frequent warm years coincide with a reduction in the frequency of extremely low (<−20°C) January temperatures, and are not well explained by factors such as solar irradiance and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Linear regressions require inclusion of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations to explain the multi-decadal temperature trends. The observed warming is large in Yellowstone National Park where 21 years (70%) from 1978 to 2007 were greater than 1σ above the 1895–1978 mean; the deviation from the mean (>1°C) is greater than any time in the past 6,000 years. Recent temperatures have become as high as those experienced from 11,000 to 6,000 years ago when summer insolation was >6% higher than today and when regional ecosystems experienced frequent severe disturbances.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7

References

  1. Alley RB, Arblaster J, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Working Group, I (2007) Climate change 2007 the physical science basis: summary for policymakers: contribution of Working Group I to the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. WMO, IPCC Secretariat, Geneva

  2. Baker RG (1976) Late Quaternary vegetation history of the Yellowstone Lake Basin, Wyoming. United States Geological Survey Professional Paper 729-E

  3. Barnett TP, Pierce DW, Hidalgo HG, Bonfils C, Santer BD, Das T, Bala G, Wood AW, Nozawa T, Mirin AA, Cayan DR, Dettinger MD (2008) Human-induced changes in the hydrology of the western United States. Science 319:1080–1083

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Berger A, Loutre MF (1991) Insolation values for the climate of the last 10 million years. Quat Sci Rev 10:297

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Bleizeffer D (2008) Most Wyomingites question global warming, poll shows. Casper Star-Tribune, Casper

    Google Scholar 

  6. Bonfils C, Santer BD, Pierce DW, Hidalgo HG, Bala G, Das T, Barnett TP, Cayan DR, Doutriaux C, Wood AW, Mirin A, Nozawa T (2008) Detection and attribution of temperature changes in the mountainous western United States. J Clim 21:6404–6424

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Brunelle A, Rehfeldt GE, Bentz B, Munson AS (2008) Holocene records of Dendroctonus bark beetles in high elevation pine forests of Idaho and Montana USA. Forest Ecol Manag 255:836–846

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Bureau of Reclamation (2007) Upper Colorado Region Reservoir Operations, Upper Colorado Reservoir Data, http://www.usbr.gov/uc/crsp/GetSiteInfo

  9. Burkart MR (1976) Pollen biostratigraphy and late Quaternary vegetation history of the Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming. University of Iowa, Iowa City

    Google Scholar 

  10. Cayan DR (1996) Interannual climate variability and snowpack in the western United States. J Clim 9:928–948

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Census U.S. (2010) Resident population data. In: Bureau, U.S.C. (ed). Washington D. C

  12. Christy JR, Spencer RW, Norris WB, Braswell WD, Parker DE (2003) Error estimates of version 5.0 of MSU-AMSU bulk atmospheric temperatures. J Atmos Ocean Tech 20:613–629

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Crichton M (2004) State of fear. Avon Books, New York

    Google Scholar 

  14. Elliott GP (2011) Influences of 20th-century warming at the upper tree line contingent on local-scale interactions: evidence from a latitudinal gradient in the Rocky Mountains, USA. Global Ecol Biogeogr 20:46–57

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Enfield DB, Mestas-Nuñez AM, Trimble PJ (2001) The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and its relation to rainfall and river flows in the continental U.S. Geophys Res Lett 28:2077–2080

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Fall S, Watts A, Nielsen-Gammon J, Jones E, Niyogi D, Christy JR, Pielke RA Sr (2011) Analysis of the impacts of station exposure on the U.S. Historical Climatology Network temperatures and temperature trends. J Geophys Res 116:D14120

  17. Forest Health Management Staff (2002) Forest insect and disease conditions in the Rocky Mountain Region: 2000–2001. USDA Forest Service, Lakewood

    Google Scholar 

  18. Gosnold WD, Todhunter PE, Schmidt W (1997) The borehole temperature record of climate warming in the mid-continent of North America. Glob Planet Chang 15:33–45

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Gray et al (2004) A tree-ring based reconstruction of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation since 1567 AD. Geophys Res Lett 31(12):L12205

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Grimm EC (2010) North American pollen database. North American pollen database, IGBP PAGES/World Data Center for Paleoclimatology. NOAA/NCDC Paleoclimatology Program, Boulder, Colorado, USA

  21. Hansen J, Johnson D, Lacis A, Lebedeff S, Lee P, Rind D, Russell G (1981) Climate impact of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Science 213:957–966

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Hansen J, Sato M, Ruedy R, Kharecha P, Lacis A, Miller R, Nazarenko L, Lo K, Schmidt G, Russell G, Aleinov I, Bauer S, Baum E, Cairns B, Canuto V, Chandler M, Cheng Y, Cohen A, Del Genio A, Faluvegi G, Fleming E, Friend A, Hall T, Jackman C, Jonas J, Kelley M, Kiang N, Koch D, Labow G, Lerner J, Menon S, Novakov T, Oinas V, Perlwitz J, Perlwitz J, Rind D, Romanou A, Schmunk R, Shindell D, Stone P, Sun S, Streets D, Tausnev N, Thresher D, Unger N, Yao M, Zhang S (2007) Climate simulations for 1880–2003 with GISS modelE. Clim Dyn 29:661–696

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Huang S, Pollack HN, Shen P-Y (2000) Temperature trends over the past five centuries reconstructed from borehole temperatures. Nature 403:756–758

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Hurrell JW (1995) Decadal trends in the north Atlantic oscillation: regional temperatures and precipitation. Science 269:676–679

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Jackson ST, Gray S, Shuman B (2009) Paleoecology and resource management in a dynamic landscape: case studies from the Rocky Mountain Headwaters. In: Dietl GP, Flessa KW (eds) Conservation paleobiology: using the Past to Manage for the Future. The Paleontological Society Papers, vol 15, pp 61–80

  26. Knudsen et al (2011) Tracking the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation through the last 8,000 years. Nat Commun 2:178–180

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Kurz WA, Dymond CC, Stinson G, Rampley GJ, Neilson ET, Carroll AL, Ebata T, Safranyik L (2008) Mountain pine beetle and forest carbon feedback to climate change. Nature 452:987–990

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Lean J (2000) Evolution of the sun’s spectral irradiance since the maunder minimum. Geophys Res Lett 27:2425–2428

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Lean JL, Rind DH (2008) How natural and anthropogenic influences alter global and regional surface temperatures: 1889 to 2006. Geophys Res Lett 35:L18701

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Mann ME, Emanuel KA (2006) Atlantic hurricane trends linked to climate change. EOS Trans Am Geophys Union 87:233–241

    Google Scholar 

  31. Mantua NJ, Hare SR, Zhang Y, Wallace JM, Francis RC (1997) A pacific interdecadal climate oscillation with impacts on salmon production. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 78:1069

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. McCabe GJ, Palecki MA, Betancourt JL (2004) Pacific and Atlantic Ocean influences on multidecadal drought frequency in the United States. P Natl Acad Sci 101:4136–4141

    Google Scholar 

  33. Menne MJ, Williams CN Jr, Vose RS (2010a) United States Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) version 2 serial monthly dataset. In: O.R.N.L. (ed) Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center. Oak Ridge, Tennessee

  34. Menne MJ, Williams CN Jr, Vose RS (2010b) United States historical climatology network daily temperature, precipitation, and snow data. In: O.R.N.L. (ed) Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center. Oak Ridge, Tennessee

  35. Millspaugh SH, Whitlock C, Bartlein PJ (2000) Variations in fire frequency and climate over the past 17,000 yr in central Yellowstone National Park. Geology 28:211–214

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Mote PW, Hamlet AF, Clark MP, Lettenmaier DP (2005) Declining mountain snowpack in western North America. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 86:39–49

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. National Interagency Fire Center (2011) Fire information - wildland fire statistics: http://www.nifc.gov/fire_info/fires_acres.htm

  38. NCDC (1994) Time bias corrected divisional temperature-precipitation-drought index. Documentation for dataset TD-9640. DBMB, NCDC, NOAA, Federal Building, 37 Battery Park Ave. Asheville, NC 28801–2733, Asheville, NC 28801–2733, p 12

  39. NCDC (2010) Tropospheric and stratospheric temperature record from satellite measurements: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/temp-and-precip/msu/. NOAA Satellite and Information Service

  40. Pederson GT, Fagre DB, Gray ST, Graumlich LJ (2004) Decadal-scale climate drivers for glacial dynamics in Glacier National Park, Montana, USA. Geophys Res Lett 31:L12203

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Pederson G, Graumlich L, Fagre D, Kipfer T, Muhlfeld C (2009) A century of climate and ecosystem change in Western Montana: what do temperature trends portend? Clim Chang 98:133–154

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Pederson GT, Gray ST, Ault T, Marsh W, Fagre DB, Bunn AG, Woodhouse CA, Graumlich LJ (2011) Climatic controls on the snowmelt hydrology of the Northern Rocky Mountains. J Climate 24:1666–1687

    Google Scholar 

  43. Peixoto J, Oort A (1992) Physics of climate. American Institute of Physics

  44. Raffa KF, Aukema BH, Bentz BJ, Carroll AL, Hicke JA, Turner MG, Romme WH (2008) Cross-scale drivers of natural disturbances prone to anthropogenic amplification: the dynamics of bark beetle eruptions. BioScience 58:501–517

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Ramanathan V (1988) The greenhouse theory of climate change: a test by an inadvertent global experiment. Science 240:293–299

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Randel WJ, Shine KP, Austin J, Barnett J, Claud C, Gillett NP, Keckhut P, Langematz U, Lin R, Long C, Mears C, Miller A, Nash J, Seidel DJ, Thompson DWJ, Wu F, Yoden S (2009) An update of observed stratospheric temperature trends. J Geophys Res 114:D02107

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. R Core Development Team (2009) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna

    Google Scholar 

  48. Sato M, Hansen JE, McCormick MP, Pollack JB (1993) Stratospheric aerosol optical depths, 1850–1990. J Geophys Res 98:22987–22994

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Shinker JJ, Shuman BN, Minckley T, Henderson A (2010) Climatic shifts in the availability of contested waters: a long-term perspective from the headwaters of the North Platte River. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 100(4):866–879

    Google Scholar 

  50. Shuman B, Henderson AK, Colman SM, Stone JR, Fritz SC, Stevens LR, Power MJ, Whitlock C (2009) Holocene lake-level trends in the Rocky Mountains, U.S.A. Quaternary Sci Rev 28:1861–1879

    Google Scholar 

  51. Shuman B, Pribyl P, Minckley TA, Shinker JJ (2010) Rapid hydrologic shifts and prolonged droughts in Rocky Mountain headwaters during the Holocene. Geophys Res Lett 37:L06701

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Stewart IT, Cayan DR, Dettinger MD (2004) Changes in snowmelt runoff timing in western North America under a ‘Business as Usual’ climate change scenario. Clim Chang 62:217

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Surovell TA, Byrd Finley J, Smith GM, Brantingham PJ, Kelly R (2009) Correcting temporal frequency distributions for taphonomic bias. J Archaeol Sci 36:1715–1724

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Tans P (2009) Mauna Loa CO2 monthly mean data. NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory

  55. Westerling AL, Hidalgo HG, Cayan DR, Swetnam TW (2006) Warming and earlier spring increase western U.S. forest wildfire activity. Science 313:940–943

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Whitlock C (1993) Postglacial vegetation and climate of Grand-Teton and southern Yellowstone National Parks. Ecol Monogr 63:173–198

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Whitlock C, Dean W, Rosenbaum J, Stevens L, Fritz S, Bracht B, Power M (2008) A 2650-year-long record of environmental change from northern Yellowstone National Park based on a comparison of multiple proxy data. Quat Int 188:126–138

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Williams JW, Shuman B (2008) Obtaining accurate and precise environmental reconstructions from the modern analog technique and North American surface pollen dataset. Quat Sci Rev 27:669–687

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Williams JW, Shuman B, Webb T III, Bartlein PJ, Leduc PL (2004) Late Quaternary vegetation dynamics in North America: scaling from taxa to biomes. Ecol Monogr 74:309–334

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Willson RC (2007) ACRIM Composite TSI results (1978–2007): http://www.acrim.com/Data%20Products.htm

Download references

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the University of Wyoming and a National Science Foundation CAREER grant to B. Shuman (BCS-0845129). J. W. Williams (University of Wisconsin) provided calculations and data for the Holocene temperature reconstructions. Shuman also thanks P. Bartlein and an anonymous reviewer for insightful comments on the manuscript.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Bryan Shuman.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Shuman, B. Recent Wyoming temperature trends, their drivers, and impacts in a 14,000-year context. Climatic Change 112, 429–447 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-011-0223-5

Download citation

Keywords

  • Pacific Decadal Oscillation
  • Solar Irradiance
  • Stratospheric Aerosol
  • Climate Division
  • Stratospheric Temperature