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Volume 28
Number 2
Summer 2011
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 Nisqually River in close proximity to Longmire Complex, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington  Landscape response to climate change and its role in infrastructure protection and management at Mount Rainier National Park
By Scott R. Beason, Paul M. Kennard, Tim B. Abbe, and Laura C. Walkup
Published: 4 Sep 2015 (online)  •  14 Sep 2015 (in print)
A changing landscape
Glacier dynamics
An uncertain future
About the authors
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In November 2006 an intense storm dropped 45 cm (17.9 in) of rain over 36 hours at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. The record floods from this event caused the park to be closed for six months, destroying roads and trails, damaging utilities, and cutting off access to park campgrounds. The region overall has seen increasing flood damage: six of the largest storms on record have occurred in the last 25 years (Parzybok et al. 2009). Flooding at Mount Rai­nier is not uncommon, but the November 2006 flood was by far the most destructive in park history and its effects are still felt today. Though one might conclude that the 2006 flood was an anomalous event in the park’s history, recent trends in flooding, aggradation (excessive sediment accumulation in riverbeds), debris flows, glacial recession, and warming temperatures are consistent with effects of climate change.

Because of steep topography, Mount Rainier hosts significant development in valley bottoms near rivers. Large portions of the mountain’s infrastructure are built in the rustic style of architecture from the early 1900s, and make up the park’s designated National Historic Landmark District (NHLD), the highest level of cultural resource protection. Much of this development occurred before recognition of hazards associated with building near rivers. For example, the Carbon River Road on the northwest side of the park was built along the grade of the river. Repeated flooding in the 1990s and subsequent destructive floods in 2006 and 2008 have damaged significant portions of the road, cutting off access to the northwestern portion of the park. The Longmire Complex, which is one of the main developed areas on the west side of the park, is located adjacent to the Nisqually River. This river is up to 30 feet in elevation higher than nearby roads and park buildings, which are only protected by a small levee (fig. 1). Park staff must determine how best to manage infrastructure in peril, including areas that have been designated as NHLD features.

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This page updated:  8 November 2011

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From the Editor
Information Crossfile
Masthead Information
Special Issue: Climate Change Science in the National Parks
Climate change impacts and carbon in U.S. national parks
Glossary: Climate change–related terms
Pikas in Peril: Multiregional vulnerability assessment of a climate-sensitive sentinel species
Pika monitoring under way in four western parks: The development of a collaborative multipark protocol
Climate change science in Everglades National Park
Sea-level rise: Observations, impacts, and proactive measures in Everglades National Park
  Landscape response to climate change and its role in infrastructure protection and management at Mount Rainier National Park
Glacier trends and response to climate in Denali National Park and Preserve
Climate change, management decisions, and the visitor experience: The role of social science research
Conserving pinnipeds in Pacific Ocean parks in response to climate change
The George Melendez Wright Climate Change Fellowship Program: Promoting innovative park science for resource management
Estimating and mitigating the impacts of climate change and air pollution on alpine plant communities in national parks
Parks use phenology to improve management and communicate climate change
Standards and tools for using phenology in science, management, and education
Hummingbird monitoring in Colorado Plateau parks
Paper birch: Sentinels of climate change in the Niobrara River Valley, Nebraska
Climate change in Great Basin National Park: Lake sediment and sensor-based studies
Long-term change in perennial vegetation along the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park (1889–2010)
The distribution and abundance of a nuisance native alga, Didymosphenia geminata, in streams of Glacier National Park
Monitoring direct and indirect climate effects on whitebark pine ecosystems at Crater Lake National Park
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