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Volume 28
Number 1
Spring 2011
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[Diagram] Scenario creation five-step process Feature
Climate change scenario planning: A tool for managing parks into uncertain futures
By Don Weeks, Patrick Malone, and Leigh Welling
Published: 4 Sep 2015 (online)  •  14 Sep 2015 (in print)
  The challenge of a changing climate
Planning with uncertainty
Climate change scenario planning in the National Park Service
NPS role in climate change response
About the authors
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The challenge of a changing climate

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis stated in a recent interview that climate change is “the greatest threat to the integrity of the National Park System (NPS) that we’ve ever faced” (The BigOutside Blog 2010). Global temperatures are rapidly rising. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2011) has announced that for the entire planet, 2010 is the hottest year on record, tied with 2005. And the period 2001 to 2010 is the hottest decade on record for the globe (fig. 1).

Rising temperatures will influence many aspects of Earth’s hydrologic systems, such as precipitation, snow, ice, and permafrost, which will in turn affect plant and animal life and processes such as fire. These cascading effects are already impacting the natural and cultural resources the National Park Service is charged to protect. The range of impacts land managers will need to address are unprecedented and most are not well understood. There is much uncertainty about the specific ways in which ecosystems, populations, and species will respond to these changes.

Over the last several years, there has been renewed commitment in the federal government to addressing the important issue of climate change. The National Park Service, in particular, is looking at new ways to think about, and plan for, the effects of climate change. In fall 2010, the National Park Service published its Climate Change Response Strategy, which outlines a broad framework for how the agency will address climate change. Planning for climate change within an adaptation framework is a cornerstone of that document. But even before that, the Service had been quietly exploring and testing ways to plan more effectively in this dynamic environment.

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This page updated:  19 July 2011

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From the Editor
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InFocus: Policy
Masthead Information
Special Issue: Climate Change Adaptation & Communication
  Climate change scenario planning: A tool for managing parks into uncertain futures
Climate-Friendly Park Employees: The Intermountain Region's climate change training assessment
The Strategic Framework for Science in Support of Management in the Southern Sierra Nevada, California
Alternative futures for fire management under a changing climate
Sustainable fire: Preserving carbon stocks and protecting air quality
Audience segmentation as a tool for communicating climate change
NPS climate change talking points
Communicating climate change at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Citizen scientists in action: Providing baseline data for climate-sensitive species
Using citizen science to study saguaros and climate change at Saguaro National Park
Cascades Climate Challenge: Taking home the lessons of glaciers
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