Op-Ed: With climate change, we may witness sequoia forests convert to chaparral
In the last year, we have watched Colorado’s Glacier Peak National Park and other areas along the Front Range come under fire from the Colorado firestorm, including the Park’s famous Ice Age Trail. We have also witnessed historic rainfall events in the Park, with the recent “Super Storm of 2012” one of the largest and most intense, which inundated most parts of the Park with a record-setting amount of water. This year, it is also likely to be one of the wettest years on record since record keeping began in Colorado in 1887. The impacts of these events are just beginning to emerge.
The effects of global climate change are being felt now in Colorado and across the country. For example, Colorado has been experiencing hotter than normal temperatures for the past few months. And while some may think that this is simply due to chance — a mere matter of random variation among all of the weather conditions that exist on earth — the reality is that climate change is happening faster than ever before and it is happening now.
We are a long ways from the end of the ice age, but we are getting closer as the planet continues to heat up faster than at any time since the last major ice age ended some 12,000 years ago. Climate change is changing the physical properties of the earth, and the melting of the West’s last remaining temperate rainforest — the Colorado River Valleys — may be among the first major environmental changes to occur as a result.
In 2013, NASA published a study that identified a significant shift in the Colorado River’s water delivery to the United States. The results showed an increase in the amount of water in the Colorado River that is going to the Pacific Ocean. The study was based on an analysis of satellite measurements of water vapor data measured at 5,000 stations, and it found that the amount of water that was going toward the Pacific Ocean was increasing since the middle of the 20th century. The increase in the water in the Colorado River was due to changes in the amount of evaporation that occurs from our atmosphere. For the last two decades, the percentage of water vapor going toward the Pacific has