Is Climate Change Affecting When People Visit National Parks?

Last year, 281.3 million people visited America’s national parks, down 4.2 million from a year earlier. With parks such as Glacier (above) likely to be glacier-less sometime around 2030, or sooner, authors Lauren B. Buckley and Madison S. Foushee (PDF here) track differences in attendance habits since 1979 to ask if climate change is affecting relatively mundane human activities such as park visitation:

Climate change has driven many organisms to shift their seasonal timing. Are humans also shifting their weather-related behaviors such as outdoor recreation? Here we show that peak attendance in U.S. national parks experiencing climate change has shifted 4 days earlier since 1979. Of the nine parks experiencing significant increases in mean spring temperatures, seven also exhibit shifts in the timing of peak attendance. Of the 18 parks without significant temperature changes, only 3 exhibit attendance shifts. Our analysis suggests that humans are among the organisms shifting behavior in response to climate change.

The authors are careful not to draw too much causal significance from a 4-day shift, but also place their study of humans in the context as the changing behavior of other animals:

The correlative nature of our evidence prevents attributing causation. Yet, our evidence complements that rapidly accumulating for other organisms showing behavioral shifts in the direction expected in response to climate change (Parmesan 2006).


Gary K.

Oooh Kaaaay,

9 out of 27 parks show increased warming????

67% of the parks do NOT show increased warming!!!!

To claim there is a 'climate warming' going on with such weak numbers is silly.

cbp

>> 9 out of 27 parks show increased warming????
>> 67% of the parks do NOT show increased warming!!!!

No, that's not true. The keyword is "significant", which I presume is a akin to "statistically significant". If something is not statistically significant it doesn't mean that it's not happening - it just means that its not showing up strongly enough in the statistics to make a call.

Betty Raines Azwell

Did the researchers take into account the earlier starting/ending day of public schools? With mandated yearly testing in April/May, many school districts are starting in early-mid August instead of after Labor Day. This makes for earlier family vacations.

Enter your name...

They don't, but the school year changes probably don't matter, because they only cared about the days with the highest attendance for the whole year, not the day on which the median person attended. They ignored things like increased attendance during early or late season. The difference they found was that (to give one example) July 4th used to be the most-visited day of the year, and now it's a week before that (everyone trying to beat the crowds, maybe?).

Joe010106

Well global warming or not, the statistics of any study can be made to order. The simple fact that the Earth has been warming and cooling over the eons, and the fact that we have only been tracking this for maybe a century or two. Know body can accurately say.
Are the National Parks suffering due to climate change? One would thing since the wonders go the parks are vanishing they would be packed.
The only climate change that is effecting the parks is the economic.

rehajm

"The correlative nature of our evidence prevents attributing causation..."

This sentence might as well have ended with , '....but- ooooh we soooo want to!!!' If one were so inclined one might discover visitors are heading to parks earlier on the park service recommendations to visit popular parks earlier in the year to avoid peak summer crowds and capacity controls, or that more visitors are taking advantage of the parks in winter, or that there are more visits from families from parts of the world where the school year ends earlier (or begins earlier). One could examine these things... IF one were so inclined. Thumbing through the study shws there's little discussion of demographic causation...

Ben

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