The Science of Climate Change in National Parks


The science of climate change in National Parks can take on many forms: studying glacial retreat, sea level rise, animal migrations and even the blooming of cherry trees in Washington, D.C. With resources ranging from New York City, the Florida coast to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, NPS scientists must use a wide variety of techniques and tools to study the potential effects of climate change. How do NPS scientists and natural resource personnel use science to study climate change in their unique park environments?

This video series from the NPS Climate Change Response Program examines the various ways NPS personnel and citizen scientists are studying the effects of climate change. See how individual parks are using science to track environmental changes, educate the public and plan for the future.

Watch the Videos

Sea Level Rise in Everglades National Park

Sea level rise presents an ever-increasing risk to the resources of Everglades National Park. This video explores how park staff are seeking to better understand the current and potential effects of sea level rise so they can manage the park’s resources more effectively.

Glacial Change at Kenai Fjords National Park

Glacial melt is perhaps one of the more visually obvious effects of our changig climate. This video explores how park staff and scientists at Kenai Fjords National Park seek to better understand current and future glacial change and adapt in the face of an ever-changing park.

Species Loss, Precipitation and Fire in Sequoia NP

Climate change in mountains has many facets, ranging from temperature and precipitation patterns to natural fire frequency and intensity. This video explores how scientists study climate change and its impacts on the forest ecosystems of Sequoia NP.

Climate Change & Cherry Blossoms in Washington, D.C.

Our nation’s capital is a regular destination for tourists year-round, but the Cherry Blossom Festival in spring is especially popular. This video examines how earlier blooming might impact cherry blossoms in the future.

Climate Change in National Parks: Culture and History on Jamestown Island

The discussion surrounding climate change is often focused on natural resources. The National Park Service is also tasked with preserving and protecting cultural and historical resources, and they are relevant to climate change too.

In this video, NPS staff and partnering scientists talk about climate change in the context of Jamestown Island in Virginia, the site of the first permanent English settlement. Rising sea levels and coastal erosion threaten many of the archaeological sites on the island – a risk that extends to cultural sites both nationally and internationally.

Phenology & Citizen Science in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This video explores changing phenology (the timing of life cycle events such as flowering and animal migration) and how it is studied by resource managers and citizen scientists at Great Smoky Mountains NP.

Ocean Acidification at Point Reyes National Seashore

Ocean acidification is rapidly changing the chemistry of ocean water worldwide and making it more difficult for many organisms to build their shells and skeletons. This video explores how park staff at Point Reyes NS are working with local scientists to better understand the effects of ocean acidification, specifically on shellfish and other marine life.

Species’ Range Shifts at Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park

As climate change creates new temperatures and precipitation patterns, the ranges that some species occupy – particularly in mountainous areas like the Sierra Nevada – are changing. Scientists at teh University of California, Berkeley, have been re-surveying birds and mammals at sites in California that were first surveyed nearly 100 years ago by Joseph Grinnell.

The results show how species’ ranges have shifted in association with climate change. At the same time, staff at Sequoia-Kings Canyon NP are working to apply the science to park management and to engage the public in understanding what change means for future biodiversity in the park.

Citizen Science and the Changing Desert

As parks study the effects of climate change, citizen scientists play an increasingly important role in documenting natural changes. Learn how Earthwatch volunteers at Joshua Tree NP help staff collect baseline data.

Anticipating Change at Gateway National Recreation Area

Gateway NRA provides a unique environmental and recreational refuge for residents of the New York area. If rising sea levels make future storms and hurricanes more damaging, how can the park best serve the needs of the community and the ecosystem?

Additional Resources

View the entire NPS Climate Change Response Program Science Series video series.

View the full range of topics covered by the NPS Climate Change Response Program


  • Think of your park’s unique resources and environment – would any of the techniques and tools used by the NPS scientists in the videos benefit your park? What can you learn from these parks’ studies to help provide a better understanding of what changes are happening in your park?

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