National Parks See Record Visitation Numbers.. But Why?

Climate change, I say.

Sure — you could argue that everything these days could be tied to climate change. But there’s a really clear tie here — record heat.

The National Park service has recorded record numbers for 2015

The NPS’s Public Use Statistics Office estimated 272.5 million recreation visits to the parks through October. That compares to 262.7 million visits in the same period of 2014.

… while the world has recorded record high temperatures.

There is a 99.9% chance that 2015 will be the warmest year on record, according to Climate Central (full disclosure: my place of employment). Not only did 2015 break tons of heat records (see January/FebruaryMarchApril, May, June, July, August, September, October, November), but 2015 is literally running away with global temperatures.

Graphic courtesy of Climate Central

Think about it: why are there usually more people outside? Because it’s nice out. So why did more people visit Yellowstone (and other parks) this year? Because they were open longer (because it was nice out).

It’s not only that the globe is warming (see: global warming), but that humans are contributing to that warming. Climate Central’s World Weather Attribution program found that greenhouse gas emissions are driving 2015’s record heat.

Additionally, this has been the globe’s hottest five-year period on record.

Also, I’m not here to belittle the National Park Service’s efforts of the #FindYourPark campaign and events leading up to the centennial celebration. The Park Service has been doing an amazing job connecting the parks with the public.

A warm February 2015 snowshoeing in Glacier National Park (sure the lake is frozen, but there was no snow to snowshoe in on!)

But any way you slice it, it’s getting hot in here, which is great for playing outside. And if you’re hanging out in Glacier National Park in February with a tank top on, keep climate change in the back of your mind.

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