Working to keep the West special

Acadia National Park in Peril

Human-caused climate disruption could make Maine's Acadia National Park as hot this century as Atlantic City, New Jersey, has been, according to a 2010 report from RMCO and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

If future emissions of heat-trapping pollutants continue at a medium-high level, the average of the projections from 16 climate models is that Acadia would get 8.5°F hotter by 2070-2099 than it was in 1961-1990. That would make it as hot as Atlantic City historically has been. If emissions go up at a lower rate, the average projection is for the national park to get 5.3°F hotter before the century's end. The good news is that neither the medium-high nor the lower emissions scenario assumes new policies to control heat-trapping pollutants. With effective new action to protect the climate, the extent of future temperature change in Acadia - and all the impacts that would come with it -- can be held below the level of the lower-emissions future.

The climate projections also show that Acadia could become drier in the summer, with a 6% decline in summer precipitation under the medium-high emissions future and a 4% decline with lower emissions. When coupled with the baking heat of hotter summers, any decline in precipitation would profoundly affect Acadia's ecosystems, which now are based on a cool, moist climate.

Other effects in Acadia of a changed climate could be an increase in wildfires, resulting from hotter and drier summers; sea-level rise of as much as almost five feet by century's end, inundating key park roads and saltwater and freshwater marshes; a disruption of the park's forest ecosystems; and a loss of wildlife species, from breeding warblers and seabirds to mammals, including fishers -- rare, tree-climbing weasels that recently reappeared in the park after nearly a century's absence.

The full report is here (it is 17 MB, a large file). A news release on the report is here.

Photograph copyright Michael Rickard/