Yellowstone National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. While the park is most famous for its geothermal features, including Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring, it is also home to a variety of other natural wonders.
Unfortunately, this famous park also suffers from natural disasters, such as in the summer of 2022.
What Caused the Summer 2022 Yellowstone Flood?
In June 2022, the park was hit by a massive flood that caused extensive damage to infrastructure and forced the evacuation of visitors and residents. Gardiner, Montana, at the park’s north entrance, was particularly hard hit.
The flood was caused by a combination of factors, including record-breaking rainfall, high temperatures, and rapidly melting snowpack.
The rainfall in the region leading up to the flood was indeed record-breaking. Over five inches of rain hit the Beartooth and Absaroka mountain ranges within three days. This deluge of rainwater caused rivers and streams to swell, eventually leading to flooding.
Future precipitation may go up by 9% to 15%. More intense rain is expected along with drought. A mixture of drought and brief heavy downpours spell disaster for the area when it comes to future flash floods.
Melting Snowpack and Glaciers
The melting of the snowpack played a role as it mixed with the rainwater and raised water levels even further. The same can be said for the melting glaciers, which also contributed to the floodwaters.
Climate change is believed to have played a role in the event, as the region has seen an increase in extreme weather events in recent years.
Regarding climate change, the area has experienced warmer-than-average temperatures. Since 1950, temperatures have risen by 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit, and it looks like they will continue to rise.
This river runs through the center of the park and is one of the most popular attractions in the area. The river was hit particularly hard by the flood, with extensive damage to its banks.
The Yellowstone River is expected to rise by another three feet by the end of the century due to climate change. During this flood, it saw a historical crest of 13.88 feet. The previous record was 11.5 in 1918.
Flash floods are a danger in any region that experiences heavy rains, but they can be particularly devastating in an area like Yellowstone National Park.
The park’s geothermal features mean that there are many hot springs and geysers, which can heat up the floodwaters and make them even more dangerous.
This Won’t Be the Last Disaster for Yellowstone
While the summer of 2022 was certainly a disaster for Yellowstone National Park, the region is slowly recovering. Yellowstone tours are available once again, although some areas of the park are still off-limits due to damage.
This event was a stark reminder that the park is vulnerable to natural disasters. As climate change continues to affect the region, we can expect to see more extreme weather events in the future.