What is Climate Change?
Climate change refers to any major and sustained change in factors affecting the global climate system, such as surface and ocean temperatures, precipitation patterns, and atmospheric conditions. Evidence has shown that rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have contributed to climate change. Excess greenhouse gases trap more heat, leading to a rise in Earth’s average surface temperature.
How do we know the climate is changing?
Using historical and natural records, scientists have been able to measure the Earth’s past climate. People have measured the Earth’s temperature and amount of rainfall since the mid-1800s, providing a snapshot of the climate for the last 150 years. For climate measurements prior to this, researchers must obtain measurements from indirect sources, including core samples from ice, sediment, and trees.
How is the Forest Service adapting to climate change?
To stay healthy and vigorous, our National Forests and Grasslands will need to adapt quickly to the changing climate. The Forest Service is incorporating the best ecological and climate science into its management to ensure that National Forests continue to produce the benefits that the American people enjoy. Healthy forests and grasslands will also help mitigate climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in plants and soils. In addition to our work on public lands, the Forest Service works with private landowners, non-governmental organizations, and tribal governments to foster climate-informed, sustainable land management.
How does climate change affect forests and grasslands?
Over the next century, the average global temperature is expected to rise, with variations by season and location. Within the United States, the average temperature is expected to increase between 3 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Under current projections, winters are likely to be less cold and snowy while summer high temperatures are likely to continue to rise. Changes in rainfall are more difficult to project, but precipitation is expected to decrease across the Southwest while extreme rainfall episodes are projected to increase in the Northeast, Midwest, and Great Plains regions.
What can I do?
There are many things you can do to help reduce the effects of climate change. Simple changes like conserving water and energy will decrease your environmental footprint. Call your local National Forest or Grassland to learn about volunteer opportunities.