Oh noes! 'Climate change may impact future tourism at some US national parks'

I plotted the visitor data from the hottest national park, doesn’t seem to slow anyone as it got hotter this last century. In fact, there seems to be a “pause” in the last decade…after peaking in 1998…

death-valley-visitors1Source data: https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/SSRSReports/Park%20Specific%20Reports/Annual%20Park%20Recreation%20Visitation%20%281904%20-%20Last%20Calendar%20Year%29?Park=DEVA

The temperature:


From the department of hot sweaty tourists and the Death Valley National Monument Department:

Future visitation may decrease at US national parks warming over 80 degrees Fahrenheit

via PLOS

Visitation at U.S. National Parks may potentially increase with increasing temperature in temperate areas, but may decrease with temperatures rising over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a study using future climate and visitation modeling scenarios published June 17 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Nicholas Fisichelli and colleagues from U.S. National Park Service.

Climate change may affect not only natural and cultural resources within protected areas, but also park tourism. To assess the relationship between climate and park visitation, the authors of this study evaluated historical monthly mean air temperature and Park service visitation data (1979-2013) at 340 parks, ranging from Guam to Alaska, and projected potential future visitation (2041-2060) based on two warming-climate scenarios and two visitation-growth scenarios.

Of the original 340 parks assessed, over 80percent showed strong relationships between visitation and temperature. Visitation generally increased with increasing average monthly temperature, but decreased strongly with temperatures over 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celcius). Future visitation varied across parks, but the authors found that many high-latitude and high-elevation parks showed increases in potential visitation, especially during the spring and fall seasons. Parks with historically warm temperatures showed a potential future decrease in visitation during the hottest months, and tropical parks with small temperature variation throughout the year showed no relationship to temperature. Although very warm months at some parks may see decreases in future visitation, this potential change represents a relatively small proportion of visitation across the national park system. The authors suggest that protected areas that develop adaptation strategies for these changes may be able to both capitalize on opportunities and minimize detriment related to changing visitation.


Citation: Fisichelli NA, Schuurman GW, Monahan WB, Ziesler PS (2015) Protected area tourism in a changing climate: will visitation at us national parks warm up or overheat? PLOS ONE 10(6): e0128226. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0128226


Climate change will affect not only natural and cultural resources within protected areas but also tourism and visitation patterns. The U.S. National Park Service systematically collects data regarding its 270+ million annual recreation visits, and therefore provides an opportunity to examine how human visitation may respond to climate change from the tropics to the polar regions. To assess the relationship between climate and park visitation, we evaluated historical monthly mean air temperature and visitation data (1979–2013) at 340 parks and projected potential future visitation (2041–2060) based on two warming-climate scenarios and two visitation-growth scenarios. For the entire park system a third-order polynomial temperature model explained 69% of the variation in historical visitation trends. Visitation generally increased with increasing average monthly temperature, but decreased strongly with temperatures > 25°C. Linear to polynomial monthly temperature models also explained historical visitation at individual parks (R2 0.12-0.99, mean = 0.79, median = 0.87). Future visitation at almost all parks (95%) may change based on historical temperature, historical visitation, and future temperature projections. Warming-mediated increases in potential visitation are projected for most months in most parks (67–77% of months; range across future scenarios), resulting in future increases in total annual visits across the park system (8–23%) and expansion of the visitation season at individual parks (13–31 days). Although very warm months at some parks may see decreases in future visitation, this potential change represents a relatively small proportion of visitation across the national park system. A changing climate is likely to have cascading and complex effects on protected area visitation, management, and local economies. Results suggest that protected areas and neighboring communities that develop adaptation strategies for these changes may be able to both capitalize on opportunities and minimize detriment related to changing visitation.

The freely available paper: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0128226

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June 17, 2015 7:18 pm

What about the “Snow Birds” from the North going south for the Northern Winter? Has that declined? How about people taking vacations to Hawaii?

Mickey Reno
Reply to  Aussiebear
June 18, 2015 8:09 am

Snow birds, the REAL climate refugees. How many senior Minnesotan, British Columbian, Swedish, Scottish, German, North Dakotan, Michigander, Ottowan, New Yorker lives have been saved by warm Arizona, Mexico, Miami, Spanish or Italian winters, sparing them the heart-attack bombs of shoveling their walks? I guess it all depends upon what you decide to measure, doesn’t it?

Reply to  Mickey Reno
June 18, 2015 8:55 am

Canadians aren’t going south as much now that the dollar has dropped back to the 80 cent level from parity a couple of years ago. I know 3 couples personally that didn’t make the southern journey this year as a result.

Reply to  Aussiebear
June 18, 2015 7:58 pm

It won’t be climate change, it will be the cost of fuel to pack the family and drive them to the parks. Fortunately, fracking has forced ME to crash its prices to keep us from drilling anymore: the greatest stimulous VER.
Too late, too bad, so sad for the ME (and Russia whose only product is oil and gas) ….the wells are capped and waiting for the day the prices go up and the spigots get turned on.

Reply to  empiresentry
June 19, 2015 11:05 am

Sorry, what? There’s a gas price war between Maine and Vermont?

June 17, 2015 7:22 pm

Sorry, should have put more context. “Snow Birds” from the Northern States (New York) going to Florida for the Northern Winter. I still remember Florida I-95 packed with caravans in late November. No Vacancies everywhere in Tampa about the same time…

Reply to  Aussiebear
June 18, 2015 4:52 am

We call it the annual migration of the Winnebagos……

Walt D.
June 17, 2015 7:25 pm

I guess that extra 0.001 C is a killer.

Reply to  Walt D.
June 18, 2015 6:28 am

+/- 0.1 C. It sure could be…

Reply to  Walt D.
June 18, 2015 7:59 pm

lololol superb post

Lil Fella of Oz
June 17, 2015 7:27 pm

I can better that with a trip through time, 24,000 years, so they say, when the Aborigines had to battle with, you guessed it, climate change. Mungo is a National Park in N.S.W., Aust.

Reply to  Lil Fella of Oz
June 17, 2015 7:41 pm

Unfortunately that’s a subscriber only article in the Ocker
However a quote from the article… ” It goes to show that climate and landscapes can change suddenly and rapidly, and that the pattern of climate change is not always gradual or linear.”

Reply to  GregK
June 17, 2015 7:49 pm

Greg….What is transpiring is use of ‘climate change’ is being used wrongly – it is global warming. But your reference uses climate change, which was not global warming due to CO2 levels at that time (going from memory). The writer should have used Natural Climate Change.

Reply to  GregK
June 17, 2015 7:54 pm

I can get the article by searching for ‘aborigines up creek’, as a free version.

Reply to  GregK
June 17, 2015 11:15 pm

Nor particularly unique in the historic record.

Reply to  GregK
June 18, 2015 6:22 am

Unfortunately that’s a subscriber only article in the Ocker
search the title in google and use their link to bypass the subscription block.

June 17, 2015 7:30 pm

Do people really make decisions on going to a park, based on a temperature difference of 1 or 2 degrees?
Has government-induced climaphobia caused mass-hysteria?

michael hart
Reply to  1957chev
June 18, 2015 5:06 am

When I visited Death Valley it was because it was famously hot and arid. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

June 17, 2015 7:38 pm

Go here first. The nationals will be a cake walk.

John In Oz
June 17, 2015 8:28 pm

Maybe people go to the beach in warmer weather rather than decide not to go to national parks

Reply to  John In Oz
June 18, 2015 8:00 pm

Good point since many of the beaches are national parks so the guestimations of fearsmear by the AGW crowd are in supreme error.

June 17, 2015 9:01 pm

I think the price hikes at National Parks had a much larger “stay away” effect on me than any temperature issues… Most folks go camping when it is hot in summer, not dead of winter…

Reply to  E.M.Smith
June 18, 2015 12:56 am

That, and the ever-increasing rudeness of the park service thugs.

Reply to  Alexander Feht
June 18, 2015 11:15 am

But that rudeness is probably caused by climate change.

June 17, 2015 9:08 pm

Look at that spike just before 2000. I wonder how many of those were “End of the World” people showing up in the last week of December 1999….

James Bull
June 17, 2015 9:23 pm

As soon as Christmas day arrives each year here in the UK the telly is full of adverts for ….. you guessed it SUMMER HOLIDAYS to go to hot places. and I’m with you
E.M.Smith June 17, 2015 at 9:01 pm
It’s more the price that decides me on going to visit a place than the temp.
Do the visitor numbers go up on cooler days? I don’t think so if you plan to go you go whatever the weather is up to.
James Bull

Gary Hladik
June 17, 2015 9:45 pm

This is just a hypothesis, but I’m wondering if national park attendance correlates more closely with the state of the economy than the state of the climate.

Reply to  Gary Hladik
June 17, 2015 10:36 pm

@ Gary I agree, Price of everything? The last year or so of “the Ferguson effect” and others? Who wants to travel to places where tensions are high?. I think that may also be playing here, the MSM is a large part of what people perceive and make decisions based on that, what is safer in this case, just to stay at home?

Bill 2
Reply to  Gary Hladik
June 17, 2015 11:11 pm

There are a lot of factors. Which is why showing an annual graph of national park visitors to a single park and mocking the conclusion (which involves monthly visitors) is kind of lame. Especially when the authors admit “Although very warm months at some parks may see decreases in future visitation, this potential change represents a relatively small proportion of visitation across the national park system.”

Reply to  Gary Hladik
June 18, 2015 2:17 am

Gas prices , given the cost of travel involved , may be a one indicator of changes in visitor numbers.

Ian Macdonald
June 17, 2015 9:53 pm

The other side of this is that there are now very few wild areas in Scotland from where a windfarm cannot be seen. At the moment they are presentable, but allow 25 years and I can see Scotland attracting the same kind of tourist who likes to visit abandoned misile silos in the USA, to view ancient and rusting technology from a bygone era of collective megalomania.

Reply to  Ian Macdonald
June 17, 2015 10:14 pm

What are you saying Ian?
Are you saying that the Green agenda won’t feel any compulsion or obligation to clean up after itself once all the wind subsidies and feed-in mandates are dumped ?

Reply to  AndyG55
June 18, 2015 2:22 am

I think we can state that , given those that already come off line have to been left to rot .
In the UK its far from clear that any thought has been given to decommissioning , I expect that come the end of life we will see these windmills handed over to a ‘shell company’ that shortly after will go bust leaving no money and therefore no ability to clean up.
And guess who will end up paying the bill?

Brian H
Reply to  AndyG55
June 21, 2015 2:36 am

Start a windmill scrapping company now, and push for decommissioning regulation and set-asides.

Reply to  Ian Macdonald
June 17, 2015 11:13 pm

“….And environmental groups do not seem affected
By the damage to the land they so want protected,
As these rotting icons of their flawed green cause,
Disintegrate and contaminate mountains and moors…..
From: http://rhymeafterrhyme.net/when-the-turbines-are-slowing-in-the-wind/

June 17, 2015 10:00 pm

“Climate change may impact future tourism ”
If they push the price of fossil fuels and electricity up far enough.. yes, it probably will. !!

Walter Plinge
June 17, 2015 10:19 pm

I guess national parks in equatorial areas and northern Australian are deserted. Oddly, many parts of National Parks in the Rocky Mountains are closed for months at a time with no visitors at all. It’s called winter.

Joel O’Bryan
June 17, 2015 10:41 pm

I’m so happy I got to see the Tampex Radiant Always video ad popup on my tablet with this article.
Not. So Not.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
June 18, 2015 2:23 am

Joel, will you please get addblocker or some such.
A few weeks ago, there was a note from Anthony complaining about people complaining about Ghostery, right here at WUWT. That called my attention to the product. I noted the suggestions for proper configuration, I have never looked back.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
June 18, 2015 6:54 am

what browser are you using?

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Glenn999
June 18, 2015 9:08 am

My tablet is a Kindle HD Fire. The browser is the Amazon proprietary Silk browser. No other browsers available even though the OS is a an Android kernal.

Reply to  Glenn999
June 18, 2015 2:15 pm

There is another browser (although I haven’t used it): Maxthon Mobile. I’ve also read that there’s another one, called Dolphin HD.

Joel O’Bryan
June 17, 2015 10:46 pm

I visited there at the hotel and park several times in the 90’s and once in 2002 on roadtrip. Always in summer. All visits it was packed with mostly German and Scandinavian tourists wanting to say they had been to Death Valley and endured 45-50 degC temps.

June 17, 2015 11:46 pm

“May respond”. There it is again, that all important get out of jail free phrase that allows pseudo scientists around the world to spout any crap they want with no comeback!

johann wundersamer
June 18, 2015 12:45 am

yes kokoda, journalists running wild, redactions blind of their writing.
reminds of the Film Ace in the Hole by Billy Wilder:
‘Media of 1951 acting like media of 2001-
A powerful toasting of the media of the day. Imagine what this would have been like in the age of television.’
says imdb.
Regards – Hans

Andrew N
June 18, 2015 1:07 am

Climate ‘scientists’ live in a one dimensional world. All known phenomenon are related to a single variable, that is, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. All other variables can be eliminated from a study. A study you want published that is.

johann wundersamer
June 18, 2015 1:21 am

in Germany it’s viewed as ‘Arts’ when activists bring the corpses of african migrants drowned in the mediterrian to bury them before the Bundestag.
A state in the shock, unable to act before the eyes of their people – like Japan in the wake of the Tsunami.
The world has gone mad unwilling to realize it.

johann wundersamer
June 18, 2015 2:09 am

yes, kokoda, CAGW before 24.000 ys.
Inert 3 generations the migrating melanesians decimated the autochhton megafauna to 0.
Since then every year they crossed the continent burning the woods in their ways to fertilze the soil.
Small wonder the afore lakes 5 m deep are long since gone.
As layman we can be of the opinion what the experts are not allowed to say openly.

Juan Slayton
June 18, 2015 2:11 am

Back in my pre-retirement days I would be ready, after 9 months of herding a classroom of eight-year-olds, for some solitude. So around the end of May I would drive out to Death Valley and camp at the Mahogany Flat campground (elevation c. 8000 feet). There were no entrance fees in those days; I would go in and out through Wildrose Canyon and mail in the camp site fees after I got back home. I see now they are charging stiff visitor’s fees, and I suppose they now will have about 5 new entrance gates to collect them.
Some questions come to mind: 1) What year did they impose the fees? 2) What effect did that have on the number of visitors? 3) How did they count visitors in the good-old-days when we all drove in and out freely with no entrance stations to keep track of us?
Can’t imagine that fractions of a degree of temperature change will affect tourism, anywhere in the park. (By the way, it’s not all hot. One Memorial Day week-end I hiked up to Telescope Peak, crossing the remains of a snowbank on the way. )

Walter Plinge
Reply to  Juan Slayton
June 18, 2015 3:00 am

If you’re retired wouldn’t you get a seniors’ discount, i.e., free entry? Last month a friend and I toured several national parks in the Rocky Mountains — all free as we’re old codgers. Granted, we had to pay for a state park.

Juan Slayton
Reply to  Walter Plinge
June 18, 2015 8:56 am

Right you are! Got me one of those lifetime geezer cards several years back. Best investment I’ve made in a long time. Entrances are free, and camping is half price. Only drawback is, I still have to get in line and watch all those young folks in front of me shell out their hard earned cash to the Forest Service.
: > )

June 18, 2015 2:14 am

Of the original 340 parks assessed, over 80 percent showed strong relationships between visitation and temperature. Visitation generally increased with increasing average monthly temperature

Willis E. proposes what he calls “The Thermostat Hypothesis” of global temperature regulation. This study provides strong evidence and experimental validation that he is right.

but decreased strongly with temperatures over 77 degrees Fahrenheit

We can see clearly that this is correct because it properly accounts for the Great Pause, something that no other model does.
We now know the true source of the problem of AGW, and therefor, how to handle the problem.

Malcolm Turner
June 18, 2015 2:14 am

I feel sure that of more imminent importance is the volcanic caldera and super-volcano located in Yellowstone National Park. Does the Pope call upon God to remove the perils of smoking volcanoes, earth quakes and tsunami? So why does he feel predisposed to stand against AGW (its possibility)? There is a certain safety in the latter in that if it does not materialise he may well point to his intervention. If it does, then the people did not adhere to his warnings. That a great part of the USA is in far more immediate and devastating peril from its geological conditions than some slow process which can be accommodated; that a huge area of the States may come to resemble the Deccan Traps in full fury, should be exercising the Pontiff’s imagination more. But we are too tied into the power of man and too sold on the immensity of our science (to the extent where we believe that science is the problem and the answer). If the Pope is onto something, then why not call a halt to manufacturing, stop building houses (as the materials used in construction, cement, bricks, tiles, iron and steel and glass, are all amongst the biggest devourers of high energy. Man by virtue of his existence kills himself? As the crowning glory of God’s creation, perhaps the Vatican must ‘believe’ that the Great Deity stands accused here of making an imperfect model which dethrones much of the church’s message that God is love, which I believe to be true, and therefore promotes my scepticism of AGW.

Reply to  Malcolm Turner
June 18, 2015 6:14 am

God is angry that the Church promotes sexism as “Divine Will”. Climate Change is God’s wrath visited upon the earth.
The fall of Rome and the western church, Constantinople and the eastern church, and the rise of The Reformation. These coincided with the Dark Ages, MWP, and LIA. All great climate shifts.
Clearly God is angry with the Church and Climate Change is the result.

johann wundersamer
June 18, 2015 2:33 am

‘Guys were boating around in
the Australian desert 24,000
years ago!’
What do those scientists think how the migrants crossed the oceans to inhabit australia.
The melanesians where highly gifted nautics to settle the vast pacific.
Their home made desert descendants lost that abiltys with the last surface water.
full stop

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
June 18, 2015 2:58 am

The temperature trend curve clearly show the falacy in the temperature data in the initial period. This may be associated with the unit of measurements prior to 1956 and after 1956. With that the temperature follow more of a flat pattern along with year to year variation.
Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

Mark from the Midwest
June 18, 2015 3:48 am

Needles, CA. July 23, 1981: Temperature here is 114F. Real difficult wolfing down the 1/2 pound burger with tomato, bacon and cheese. The onion rings are just not enjoyable in this kind of heat. I’ll never be coming back, they’re predicting that by the year 2030 daytime temps could hit 116F, that completely screws the mid-summer-hanging-out-in-a-desert-wasteland experience.

johann wundersamer
Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
June 18, 2015 3:55 am

raises a smile. Thanks Mark

chris moffatt
June 18, 2015 4:05 am

ooks like the graph tracks the economy a lot closer than it tracks temperatures. It clearly shows the 1973-1975 recession (arab oil embargo), the Reagan recession and the recent recession with a low in 2008-2009. The idea that 80F is going to stop people visiting NPs doesn’t appear to be credible but people not visiting because they don’t have money to travel might have something to do with it. However we should note that they are using a model so failure to reproduce past history does not invalidate their assumptions for the future.

June 18, 2015 4:31 am

Sorry to be so trivial but I just love your posts that include, “Oh noes”. We Australians don’t say that.

June 18, 2015 5:06 am

Carbon taxes will have that effect

Alan McIntire
June 18, 2015 6:27 am

Even if the story were true, why would it be an issue? It would be an example of negative feedback- higher temperature implies less fossil fuel use for vacations.

Ralph Kramden
June 18, 2015 7:03 am

according to a study using future climate and visitation modeling scenarios
Well if it’s a model who can argue with that? I think we all know about models.

June 18, 2015 7:48 am

What about a place like Devils Postpile National Monument? The Park doesn’t open until the road in is clear of snow and this usually does not occur until June. One year I was there, it didn’t open until July. http://www.nps.gov/depo/planyourvisit/index.htm
Ditto for Crater Lake National Park.
Oh, silly me, I forgot that snow is a thing of the past.

June 18, 2015 8:42 am

My backyard abuts one of the Park in Northeast Ohio http://www.nps.gov/cuva/index.htm , While there might be fewer visitors in the peak of summer, the rest of the year warmer would bring out more people.
And most of the visitors are locals, so if they’re not going to the park because of heat, they’re staying at home in the Air Conditioning.

June 18, 2015 9:29 am

It looks like I do not know how to insert an image. D’oh.

Reply to  96ekim
June 18, 2015 1:41 pm
June 18, 2015 9:31 am

It’s just possible that tourist patterns in National Parks more closely match the academic year than any other factor.

Billy Liar
June 18, 2015 9:54 am

I have a very strong suspicion that this paper is utterly wrong. It’s almost like the qualification exam for becoming a climatologist. You have to pick a single factor which plays little or no role in the variation in your target statistic, generate some low quality correlation with your target and then extrapolate to absurdity.
People do not go to National Parks etc because they’ve studied the climatological data for the park and it suits their requirements. They go to the park to see what it has on offer. They go mostly when the mean temperature in the park is just over 20°C because that’s the mean temperature of the parks etc in the US in the summer when most people go on vacation and visit the parks. If the temperature over the whole of the US goes up on average, so will the temperature at the peak in the visitor curve because the visitors won’t change when they go just because it’s got a little warmer.
This paper is nonsense. Fits well with the other peer-reviewed stuff in climatology.

June 18, 2015 12:48 pm

What else could it be besides global warming? They’ve ruled out everything else like the economy. ( sarc)

June 18, 2015 3:21 pm

The three major downturns in visitor numbers wouldn’t have anything to do with some other minor incidents would they? You know, WWII, the oil crisis, the GFC.

more soylent green!
June 18, 2015 3:55 pm

I thought the greenies wanted fewer people to visit the parks, anyway. Keep them free from human contamination.

Jay Dunnell
June 20, 2015 9:00 am

Just spent 5 days in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park, the most visited par in the USA (according to the Park Service. I certainly prefer to walk the trails and view the plant and animal life when it is warm. More to see and no frostbite.

Jeff Alberts
June 20, 2015 8:21 pm

On Thursday I was up at Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park, Washington State, US. In the Visitor’s Center many of the placards went on about “climate change” and greenhouse gasses.
One display showed the various stages of the glacier on Mt Olympus, and how it has receded since 1880. In their dishonesty, they failed to show intermediate images, which would likely show that the vast majority of the recession of the glacier occurred before 1950. But showing that would dilute the message, and wouldn’t be good for “The Cause”.
It’s a pity, because the view was fantastic.

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