What will happen to the Acadia National Park as the climate changes? That’s a question that scientists and park officials have been mulling and considering as they plan for the future. There are no certain answers.
However, the park officials are learning how to use potential scenarios to develop plans for the future. In October 2015, the two-day Acadia National Park Climate Change Scenario Planning workshop was held to help senior park management prepare for the near future.
There were four climate scenarios identified during the workshop, based on published global climate model output. While scientists can make several predictions about climate change with confidence, other aspects of the future climate is a lot more difficult to predict. For example, there’s a lot of uncertainty about rainfall. Because Acadia is on the border for summer precipitation changes, there are possibilities for increases or decreases in seasonal totals, according to the summary.
The uncertainties about future sea level rise, temperature change and rainfall made it necessary for workshop participants to come up with multiple scenarios or possible futures. That way, park management can start thinking about possible future challenges and how to best manage them.
The following are snapshots of four possible futures of Acadia National Park in the time frame of 25 years, paraphrased from the Acadia’s 2015 climate change scenario workshop:
“Middle of the Roller Coaster”
Recent trends such as warming temperatures and rising seas continue as expected over the next several decades with strong variability from year to year that brings short-term management challenges. Alternating patterns of hot and cool temperatures, as well as wet and dry conditions, characterize this scenario.
Warming temperature trends continue and wetter conditions prevail throughout the year. Rainfall events are frequent and bigger. Tropical storms and nor’easters become more common and cause flooding in the park.
“Sizzlin’ Summer, Floodin’ Fall”
Temperature increases are at the high end of projected changes. Precipitation patterns become more variable, and although total precipitation amounts do not change substantially, both drought in the summer and flooding in the fall become more common.
“Calm Before the Warm”
Temperatures stabilize and remain the same for the next 15 years as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (ocean current that is thought to affect the sea surface temperature) shifts from the warm phase to the cool phase. Then AMO shifts back to the warm phase and the park experiences very rapid warming and accelerated impacts.