By Kyle Roerink
Monday, Nov. 23, 2015
As the climate changes, disappearing snow and ice on Wheeler Peak — Nevada’s second-highest mountain — raise concerns about the future of water in the state, for which the glacier plays an integral role.
Less snowpack means less insulation for the glacier and less runoff for the park’s springs and streams that refill the basin’s aquifer. If there’s less insulation for the glacier, more of it will melt at a faster pace. As years go on, less snowmelt and glacier melt could mean less vegetation and food for wildlife.
Climate change is expected to hit alpine ecosystems like Mount Wheeler’s hardest, said Steven Mietz, superintendent of Great Basin National Park.
National parks across the Western United States are seeing glaciers melt, migration patterns change and coasts erode. Both Glacier National Park and Joshua Tree National Park have seen their eponymous attractions shrivel. Wildlife have less to eat. The risk of wildfires and floods has increased.