Climate, Flooding and Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier National Park is still closed at the Nisqually and Carbon River entrances and will be closed until at least Friday Nov. 21. Flooding due to rains and warm temperatures last week has damaged the Nisqually and Carbon River Roads. Park officials are working to repair the Nisqually Road, which was under at least 8 inches of water from swollen Kautz Creek. The Pierce County road into the Carbon River entrance is closed 2 miles outside the park boundary. Highway 410 inside the park remains open. You can find up-to-date road status information at this web page.
While the damage is likely nowhere near what hit the park in in 2006, it does remind us that flooding events continue to frequently wash down the valleys of the Cascades. While there's some debate over whether the recent storms can be attributed to climate change, there's no denying that in the past five years we've had some serious weather events in our mountains.
For more on how weather is shaping our national parks check out two short films on the video podcast web site Terra. Titled Cascading Effects," this two-part documentary explores how climate and weather have an impact on national parks in the Pacific Northwest. You can find part one here and part two here. The film touches on storms at Mount Rainier (including some amazing footage of a Kautz Creek debris flow during the 2006 flood) as well as issues of receding glaciers and decreasing snow pack in North Cascades National Park. It's worth a watch.
Meanwhile, the News Tribune reports that alpine meadows in Mount Rainier National Park are disappearing. Scientists have found that, since 1930, new forests have been encroaching on the spectacular wildflower meadows (which make up about 23 percent of the park's land area). The culprits? Climate change, decreasing snow pack, and lack of wildfires all play a role.