Earth Day 2019: 10 amazing places where travelers can see a changing climate
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador – El Nino, a cyclical pattern of Pacific storms caused by warm water, has become stronger in recent years, researchers say. And that has affected the famed Ecuadorian islands known for bird, reptile and sea life. The El Nino years can be more intense. The change has even affected finches, which have evolved in just a few years to adapt to the changing environment.
Dead Sea, Israel and Jordan – The lowest place on earth is shrinking, Gunter says. In the last 40 years, the famed salt-laden sea has diminished by a third and dropped 80 feet. Much of the change is due to increased use of water for irrigation from the Jordan River. That’s the key component.
Venice, Italy – Flooding has long plagued the famed canal city, but it has intensified in recent years, with some areas regularly inundated at peak high tides. It’s a regular event, it’s not just something hypothetical that we’re anticipating. The city is developing plans to build flood walls and other barriers to keep the sea at bay.
Fairbanks, Alaska – A drunken forest may sound like something out of a “Harry Potter” book, but it’s actually a change caused by rising temperatures. As permafrost, the layer of permanently frozen ground, disappears in Alaska, trees begin to tilt. There are forests that are leaning like a hurricane blew them. They look like they’ve had too much to drink.
Antarctic Peninsula – When climate changes, not all species react the same. On the southern continent, gentoo penguins are thriving because they build pebble nests on shorelines newly exposed by melting ice. Alternatively, Adélie penguins are having trouble because they fish from floating sea ice, which is less plentiful. There are winners and losers.
Greensburg, Kansas – Although not well-known, this south-central Kansas town is an environmental survivor, Gunter says. It was nearly destroyed by a tornado in 2007, but has since rebuilt as one of the most eco-conscious places in the world. It was the first U.S. city to fully adopt LED street lights, and it gets 100% of its power from renewable energy. It also has the most buildings per capita built to LEED standards. It’s rebuilt itself stronger than before.
Acadia National Park, Maine – Scientists last year collected data in the popular Atlantic Coast park. In the future, the area’s lobster population is predicted to migrate north to seek cooler waters, as will the whales that pass by offshore. You’re seeing a shift in the types of species that exist there.
The Alps – Europe’s famous mountain range still looms over the continent, but warming temperatures are taking their toll. Not only are its glaciers receding, but its plant life is changing as lowland species gain a foothold. The Alps sit lower in elevation than the Rocky Mountains, so they’re more susceptible.
Florida Keys – Coral reefs face pressure due to warming water and a shift in the chemical composition of oceans that has bleached out color. “There’s more carbon in the water,” Gunter explains. “Some corals are more resilient than others. You’ll see parts of a reef that look really good. But in others, change is noticeable.
Glacier National Park, Montana – The glaciers that give the park its name have been in retreat for many years, peaking in the 19th century at the end of a period called the Little Ice Age. Since then the number of glaciers in the park has dropped from about 150 to several dozen today. It’s striking.