National Park Service

North Coast and Cascades Network (NCCN)

Climate Monitoring

High-elevation weather station at Mount Ranier NP
High-elevation weather station at Mount Rainier NP

Resource Briefs

Inventory Reports

Monitoring Reports

Protocol Documents

For more information contact: Rebecca Lofgren, Bill Baccus, or Mark Huff

Importance & Issues

Meteorologic data are essential to understanding and interpreting ecosystem trends that will be detected from all aspects of the NCCN long-term monitoring program. They are important factors governing the activity of organisms and community composition. The atmosphere is critical to the cycling of elements, nutrients, and minerals through ecosystems, and delivers pollutants from regional and global sources. Information obtained from meteorologic monitoring will be useful to interpreting and understanding changes in species composition, community structure, water and soil chemistry, and related landscape processes.

Parks Monitored

Monitoring Objectives

  • Determine the park wide spatial (climate zone, elevation, aspect), and temporal (monthly, seasonal, annual, decadal) trends in air temperature, precipitation (including snow, snow depth, and snow water equivalent (SWE)) , wind speed, wind direction, soil moisture, relative humidity and solar radiation in each Network park.
  • Determine the park wide trend in the annual and decadal extent of snowpack in MORA, NOCA and OLYM.
  • Determine the park wide spatial, and annual and decadal trend in lake ice-out in MORA, NOCA and OLYM (index lakes are the sites selected by the aquatic technical working group for monitoring long-term trends in montane lakes and ponds).
  • Determine the seasonal, annual and decadal trend in UV radiation at one site in OLYM.

Primary Measures

  • Temperature
  • Precipitation
  • Snow depth

Additional Measures

  • Snow water equivalent
  • Snowfall
  • Wind speed and direction
  • Relative humidity
  • Solar radiation
  • Soil temperature
  • Soil moisture
  • Lake ice-out*

Management Applications

Climate is a dominant driver of the physical and ecologic processes of parks in the NCCN. Trends in rainfall and temperature influence how an ecosystem and dependent organisms function. The quantity and timing of rainfall and snow can influence the productivity and health of forests, the amount of water flowing in streams, and the increase or decrease in size and terminus position of mountain glaciers. Likewise, temperature can influence the quantity and timing of plant growth and stream runoff, or the extent and duration of winter snowpack and lake ice. Through direct and indirect methods, climate affects the behavior and reproduction of terrestrial and aquatic animal species. Disturbance events such as forest fires, windstorms, and floods are strongly related to climate. These events can have a major impact on park landscapes and their associated ecosystems.

Given the importance of climate, it has been identified as a primary vital sign by all 32 Inventory and Monitoring networks within the National Park Service. The NCCN monitors climate in order to understand variations in other park resources being monitored, to compare current and historic data to understand long-term trends, and to provide data for modeling impacts to park facilities and resources in the future. Climate data derived from the NCCN climate network will play an important role in understanding and interpreting the physical and ecological Vital Signs monitored within NCCN parks.

* This measure is reported through the NCCN Mountain Lakes Monitoring Protocol.

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster