Climate Change

The content of this page supplements chapters 3 and 18 on climate change, geologic history, and land management. Readers with comments or questions are encouraged to contact us.

As a general reference, we recommend Western Confluence, a magazine that focuses on climate change, wildlife habitat, land management, and conservation in the Rocky Mountain West.  Past issues can be browsed at  http//: www.westernconfluence.orgWe also recommend High Country News at

Living with Wildfire

The Wyoming State Forestry Division, in collaboration with the University of Wyoming, has published the following booklet on landscaping designs that can reduce the threat of wildfires.  It is available at  Living with Wildfire in Wyoming.

Ecological implications of climate change on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

This topic received considerable attention early in 2015.  One series of reports appeared in the journal Yellowstone Science (March, 2015) and included a paper by William Romme and Monica Turner, who had written on this topic in 1992.  Another report, written by Corinna Riginos and Mark Newcomb, was published by the Jackson-based Charture Institute (Riginos and Newcomb) and was summarized in WyoFile.  These reports project dramatic changes in forests and associated wildlife during the next 50 to 100 years. 

Coal formation and low sulfur content

In writing about the Cenozoic, we mention on page 14 that coal was formed by the compression of plant material under deep sediments.  However, one of our readers indicates that coal was formed not by pressure but through the action of bacterial decay of peat followed by changes caused by geothermal heat trapped by the overburden.  Also, Wyoming's low-sulfur coal developed in freshwater environments, not in both freshwater and estuarine environments, as we imply. 

For a more detailed discussion of coal formation, see the book titled Coal Geology (2nd edition) by Larry Thomas or the following website of the Wyoming State Geological Survey.

For a popular history of the pros and cons of burning coal, see the book written by Barbara Freese, Coal: A Human History, published by Penguin Books.

Cloud Seeding

Over forty years ago some atmospheric scientists estimated that cloud seeding with silver iodide might increase precipitation from winter snow storms by about 15 percent, but in 2003 a report by a committee assembled by the National Research Council concluded there is no convincing evidence for such claims.  New results from research supported with $13 million from the Wyoming State Legislature suggest a "positive effect," possibly a 5 to 15 percent benefit.  However, there is still considerable uncertainty about this conclusion.  As reported on page one of a recent issue of the Laramie Boomerang (12-23-2014), "UW researchers involved in the Weather Modification Pilot Program are reluctant to make any claims placing absolute confidence in the findings . . ."  For further discussion of this topic, see the article in the Boomerang, a subsequent article in the December 30, 2014 issue of WyoFile (, an article in the May 16, 2015 Laramie Boomerang, and page 308 of the 2nd edition.

Birds and climate change

The effects of climate change on birds was the topic of a special issue of Audubon magazine (September-October 2014).  Ten authors address the science of climate change, the way climate change has and will affect birds, and the political and psychological aspects of the problem. An interactive website ( provides further information about the 314 species that are threatened.

Amphibians and climate change

Ryan, M. E., W. J. Palen, M. J. Adams, and R. M. Rochefort. 2014. Amphibians in the climate vice: loss and restoration of resilience of montane wetland ecosystems in the western U.S. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 12:232-240.

Other recent publications on climate change and land management

Ogburn, S.P. 2015. Supercomputer-powered model improves water planning: A hi-resolution hydroglogic model peers into the future of western water. Western Confluence (winter, issue 3, pp. 10-13).

Briske, D.D., L.A. Joyce, H. W. Polley, et al. 2015. Climate-change adaptation on rangelands: linking regional exposure with diverse adaptive capacity. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 13: 249-256.

Karl, T. R., A. Arguez, B. Huang, et al. 2015. Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus. Science 348:1469-72.  [The results do not support the notion of a "slowdown" in the rate of increase in global surface temperature.]

Hulme, D., C. Andersen, K. Parady, et al. 2009. Wyoming's state of the space: A comprehensive review of land use trends in Wyoming.  William D. Ruckelshaus Instittute of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming, Laramie. 70 p.

Zelikova, T. J., D. M. Blumenthal, D. G. Williams, et al. 2014. Long-term exposure to elevated CO2 enhances plant community stability by suppressing dominant plant species in a mixed-grass prairie. Proceedings of the National Acadamy of Sciences 111:15456-15461. 

Pocewicz, A., H. E. Copeland, M. B. Grenier, D. A. Keinath, and L. M. Waskoviak. 2014. Vulnerability of Wyoming's terrestrial wildlife and habitats. Report prepared by The Nature Conservancy, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and Wyoming Natural Diversity Database.

Pocewicz, A., W. A. Estes-Zumpf, M. D. Anderson, H. E. Copeland, D. A. Keinath, and H. R. Griscom. 2013. Mapping migration: Important places for Wyoming migratory birds.  Lander, Wyoming: The Nature Conservancy.

For numerous articles on climate change, see the online, open access journal Earth's Future (published by the American Geophysical Union)