Melting glaciers and heavy rainfall created the high water levels of Yellowstone National Park that destroyed homes, roads, and bridges and separated some communities from the gates of the national park.
This year has been the history of Yellowstone National Park in more than one way. Founded in 1872, the first American park celebrates 150 years of existence. It also tolerates unusual floods, and rivers swell at heights that have never been seen in 100 years.
In the second week of June 2022, the atmospheric river – a low-lying tropical area – submerged the Pacific Northwest before dropping a few inches of rain in northern Wyoming and southern Montana. Water immersion coincided with a warm spell that caused the melting of a heavy ice pack to melt.
“This has led to unusual or unprecedented floods in many rivers and streams,” according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Billings, Montana.
On June 13, park officials closed Yellowstone — an area of 2.2 million hectares (8,900 square miles) northwest of Wyoming, southwest of Montana, and east of Idaho — and announced the eviction of more visitors than -10,000 due to security issues. Campgrounds were flooded, roads were washed away, and rocks fell on the streets.
Despite the slow start of the 2021-2022 water year, the cool, wet spring has brought much-needed water to the region, which drought conditions have hit. In April, higher than median rainfall in the Yellowstone area helped form an ice pack on the ground, which rose to about 30 in May. Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured these images comparing the snowpack on June 16, 2022, and the snowpack on the same day in 2021.
Between June 10 and 13, the Absaroka and Beartooth range received between 0.8 and 5 inches of rainfall, combined with 2 to 5 inches of melting snow, according to Billings NWS. Rainfall combined with melting snow, equivalent to 4 to 9 inches (10 to 22 inches) of rain, flows over the remaining wet soil.