PBS Nature’s Yosemite Explores the Impact of Climate Change on the Iconic Landmark

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Joseph Pontecorvo/ ©THIRTEEN Productions LLC

The Sierra Nevada, a mountain range running about 400 miles along the eastern side of California and stretches into Nevada, is home to three national parks:  Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite. This is a land of giants, whether speaking of trees soaring to nearly 300 feet, or massive stone monoliths far taller than any skyscraper. But the force that has given rise to the earth’s largest living trees and carved out the iconic natural landmarks of the Sierras is water.  The role that water has played in the creation and evolution of Yosemite Valley cannot be overstated — feeding its numerous wild rivers and countless waterfalls, and making life in this stone wilderness possible. The second force, crucial to the Giant sequoias’ ability to reproduce, is fire. It is the delicate balance of these two elements, water and fire, that is vital to the continued existence of the wildlife and trees that inhabit the Sierras.

Despite the recent heavy rains and snowfall, scientists are finding that water is scarcer and the threat of fire is more likely as the area continues to experience rising temperatures upsetting that important balance. Geologists, ecologists, researchers and adventurers investigate how the changing climate is affecting one of America’s greatest wildernesses when Yosemite airs Wednesday, March 29, 2017 at 8pm on KQED 9. After broadcast, the episode will be available for limited online streaming at pbs.org/nature.

Shot in 4K, the film opens at dawn in Yosemite Valley where hang glider pilots like Jeff Shapiro get ready to launch their aircraft at Glacier Point. Once aloft, the valley’s famous glacier-shaped granite landmarks such as El Capitan, Half Dome and Sentinel Rock come into view. The scenic valley can also boast of having the tallest waterfall in North America, Yosemite Falls, as well as Bridalveil and Horsetail.

Water has long been synonymous with the Sierras as more than 30 percent of California’s fresh water comes from the area’s snowfall. Filmmaker Joseph Pontecorvo follows members of the California Cooperative Snow Survey Program in the high peaks as they determine the amount of water in the year’s snowpack. They find an improvement over recent drier years but confirm that the water content is still far from normal, and with rising temperatures, the snowpack will continue to shrink over the long term.

Yosemite also focuses on the wildlife that make their home in these protected parks. Peregrine falcons are back once again to nest on mountain cliffs, and there has been an effort underway to stage the return of the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep. The film describes how the California Gold Rush resulted in severely decreasing the bighorn population in the mid-1800’s and how the Sierra Bighorn Sheep Recovery Program is working to restore these icons to the high country.

Nature is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET. For Nature, Fred Kaufman is executive producer. Yosemite is a production of Pontecorvo Productions and THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET.

Share Your #YosemiteSnaps
To celebrate the broadcast of PBS Nature’s film Yosemite on March 29, KQED is asking for viewers and nature lovers to share their best photos of Yosemite on social media. Simply post your photo(s) to Twitter, Instagram or KQED’s Facebook Page with the hashtag #YosemiteSnap. Include details about the photo, and when and where it was taken in Yosemite. Photos will be collected to be featured on the KQED Science site, and highlights will be reposted to KQED’s social media channels.

Support
Local broadcast of Yosemite is made possible by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. Support for this Nature program was made possible in part by the Arnhold Family in memory of Clarisse Arnhold, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, the Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, Sandra Atlas Bass, Susan R. Malloy, Jennifer M. Combs, Timon J. Malloy and the Sun Hill Foundation, the Arlene and Milton D. Berkman Philanthropic Fund, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and by the nation’s public television stations.

About KQED
KQED serves the people of Northern California with a public-supported alternative to commercial media. An NPR and PBS affiliate based in San Francisco, KQED is home to one of the most listened-to public radio stations in the nation, one of the highest-rated public television services and an award-winning education program helping students and educators thrive in 21st-century classrooms. A trusted news source and leader and innovator in interactive technology, KQED takes people of all ages on journeys of exploration — exposing them to new people, places and ideas.
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