The Central Park Climate Lab

Leading the fight against the effects of climate change on city parks.

Working in partnership, the Central Park Conservancy, the Yale School of the Environment, and the Natural Areas Conservancy have created the Central Park Climate Lab that will offer research and new tools to help urban parks deal with the effects of climate change. There are over one million acres of urban parks in the United States. While these spaces play a unique role in mitigating climate change, they are often overlooked when it comes to dealing with this increasingly dire global emergency.

City parks are as vulnerable to climate change as other parts of our national landscape, including wilderness areas and coastlines. Severe weather events—such as unprecedented rainfall, blizzards, high winds, and extreme heat and cold—strain resources and impact urban parks’ tree canopies, plants, and wildlife, all of which are vital to the health of a city and its residents. But there are no unified sources of information or policy recommendations to aid cities in the management and protection of their parks in the face of these challenges.

Enter the Central Park Climate Lab. Central Park offers a unique setting to begin studying climate change adaptation in urban parks as it has been impacted by some of the more severe effects of climate change within the past decade. Research will then expand to other New York City greenspaces and select city parks around the country. With the data acquired, the Lab will build on the work of leading researchers in the field to create new, scalable strategies for implementing climate mitigation and adaption protocols.

“Parks are essential for New Yorkers, as this last couple of years have proven, but flooding, high winds, and extreme temperatures pose a threat to their health. The Central Park Climate Lab begins a new era in research and cooperation that will give our park professionals improved tools to combat the climate crisis, and it will be a model for urban parks across the country.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams

Experts from the Yale School of the Environment, the Natural Areas Conservancy, and the Central Park Conservancy, including our Institute for Urban Parks, will connect science with management practices for urban parks in a changing climate. Our goal is to help all cities enhance their ability to support the wellbeing of the hundreds of millions of people who visit or live near urban parks. Many American urbanites’ experience of nature begins and ends with their city’s public park system, and their health relies on these protection efforts. Together, we will better understand how urban greenspaces can be used to create a more resilient future for all.

A flooded Bethesda Terrace in the remnants of Hurricane Ida. Harmful algal blooms at the Lake in Central Park Ginkgo trees in Central Park

The Effects of Climate Change on Central Park

1) Hurricane Ida brought a record 3.15 inches of rain to Central Park in one hour on September 1, 2021, beating the record set just 10 days prior, and flooded Bethesda Fountain. (Photo by Steven Cohen, Conservancy volunteer) 2) Increasing global temperatures, a rise in pollution, and a build-up of nutrients in run-off water lead to the excess growth and prevalence of harmful algal blooms in the Park’s water bodies. 3) NYC experienced the hottest July on record in 2021, and three heat waves—including 17 days that exceeded 90 degrees—highlighting the importance of a healthy tree canopy.