USGS and EERE: Collaborating to Strengthen America’s Energy and Resource Independence

6 months ago

In our respective roles we are bringing together some of the best minds in the country to coordinate research and development (R&D) on energy and minerals. Together, the Department of Energy‚Äôs Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the Department of the Interior‚Äôs U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are improving energy integration, affordability, and diversity, and providing Americans with secure and reliable energy and mineral resources. Energy is at the heart of American life, and the need for affordable domestic energy has never been greater. As indicated by DOE‚Äôs 2019 report,¬†GeoVision: Harnessing the Heat Beneath Our Feet, one key opportunity to support this need is through the use of geothermal energy. USGS‚Äôs own national-scale geothermal assessment estimates that more than 30 GWe of undiscovered conventional geothermal resources exist in the United States ‚Äď enough to power more than 20 million households. First, we need to locate and harness these renewable sources of energy. Likewise, minerals are fundamental for sustaining our advanced economy. Our country faces an important challenge in finding ways to improve domestic availability of critical minerals such as lithium. In 2018, DOI issued a¬†list of 35¬†mineral commodities that are essential to our nation‚Äôs economy and security, and in 2019, the Administration published¬†A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals. This strategy directed DOE, DOI, and other agencies to identify new sources of mineral resources, explore innovative methods of producing and recycling them, and partner with state, academic, and industry experts to support the economic security and national defense of the United States.¬† DOE and DOI have partnered before on these important topics. DOE‚Äôs¬†Play Fairway Analysis¬†(PFA) used USGS data to help reduce exploration risk by locating and qualifying such resources. Leveraged from the oil and gas industry, PFA has proved successful at targeting undiscovered geothermal resources in several geologically favorable regions across the western United States. Now, we plan on bringing our joint expertise to bear in the Silver State. A geologic map of Nevada, showing the GeoDAWN project area with Federal and tribal lands marked. (Public domain.) The Partnership ‚Äď Leveraging Data for Combined Benefits A recent interagency agreement¬≠¬≠‚ÄĒGeoscience Data Acquisition for Western Nevada (GeoDAWN)‚ÄĒunites EERE‚Äôs Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) with the USGS Earth Mapping Resource Initiative (Earth MRI) and 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) to help provide solutions to meet U.S. needs for both energy and critical minerals. Under the GeoDAWN collaboration, researchers will gather new subsurface data specifically in the Walker Lane geologic zone in western Nevada. Nevada sits at the heart of the Basin and Range, an area marked by striking geologic features including an array of narrow, high-capped ridges and plateaus interspersed among dozens of dry sloping valleys. The area of focus is highly prospective for geothermal resources‚ÄĒNevada is second only to California in geothermal energy production and capacity‚ÄĒand offers a legacy of producing mined and refined ores. At or near the surface, where Earth MRI research is conducted, sediments and clays can contain significant quantities of critical materials. GeoDAWN researchers will leverage machine learning applied to data collection from this area that is rich in both geothermal and mineral resources to develop deeper understanding of the geologic conditions and stress regime that gives rise to these resources. These geophysical data will thus be utilized for dual objectives‚ÄĒlocating undiscovered geothermal resources while also identifying critical mineral deposits that can be mined for domestic use. Walker Lane (shown here) is a geologic trough that aligns with the border between California and Nevada. Its subsurface characteristics are of particular interest to GTO and USGS researchers. (Image courtesy of University of Nevada-Reno) Innovative Research and Added Benefits The datasets acquired under the GeoDAWN collaboration will form the basis for innovative machine learning that can enhance the ability to remotely characterize the subsurface. The massive scale of the study area and the large datasets that will be captured will enable the application of a variety of advanced machine learning techniques to the problem of locating subsurface resources. This will include a high-resolution aeromagnetic survey, where low-flying aircraft equipped with magnetometers detect and measure anomalies in the Earth‚Äôs magnetic field that correspond with regional subsurface structures; and lidar collection, wherein a detailed 3D model of the Earth‚Äôs topography is formed by scanning the surface from an aircraft with a pulsating laser and analyzing the return signal. These techniques allow researchers to see and analyze faults where they intersect the surface and to detect patterns in subsurface electromagnetic properties that may indicate conditions that are favorable for geothermal and/or mineral resources. This data collection will further strengthen the Earth MRI initiative, a partnership that includes state geological surveys and industry to generate state-of-the-art geologic mapping, geophysical surveys, and lidar data to improve knowledge of the geologic framework underlying the United States. The lidar data, in particular, will contribute to the 3DEP goal to complete acquisition of nationwide lidar by 2023. This will provide the first ever national baseline of consistent high-resolution elevation data‚ÄĒboth bare earth and 3D point clouds‚ÄĒin a timeframe of less than a decade. This collaborative work furthermore aligns with GTO‚Äôs mission to reduce the risks and costs associated with geothermal exploration and production, as well as with DOE‚Äôs broader strategic commitment to provide complementary assessments of critical and strategic minerals. The data could also benefit other U.S. industries‚ÄĒespecially mining, agriculture, and oil and gas‚ÄĒand can provide deeper understanding of the origin and evolution of mineral, energy, and water resources across a sizable portion of the western United States. As GeoDAWN gathers momentum, we look forward to new discoveries and opportunities. We plan to provide periodic updates to interested stakeholders as we work together to strengthen American energy and critical mineral independence. We are actively expanding partnerships across other federal agencies with a connection or interest in subsurface resources. This agreement and alignment of our federal departments and agencies enhances our understanding of geologic conditions and data, expanding our opportunities to bolster America‚Äôs economy, workforce, and resource independence. The original blog post can be found here. ¬†

USGS Crews Work to Measure Record Flooding Caused By Sally

6 months ago

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USGS Science to Keep Us Safe: Floods and Drought

6 months ago

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration assessment of severe weather and climate event costs found that, on average, droughts and floods cost about $9.5 billion and $4.3 billion per event, respectively. On April 10, USGS hydrographer¬†Josh Sundberg¬†measures Red River water flowing over the road in East Grand Forks, Minnesota as flood protection walls prevent further flooding.(Credit: Peter Goettsch, USGS. Public domain.) Taking the Pulse on the Nation‚Äôs Water The USGS nationwide streamgage network provides emergency managers with real-time information to monitor floodwaters across the nation. The data collected by about 11,300 gages across the country provide vital information to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Weather Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal, state and local agencies, enabling them to make river forecasts, operate flood control structures and make important emergency management decisions. Keeping Communities Safe USGS science information helps safeguard communities during water-related severe weather or climate events. USGS science and data help to minimize the loss of life and property due to hazards by supporting flood forecasting, informing drought and post-fire conditions, and monitoring floods, debris flows and storm surge during hurricanes and other low-pressure systems and tsunamis. During flood events, USGS crews are deployed into the field to verify flood data and collect additional measurements needed by partners. Coming Soon ‚Äď A New Map (or App) for Flood Preparedness When water levels are rising, it can be hard to quickly get all the information you need about your area, especially when you‚Äôre not in front of a computer. In the coming weeks, the USGS will be releasing a new cutting-edge map that will provide critical current water information and NWS forecast information at your fingertips on a desktop, smartphone or other mobile device.¬† Now you don‚Äôt have to search multiple sources when you want the latest information on floods and droughts, or when you‚Äôre just deciding your next recreation destination. The¬†upcoming USGS National Water Dashboard presents real-time stream, lake and reservoir, precipitation and groundwater data for more than 13,500 USGS real-time observation stations across the country. This information is shown along with weather data such as radar, watches and warnings, past precipitation totals, precipitation forecasts and drought conditions from other sources. The NWD will also link to the USGS WaterAlert system, which sends out instant, customized updates about water conditions. Deploying Equipment Before a Flood If flooding is expected due to a hurricane or tropical storm, USGS field crews will deploy to the storm‚Äôs projected path along the coast to install special water-level measuring instruments called storm-tide sensors. These sensors record data that track storm tides and coastal flooding. This information helps USGS and NOAA scientists improve forecast models. It also helps relief efforts by FEMA and other federal, state and local agencies by pinpointing the areas hardest hit by storm-tide flooding. Storm-tide sensor information can also help engineers design structures to better withstand floods and assess how well dunes and wetlands reduce storm damage. It can help inform land-use practices and building codes, which can lead to more resilient coastal communities. USGS crews may also install rapid-deployment gages at locations that are not monitored year-round like permanent streamgages but are at risk of flooding due to an approaching storm. These RDGs provide real-time information on water levels, precipitation, wind speed, humidity and barometric pressure to assist emergency managers tracking floodwaters. RDGs can be quickly installed at critical locations to augment the USGS streamgage network. You can track storm-tide sensor and RDG deployments and view past storms on the¬†USGS Flood Event Viewer¬†and see USGS streamgage readings in real time on both the viewer and the¬†USGS National Water Information System. USGS scientists measures a high-water mark. Credit: USGS, public domain. How High Did the Water Reach? After the floodwaters subside, the USGS starts the extensive effort of finding¬†high-water marks. During a flood event, rising waters are loaded with floating debris, seeds and dirt that can stick to buildings, trees or other structures. Once floodwaters recede from their highest peak, the line of debris left behind is a high-water mark and it can indicate to scientists the highest point the flood reached. But, these marks are fragile and easily destroyed ‚Äď both by people cleaning up and by natural weathering ‚Äď so collecting them is a time-sensitive effort. After most major floods, the USGS partners with FEMA, USACE, NWS and other agencies to identify high-water marks throughout the affected areas. Depending on where these high-water marks are located, they can be used for a variety of purposes, like improving computer models used for predicting the severity of future floods. One of the most important uses of high-water-mark data is so FEMA can revise their flood hazard maps. These maps help identify areas that are likely to experience high water in the event of a flood that has a 1% chance of happening in any given year. These floods, often referred to as¬†100-year floods, are the most common severe inundation events and serve as the foundation for flood management planning. Another significant use for these high-water marks is the¬†USGS Flood Inundation Mapping effort. These maps are developed using models that incorporate high-water marks, streamgage and storm surge information. The maps can be used by resource managers to assist in updating building codes, verifying safe evacuation routes, bridge design, environmental assessments and other community planning efforts. Drought ruined soybean crop in Sumter County, Georgia by Alan Cressler. Credit: USGS, Public domain. A Flood of Information ‚Äď Even During Drought Agricultural crops can wither in a flash when the days turn hot, the air dries, the rain stops and moisture evaporates quickly from the soil. The early warning Quick Drought Response Index, or QuickDRI, can help alert managers and others as drought conditions occur. QuickDRI serves as a weekly drought alarm, providing an indicator of emerging or rapidly changing drought conditions. Like its companion¬†Vegetation Drought Response Index, or VegDRI, which portrays drought‚Äôs effect on vegetation conditions, QuickDRI relies on a number of remotely-sensed indicators. Decades of satellite data housed at the¬†USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science, or EROS, Center¬†provide a resource for assessing abnormal vegetation and climate conditions over a longer historical period. However, VegDRI is a seasonal drought indicator. For faster-moving droughts, QuickDRI was developed to detect drought‚Äôs effects much more quickly. Looking Towards the Future As the Atlantic Coast prepares for upcoming storms and the West experiences drought, the USGS will continue to provide data to help resource managers plan for the future. Stay up-to-date on water conditions in your local area by visiting the USGS¬†WaterWatch¬†website. You can also sign up for high-water alerts through USGS¬†WaterAlert. Flood and Drought Resources For more information please visit these websites: USGS Flood Information‚ÄĒInformation about current and past flooding USGS WaterAlert¬†‚Äď Sends email or text messages from the USGS streamgage of your choice USGS WaterWatch‚ÄĒ Provides current USGS water data for the nation Monitoring Vegetation Drought Stress ‚Äď Provides resources for drought response index ¬†

National Preparedness Month 2020: Landslides and Sinkholes

6 months ago

USGS:¬† Start with Science The USGS works with many partners to monitor, assess, and conduct research on a wide range of natural hazards. USGS science provides policymakers, emergency managers, and the public the understanding needed to enhance family and community preparedness, response, and resilience. By identifying potential hazards and using USGS hazards science, federal, state, and local agencies can mitigate risk. In addition, USGS science can inform planning for major infrastructure investments and strengthen private property standards and materials, which help make homes and communities more resilient to natural hazards. While everyone should be aware of the hazards that are most prevalent in their community, the annual National Preparedness Month is a great time to learn about all hazards.¬† Two of the lesser-known hazards for most Americans ‚Äď but which can occur almost anywhere ‚Äď are landslides and sinkholes. Landslides Landslides occur in all fifty states and every U.S. territory, and cause the loss of life and billions of dollars in damage to public and private property annually. The USGS Landslide Hazard program (LHP) is dedicated to understanding how and why these events occur and how best to make informed assessments of the hazard to inform communities that may be at risk, ultimately helping to save lives and property, and to support the economic well-being of American communities. Diagram of deep-seated landslide, from USGS Fact Sheet 3004‚Äď3072, ‚ÄúLandslide Types and Processes.‚ÄĚ (Public domain.) Landslide processes and characteristics, such as size, distance travelled, trigger, and speed can vary tremendously, and these differences make understanding landslide events challenging. USGS scientists work to assess¬†where, when, and how often landslides occur and how fast and far they might travel. The following examples of recent landslide research by the USGS LHP show how our scientists provide reliable scientific information to minimize the loss of life, infrastructure, and property. United States Landslide Inventory Map ‚Äď Our understanding of landslide hazards at the national scale is limited because landslide information across the U.S. is incomplete, varies in quality, and is not accessible in a single location. In order to fix these obstacles, USGS scientists produced a website that marks an important step toward mapping areas that could be at higher risk for future landslides.¬†In collaboration with state geological surveys and other Federal agencies, USGS has compiled much of the existing landslide data into a searchable, web-based interactive map called the¬†U.S. Landslide Inventory Map. This database is an important first step to helping assess where, when, and how often landslides occur in the United States. Oso Landslide 3D Elevation example screenshot from the¬†USGS 3D Elevation Program (3DEP). (Public domain.) ¬† Barry Arm Landslide, Prince William Sound, Alaska ‚Äď In May of this year, the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys (ADGGS) alerted nearby communities and businesses about the possibility of a¬†large landslide at the tip of the Barry Glacier in the Prince William Sound of Alaska that could enter the fiord and cause a potentially significant tsunami in the region. Annotated photo showing landslide areas of Barry Arm Fjord, Alaska.¬†Subaerial landslides at the head of Barry Arm Fjord in southern Alaska could generate tsunamis (if they rapidly failed into the Fjord) and are therefore a potential threat to people, marine interests, and infrastructure throughout the Prince William Sound region. (Public domain.) USGS landslide geologists and remote-sensing experts coordinated with the Civil Applications Center and collected radar and optical imagery over the landslide, which revealed less than a few centimeters of landslide movement from late June to August of 2020. To complement these data, ADGGS collected high-resolution light detection and ranging (lidar) data and optical ortho-imagery (or imagery collected by remote sensors and then enhanced with geometric methods) of the landslide to get a more comprehensive picture of what is taking place in the area around the glacier. The interagency group continues to regularly meet and release data and information for the public. ¬† Post-Wildfire Debris-Flow Hazard Assessments:¬† Glenwood Canyon, Colorado ‚Äď In August of 2020, the Grizzly Creek Fire burned through steep terrain in Glenwood Canyon and closed Interstate 70, which is the main east-west transportation route through Colorado. This is near the location of the deadly 1994 South Canyon Fire and Storm King mountain, where debris flows in September 1994 swept vehicles off the road. A ‚Äúdebris flow‚ÄĚ is a type of landslide that typically consists of a fast-moving mass of water, rock, soil, vegetation, and even boulders and trees, and can be very hazardous to infrastructure and public safety. USGS investigations into the 1994 event marked the beginning of coordinated efforts to provide what are called ‚Äúpost-fire debris-flow‚ÄĚ hazard assessments. Emphasis on this specific type of landslide was the result of realizing that after a fire, certain conditions including burn severity, vegetation type, slope steepness, soil type, and, most significantly, the amount of post-fire rainfall can contribute to these highly destructive debris flows. Debris flows are one of the most dangerous hazards after a wildfire, and community awareness is critical. Grizzly Creek Fire (Colorado) Post-fire Debris-flow Hazard Map¬†displays estimates of the likelihood of debris flow (in %), potential volume of debris flow (in m3), and combined relative debris flow hazard. These predictions are made at the scale of the drainage basin, and at the scale of the individual stream segment. Estimates of probability, volume, and combined hazard are based upon a design storm with a peak 15-minute rainfall intensity of 24 millimeters per hour (mm/h). Predictions may be viewed interactively by clicking on the button at the top right corner of the map displayed above. (Public domain.) Typically, after a forest fire is contained or nearly contained, the USGS LHP provides rapid assessments of post-fire debris-flow potential and size, in relation to estimates of triggering rainfall. These assessments support Federal, state, and local land and emergency response managers, homeowners, natural resource agencies, and other government agencies in identifying and potentially mitigating post-wildfire debris flows. Landslide hazard mapping and data are posted at the USGS¬† Emergency Assessment of Post-Fire Debris-Flow Hazards website along with more than a dozen additional post-wildfire debris flow assessments for large fires across the country. For the Glenwood Canyon Fire, at the request of the U.S. Forest Service, and while the fire was still rapidly growing, the USGS delivered a ‚Äúpre-fire‚ÄĚ debris-flow hazard assessment for¬†all¬†of Glenwood Canyon, including portions that had not burned. USGS scientists collaborated with an interagency Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service, USFS, and state agencies to produce these assessments. The maps were then used to inform fire operations staff of locations at potential risk for post-wildfire debris flows and to stage fire-fighting equipment and personnel. The USGS will also deliver a final post-fire debris flow assessment after the BAER team finalize their soil burn severity map, which is a key input to the overall hazard model. ¬† Sinkholes Every year, land subsidence and collapse ‚Äď or ‚Äúsinkholes‚ÄĚ ‚Äď causes significant damage to personal property and public infrastructure. By one estimate, the cost of sinkhole damage to the country is several hundred million dollars annually; however, sinkhole occurrences are often not reported, and the true cost is likely much higher. Photo 14 of 15: Remnants of community pool in sinkhole. View to east across the sinkhole. (Credit: Anthony S. Navoy, USGS. Public domain.) One of the more famous sinkhole events occurred on February 12th, 2014. A large sinkhole opened beneath the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky and damaged or destroyed eight cars. Although the property damage was substantial, the collapse occurred in the early morning while the museum was closed and fortunately no one was hurt. A much more tragic event occurred a year earlier. A man in Seffner, Florida, lost his life when a sinkhole opened beneath his house and swallowed him while he was in bed. What exactly is a sinkhole, and why do they occur? Sinkholes form when the land surface slowly subsides or collapses into pre-existing voids underground ‚Äď essentially ‚Äúair pockets‚ÄĚ underneath the perceptibly ‚Äúsolid‚ÄĚ ground we walk on every day. Such voids are often the result of movement and removal of sediments by water flow, a process known as piping. A sinkhole can occur as a result of natural processes or can be induced by human activities. Cover-collapse sinkholes Cover-collapse sinkholes may develop abruptly (over a period of hours) and cause catastrophic damages. They occur where the covering sediments contain a significant amount of clay. Over time, surface drainage, erosion, and deposition of sinkhole into a shallower bowl-shaped depression. ‚Ėļ Learn more about sinkholes (Public domain.) Some minerals, such as salt, limestone, or gypsum, in bedrock can dissolve slowly over time and leave open voids within the rock where groundwater flows. These areas are called karst and have characteristic landforms such as caves, sinking streams, and springs in addition to sinkholes. About twenty percent of the nation has the potential to host karst landscapes. In karst areas, the sediments overlying the bedrock are piped down into the bedrock voids and ultimately carried away by moving groundwater. The surface landforms are the result of voids in the bedrock formed by this process over long periods of geologic time, and as those sediments covering the bedrock are removed, subsidence occurs. The USGS produces geologic and subsurface maps that help managers and others to understand karst regions and identify local areas that may be susceptible to sinkholes. Where do sinkholes occur? Although there is not yet an effective method to predict where an individual sinkhole may occur, the USGS produces geologic maps that help to identify regions that may be susceptible to sinkhole formation. However, sinkholes can occur just about anywhere. It all depends on the subsurface geological composition and the characteristics of the area, i.e., type of unconsolidated and consolidated soils, infrastructure, and void dynamics. Map shows karst areas of the continental United States having sinkholes in¬†soluble rocks¬†(carbonates and evaporites),¬†as well as insoluble volcanic rocks that contain sinkholes. The volcanic bedrock areas contain lava tubes that are voids left behind by the subsurface flow of lava, rather than from the dissolution of the bedrock.¬†¬†Hot spots of sinkhole activity are also shown in areas of greater susceptibility.¬†Source: Progress toward a preliminary karst depression density map for the conterminous United States https://doi.org/10.5038/9781733375313.1003¬† (Public domain.) What to do if you think you have found a sinkhole? It is recommended that people constantly observe their property for signs of ‚Äúsubsidence,‚ÄĚ (aka, ‚Äúsinking‚ÄĚ) such as tilted floors, misaligned door frames, or cracking and small holes in and around structural foundations. Water that flows on the surface and sinks into a depression or directly into a hole within the ground surface may indicate a sinkhole. In areas historically susceptible to sinkholes, surface streams can disappear entirely into active sinkholes and may be a concern for groundwater quality.¬† Additionally, information on the locations of areas susceptible to sinkholes can be obtained from county offices, local or state geological surveys, or maps produced by the USGS. Excavated sinkhole¬†at a golf course at Top of the Rock Ozarks Heritage Preserve in Missouri that occurred in May of 2015. Photo taken in February of 2018. (Credit: David Weary, USGS. ) I have (or think I have) a sinkhole on my property. What should I do?¬† First, rule out human causes for a possible sinkhole. Some¬†sinkholes¬†are the result of leaky underground pipes (this would be an issue for your utility company), poor drainage control around building foundations, or¬†old construction pits¬†or buried materials¬†that have settled.¬†While the USGS studies the areas that¬†can potentially form natural sinkholes, the agency does not investigate individual¬†sinkholes on private property.¬† Cover-collapse sinkhole in limestone near Frederick, Maryland (September 2003). Many sinkholes occur along highways where rainwater runoff is concentrated into storm drains and ditches increasing the rate of sinkhole development (note the sewer drain pipe beneath roadway). (Credit: Randall Orndorff, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.) If you are confident that a possible sinkhole is a result of natural causes, you can:¬† check your homeowner's insurance policy to see if you might be covered (depending upon which state you live in, insurance policies may not cover damage due to natural sinkholes). contact the appropriate utility company¬†if you are concerned about damage to gas, electric, water, or sewer lines. contact your¬†state geological survey. They¬†are the experts in your area‚Äôs geology, and they¬†might be able to explain why a sinkhole is forming. Some states have¬†extensive online information about sinkholes, and they often have a mechanism to report them.¬† If you do confirm that there is a sinkhole in your area, ultimately a professional geologist or geotechnical¬†engineer¬†should be consulted either by you or state authorities to determine what is happening¬†and how the impacts of a sinkhole might be mitigated. ¬† More Information on Landslides and Sinkholes Landslide-Generated Tsunami Risk in Prince William Sound webpage USGS Barry Arm Facebook post, August 28th, 2020 The Cost of Sinkholes USGS Water Science School ‚Äď Sinkholes¬† ¬† ¬†

Coastal Change Happens! USGS Has Data and Tools to Help Coastal Communities Prepare

6 months ago

The U.S. Geological Survey has launched a new Coastal Change Hazards website focused on coordinating research and delivering tools needed by coastal communities to respond to natural hazards along our Nation's coastlines. As Hurricane Sally approached the US Gulf Coast, the USGS Coastal Change Hazards team produced a series of forecasts for impacts on the beach. Forecasts were updated daily based on wave and storm surge forecasts from NOAA. (Public domain.) Our Nation‚Äôs coasts vary greatly, from relaxing sandy beaches and barrier islands, ecologically productive marshes, magnificent rocky coasts and cliffs, to tropical islands fringed by coral reefs and permafrost coasts where ice holds the sediments together. Each coastline is unique and faces different elements of coastal change. Equally importantly, with more than 40% of the United States population inhabiting coastal counties, we must use the best available information and tools to reduce societal risk, protect natural resources, develop and plan for smart infrastructure and provide science for a changing landscape. ¬† USGS‚Äôs Coastal Change Hazards (CCH) brings together expertise, technology and communities to help understand and reduce risks associated with coastal change. Doing so will ensure that USGS high-quality coastal science and tools are directly addressing the needs of coastal communities around the Nation, protecting the lives, property and economic prosperity. USGS scientists discuss coastal change with uniformed NPS resource managers on a barrier island beach. (Credit: Erika Lentz, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.) It is About Much More Than Hurricanes When hurricane season is in full swing, coastal change becomes a particularly important topic of conversation for emergency managers, first responders, coastal property owners and infrastructure- and resource managers and planners. However, extreme storms are not the only cause of coastal change. Coasts are dynamic places and changes to these environments are ongoing and inevitable ‚Äď from waves impacts to cliffs, to centuries of sediment transport and runoff, to ever-present forces of wind and waves continually shaping coastal areas over millennia. USGS science helps identify the hazards and forecast changes in order to help reduce risk and inform planning and decision-making. ‚ÄúThe USGS Coastal and Marine Hazards and Resources Program supports scientists who are working strategically to harness new technology and integrate science from different disciplines and partners so that we can provide information, tools and forecasts that help describe hazards and risks to human infrastructure and natural systems,‚ÄĚ says the program‚Äôs coordinator John Haines. ‚ÄúBy bringing these capabilities together, we can better help decision makers weigh options on how best to protect lives, property and the value our coasts provide.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúThe USGS has been studying coastal processes and change for a very long time, but now we are taking a nationally consistent approach to connect that research with societal needs,‚ÄĚ says Hilary Stockdon, Research Oceanographer and lead Science Advisor for CCH. ‚ÄúCCH is working to ensure that USGS tools and products ‚Äď from historical trends in coastline change to forecasts of impacts from extreme storms and changes in coastal habitat ‚Äď are available everywhere. By coordinating expertise and capabilities within the Coastal and Marine Hazards and Resource Program and across other USGS programs, we can both advance our fundamental understanding of coastal hazards and deliver useful science to the communities that need it.‚ÄĚ USGS monitoring of shorelines before, during and after storms informs emergency managers on evacuation mandates and storm recovery planning, which can help to alleviate risk and loss from storms. One of the many successful tools created by CCH is the Total Water Level and Coastal Change Forecast viewer, developed and provided in close collaboration with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which provides hourly predictions of high water levels at the shoreline, giving ¬†users much-needed advance notice of the potential for local flooding and coastal erosion hazards on sandy coastlines around the U.S. Neal Pastick ‚Äď lead author of the study ‚Äď investigating erosion along Alaska‚Äôs Arctic coastline near the village of Kaktovik. Permafrost-dominated coasts of Alaska have drastically changed as the result of coastal transgression and storm-surge flooding which can result in the loss of cultural sites and damage to infrastructure.¬† Photo by M. Torre Jorgenson (Public domain.) Coastal Change Hazards within a 21st Century Vision The USGS has a long history of advancing Earth science and identifying opportunities to integrate across disciplines to address complex societal problems. ‚ÄúCoastal change hazards science is a prime example of this legacy. The CCH works to bring together research, applications and communications to effectively deliver useful information and tools directly to those who need it to help minimize natural hazard risks along our Nation‚Äôs coastlines,‚ÄĚ said David Applegate, Associate Director for the USGS Natural Hazards Mission Area. The USGS works with other federal agencies, such as NOAA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to advance our Nation‚Äôs hazard science and deliver information. ‚ÄúThese collaborations are beneficial for advancing both research and public safety. For example, by integrating the USGS CCH coastal change models with NOAA‚Äôs wave and surge forecasts, we are able to provide emergency managers and coastal communities with more robust information to prepare for advancing storms.‚Ä̬† ¬† The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers restores the coastline of St. Augustine Beach, Florida, for protection and recreational use. The sand for the project comes from the seabed offshore of northeast Florida.¬†Fifty-nine percent¬†of Florida's beaches are experiencing erosion. (Credit: Mark Bias. Public domain.) One key aspect of CCH is to work directly with stakeholders to ensure that science products are usable so communities can prepare for coastal hazards and reduce associated risks. ¬† Explore Coastal Hazards through Interactive Stories CCH has developed a series of¬†educational, interactive webpages (geonarratives)¬†that take you on a journey across our¬†Nation‚Äôs coastlines¬†to learn about coastal change in various environments, become familiar with the hazards posed by these changes and understand how USGS science and tools can help coastal communities mitigate these risks and prepare for future change. You can explore how¬†barrier islands¬†and¬†shorelines¬†move over time or how we¬†forecast coastal change, learn how¬†coral reefs¬†make a difference in coastal protection, interact with our tools for visualizing¬†coastal storm impacts¬†on the California¬†coast, or examine how permafrost and seasonal ice makes coastal change in¬†Alaska¬†unique. You can explore it all online in geonarrative format. Coastal change is inevitable, but coastal management¬†decisions¬†that are guided by USGS CCH science and tools can help our society reduce risk and losses.¬†Through the focused efforts on coastal change hazards and growing connections to other areas of USGS expertise and capabilities, we¬†are fulfilling the vision of¬†a Nation that¬†prospers by¬†using¬†scientific knowledge to prepare for, mitigate, and respond to threats posed by our dynamic¬†coasts.

USGS Deploying Storm Tide Sensors Along Gulf Coast for Hurricane Delta

6 months ago

Taylor Kirkpatrick deploying a storm tide sensor October 6 in Santa Rosa County, Florida to monitor water levels likely to be affected by Hurricane Delta. Photo by Rob Clendening, USGS. (Public domain.) Hurricane Delta is forecast to cause life-threatening storm surge and extensive coastal change along the Gulf Coast, particularly in Louisiana, and U.S. Geological Survey scientists are quickly installing 30 storm tide sensors to measure the intense waves and storm surge Delta will generate. Scientists can use information gathered by the sensors to fine-tune future storm surge and coastal change forecasts. The sensor data can also be used to guide recovery efforts, plan evacuation routes, identify areas hardest hit by storm surge and improve structure designs to increase public safety. Field crews from the USGS Lower Mississippi Gulf Water Science Center and Wetland and Aquatic Research Center are installing 24 storm tide sensors from the Texas-Louisiana border along the coast to Gulf Shores, Alabama. Crews from the USGS Caribbean and Florida Water Science Center are installing 6 storm tide sensors from Pensacola Beach to Panama City, Florida. The work is expected to be completed late October 7. USGS storm tide sensors provide essential surge and wave data that local, state and federal officials can use to help protect lives and property. Storm tides are increases in ocean water levels caused by coastal storms and include storm- generated surge plus changes caused by local tides. Storm tides are among the most dangerous natural hazards unleashed by hurricanes. They can destroy homes and businesses; wipe out roads, bridges, water and sewer systems; and profoundly alter coastal landscapes. The storm tide sensors being installed collect data that will help define the depth and duration of Delta’s surge and the time of its arrival and departure. USGS scientists are also activating two seasonal rapid deployment gauges in Panama City and Destin, Florida to monitor potential flooding from Delta. These rapid deployment gauges will monitor locations that may be impacted by floodwaters. They provide real-time information to the National Weather Service, FEMA and other USGS partners involved in issuing flood and evacuation warnings and coordinating emergency responses. The storm tide sensors are housed in vented steel pipes a few inches wide and about a foot long. They are being installed on bridges, piers, and other structures that have a good chance of surviving the storm. Information on the storm tide sensor deployment and the incoming data will be available on the USGS Flood Event Viewer. As the USGS continues to take all appropriate preparedness actions in response to Hurricane Delta, those ­­­in the storm’s projected path can visit ready.gov or listo.gov for tips on creating emergency plans and putting together an emergency supply kit.

USGS: Delta will erode parts of Louisiana, Texas coasts

6 months ago

Hurricane Delta is expected to make landfall Friday, bringing erosion and some flooding to sandy coastal beaches and barrier islands¬†in¬†Louisiana¬†and Southeast Texas near the storm‚Äôs landfall, according to the U.S.¬†Geological¬†Survey‚Äôs updated coastal change¬†forecast. Though the extent of the affected area is smaller than it was in earlier USGS coastal forecasts,¬†some sandy beaches in Louisiana may still be heavily damaged by the storm.¬†¬† Louisiana is expected to bear the brunt of the storm‚Äôs strong waves and surge, with 35%¬†of the sandy beaches forecast to be inundated, or continuously covered by ocean water.¬†This is the most severe type of storm effect on coastal beaches, with flooding behind the dunes that may affect coastal communities. Minimal impacts are expected for Texas, Mississippi and Alabama.¬† ‚ÄúThe numbers don‚Äôt mean that the impact overall has decreased. They mean that the hazards will be more localized along the storm‚Äôs path,‚ÄĚ said USGS oceanographer Kara Doran. ‚ÄúThat means the effects will not be as widespread on Texas and Louisiana beaches, overall.‚Ä̬†¬† Scientists and emergency managers can use USGS‚Äôs¬†forecasts - produced¬†before major hurricanes and other powerful storms - to plan evacuations and position clean-up equipment to have it ready after the¬†storm.¬†¬† The USGS coastal erosion prediction covers only sandy shorelines, such as beaches and barrier islands, and not marshes, forests or shorelines with seawalls or other armoring.¬†¬† The least severe level of storm damage on sandy shorelines is erosion at the base of sand dunes, known as collision. About¬†¬†60% of Louisiana‚Äôs sandy shorelines and¬†45%of Texas beaches and barrier islands from¬†Matagorda¬†to the Louisiana border are predicted to erode at the dunes‚Äô base.¬†¬† ¬† This Coastal Change Storm Hazard Team forecast was made at¬†4AM CDT¬† October 9, 2020¬†and shows forecast beach erosion at the base of the dunes (the strip of colored bars closest to the coast),¬†overwash¬†(middle strip) and inundation (outer strip) from Hurricane¬†Delta.¬† The model accounts for sandy beaches and barrier islands and does not include marshes, forested or sea walled shorelines. Credit: USGS, Public domain.¬†¬† (Public domain.) ¬†¬† Overwash¬†is the middle range of potential storm¬†impacts on beaches. As waves and surge reach higher than the top of the dune,¬†overwash¬†can transport large amounts of sand across coastal environments, depositing sand inland and causing significant changes to the landscape.¬†Overwash¬†can reduce the height of the coast‚Äôs protective line of sand dunes, alter the beaches‚Äô profile, and leave areas behind the dunes more vulnerable to future storms.¬†¬† About¬†64% of¬†¬†Louisiana‚Äôs sandy beaches are very likely to be affected by¬†overwash. Texas is forecast to have¬†17% of its beaches¬†overwashed.¬†¬† The¬†forecast¬†of¬†Delta‚Äôs¬†effects on sandy shorelines at landfall is¬†based on results of the USGS Coastal Change Forecast model, which has been in use since 2011 and is continually being improved. The Coastal Change Forecast¬†model uses¬†the National Hurricane Center‚Äôs storm surge predictions and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wave forecast models. The USGS model then adds detailed information about the forecast landfall region‚Äôs beach slope and dune height. The predictions define ‚Äúvery likely‚ÄĚ effects as those that have at least a 90 percent chance of taking place, based on the storm‚Äôs forecast track and intensity.¬†¬†¬† The latest coastal change forecast for¬†Delta¬†is at ‚ÄĮhttps://marine.usgs.gov/coastalchangehazardsportal/.¬†The coastal change forecast¬†will be updated¬†as¬†the¬†National¬†¬†Hurricane¬†Center‚Äôs surge forecasts change.¬†¬† As the USGS continues to take all appropriate preparedness actions in response¬†to Delta, those in the storm's projected path can visit‚ÄĮ¬†Ready.gov‚ÄĮ or ‚ÄĮListo.gov¬†‚ÄĮfor tips on creating emergency plans and putting together an emergency supply kit.¬†¬† ¬†¬†

Mineral Science Reaches New Heights

6 months ago

Mapping a Hidden Volcanic Terrane under America‚Äôs Heartland In late 2019, residents near the confluence of the Ohio and Wabash Rivers might have noticed a small aircraft zig-zagging low in the sky over farms and country roads. This plane was in the process of scanning deep under the surface of the Earth to learn more about the region‚Äôs turbulent geologic past. ‚ÄúWhen we think of southern Illinois and western Kentucky, we might envision rolling green hills, farm fields and the Ohio River. We don‚Äôt typically think of volcanic rocks that originated from magmas deep within the mantle and exploded their way through thousands of feet of older sedimentary rock.¬† But that‚Äôs just what‚Äôs happened around 270 million years ago under what is now southern Illinois and western Kentucky,‚ÄĚ said USGS scientist Anne McCafferty, who led the survey.¬† Fluorite from Southern Illinois.¬†(Public domain.) Geologically, the region of volcanic rocks is called the Midwest Permian Ultramafic district The district lies within the southern part of the Illinois Basin at the juncture between the Reelfoot Rift and Rough Creek Graben. The Reelfoot Rift and Rough Creek Graben are thought to have formed 750 million years ago during the Precambrian. Today, these geologic features are the focus of modern-day earthquake activity as part of the New Madrid and Wabash Valley seismic zones.¬† In addition to a potential for seismic hazards, this region is of great interest for its mineral resource potential and is the location for the Illinois-Kentucky fluorspar mineral district. Deposits in the mineral district are hosted in sedimentary rock with some of the mineralization presumed to be connected to the ultramafic rocks. The Illinois-Kentucky fluorspar mineral district¬†was once a¬†major source for America‚Äôs fluorspar,¬†a critical mineral commodity¬†that is¬†mainly used¬†today¬†in the manufacture of aluminum, gasoline, and uranium fuel.¬†Other mineral commodities that occur in the area include significant amounts of lead, zinc, barite, cadmium, and germanium.¬† The ultramafic rocks can also be a potential source for rare earth elements and titanium mineralization. Within the fluorspar and ultramafic districts sit several geologic features of great interest for their mineral potential, including Hicks Dome, the Coefield magnetic anomaly, and Omaha Dome. ¬† View of Hicks Dome, Hardin County, Illinois, looking East. (Image courtesy of L.M. Nuelle) ‚ÄúRare earth elements, titanium, and fluorspar are a few of the mineral commodities the Department of the Interior deemed critical to the economy and security of the United States, so we‚Äôre very interested in learning more about the geology of this underexplored area of the Midcontinent,‚ÄĚ explained McCafferty. ‚ÄúSince this region is known for several critical-mineral deposit types, the geology drew our attention for a closer look.‚ÄĚ Ultramafic rocks are extremely rich in magnesium and iron and typically contain small amounts of the mineral magnetite. Magnetite in rocks produces magnetic anomalies that can be mapped using modern airborne surveying technologies. That‚Äôs why McCafferty and her colleagues turned to the sky to see under the ground. The results of the survey brought Hicks Dome, Omaha Dome, and the Coefield Anomaly into clear focus. ‚ÄúYou can see the magnetic anomaly signatures of these features,‚ÄĚ McCafferty said. ‚ÄúBoth Omaha Dome and the Coefield Anomaly are well defined against the non-magnetic rock of the surrounding area, and the results over Hicks Dome provides us with increased insight into the geology of this enigmatic mineral feature.‚ÄĚ The new airborne geophysical survey will give resource managers and decision makers in the region valuable insights into the mineral potential in the lower Ohio River Valley as well as help characterize the seismic hazards associated with the New Madrid fault zone. Airborne geophysical maps of Hicks Dome and Omaha Dome in the Ohio River Valley.¬†(Public domain.) Criss-crossing the Country for Critical Minerals Over the past year, several other surveys similar to the one over Hicks Dome have been conducted as part of the Earth MRI project. Recent flights have mapped areas in South Carolina, the Mojave Desert of California and Nevada, and northern Arkansas. Similar to the lower Ohio River Valley survey, the mineral commodities of interest for these flights have been the rare earth elements. Vital for many electronics, renewable energy, and defense applications, the rare earth elements are one of the 35 mineral commodities designated by the Department of the Interior as critical to the Nation‚Äôs economy and security. In its first year, Earth MRI chose to focus primarily on the rare earths as test cases for determining how to proceed with mapping for the other 35 commodities. In addition to the airborne geophysical survey, Earth MRI has also conducted two other types of surveys: lidar and geologic mapping surveys. Lidar, which uses lasers to produce high-resolution topographic maps, helps identify surface rock formations especially when there is heavy vegetation covering the rocks. Lidar surveys are also conducted from an airplane and were flown as separate efforts over the Mojave Desert and the Lower Ohio River Valley survey areas. In addition, areas of interest in southern Idaho and southern Virginia were also mapped with lidar. Geologic maps supplement the data from airborne geophysical surveys and give a more wholistic understanding of the mineral potential in a region. In addition to the Mojave Desert and lower Ohio River Valley, Earth MRI worked with state geological survey partners in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia to conduct geologic mapping in their states. All of these projects can be accessed here. Thumnail image of airborne geophysical data collected over northwest Arkansas during 2019-2020.¬†(Public domain.) Start with Science These projects represent just a small fraction of the area of the United States that needs to be mapped for resource potential. Very little of the country has been covered with aeromagnetic data that fully meet modern standards and best practices. ‚ÄúAlthough our survey of the Lower Ohio River Valley is a good start, we still have a long way to go,‚ÄĚ said McCafferty. ‚ÄúThe new geophysical survey covers only 3.8 percent of Illinois, 5.5 percent of Kentucky, and less than 1 percent of Indiana.‚Ä̬† To remedy the lack of high-quality data, another airborne geophysical campaign is planned for the fall of 2020 and will augment the IL/KY/IN survey along its west side. The survey is being supported by the USGS Earth MRI, with additional funding provided by the Missouri Geological Survey and the USGS National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program. The survey is being called the ‚ÄúGap‚ÄĚ survey as it will fill a gap between two high-quality geophysical surveys acquired by the USGS from 2014 to 2019.¬† This project will join 22 other partnerships across the country as part of Earth MRI‚Äôs 2020 project selections, collecting airborne geophysical data, lidar, geologic mapping and geochemistry in 21 states. A total of $6.54 million in funding will be devoted to the effort. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm very excited to see my project and these others move forward,‚ÄĚ said McCafferty. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a fantastic opportunity to partner with the states to bring our understanding of the Nation‚Äôs geologic story to the next level.‚ÄĚ A full list of Earth MRI‚Äôs 2020 projects can be found here. More information on Earth MRI may be found here. To keep up-to-date on USGS mineral science, follow us on Twitter.

ShakeOut 2020: Staying Safe When the Ground Starts to Rumble

6 months ago

U.S. Geological Survey scientists have¬†determined¬†that nearly half of Americans are exposed to potentially damaging earthquakes based on where they work and live. Still others will be at risk when traveling. Everyone everywhere should know how to protect themselves during an earthquake. Be prepared and join¬†millions of people¬†participating in Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills worldwide Oct. 15.¬†During the drill, participants practice ‚ÄúDrop, Cover and Hold On.‚Ä̬†This is the recommended safety action¬†to take during an earthquake. Earthquake hazard map showing peak ground accelerations having a 2 percent probability of being exceeded in 50 years, for a firm rock site.¬† The map is based on the most recent USGS models for the conterminous U.S. (2018), Hawaii (1998), and Alaska (2007).¬† The models are based on seismicity and fault-slip rates, and take into account the frequency of earthquakes of various magnitudes.¬† Locally, the hazard may be greater than shown, because site geology may amplify ground motions. (Public domain.) Shake It Like It‚Äôs Real Mark your calendar and¬†register to participate¬†so that you know how to protect yourself, those you love and your community. Families, schools, businesses and organizations can all sign up and get involved. There are many ways to participate, and a variety of¬†resources and tips are provided online. This includes pre-made flyers, drill broadcast recordings, drill manuals and more. (Public Domain) ShakeOut Participation During the COVID-19 Pandemic As with almost every facet of our daily lives during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, preparing for natural hazards has taken on an additional element when it comes to staying safe while conducting drills to ensure earthquake preparedness. Despite the ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic, global events are still being planned and executed, and ShakeOut has provided COVID-19-specific guidance for this unprecedented circumstance. Everyone who is participating should review it with their family and coworkers to make sure the greatest level of care is taken to prevent spreading the COVID-19 virus while also preparing to stay safe during an earthquake. ¬† What‚Äôs Your Exposure to Earthquake Shaking? To learn about your exposure to ground shaking from an earthquake near you, check out the¬†2018 USGS National Seismic Hazard Maps. These maps reflect the best and most current understanding of where future earthquakes will occur, how often they will occur and how hard the ground will likely shake as a result. ¬† What to Do During the Drill Most people will hold their ShakeOut drills at 10:15¬†a.m. local time Oct. 15¬†(though drills can be held anytime and on other days if necessary). If you are indoors, you should ‚ÄúDrop, Cover and Hold On.‚ÄĚ Drop where you are onto your hands and knees, then crawl for cover under a nearby sturdy desk or table and hold on to it securely. If you are not near a desk or table, crawl against an interior wall, then protect your head and neck with your arms. Avoid exterior walls, windows, hanging objects, mirrors, tall furniture, large appliances and kitchen cabinets filled with heavy objects or glass. During the drill, look around and see what objects could fall during a potential earthquake and make sure to secure or move those items after the drill. If you happen to be outdoors in a real earthquake, move to a clear and open area if you can do so. Avoid power lines, trees, signs, buildings, vehicles and items that can fall on you. If you are driving, pull over to the side of the road and set the parking brake. Do not shelter under bridges, overpasses, power lines or traffic signs. Make sure to remain inside the vehicle until the shaking has stopped. ShakeOut GIF showing what to do in an earthquake¬†if you are near a sturdy desk or table. (Public Domain.) ¬† ShakeOut GIF showing what to do in an earthquake¬†if you are NOT near a sturdy desk or table. (Public domain.) ¬† ShakeOut GIF on what to do during an earthquake if you are¬†near the shore. (Public Domain.) ¬† ShakeOut GIF on what to do during an earthquake if you are driving a car. (Public Domain.) USGS Science in ShakeOut The USGS also develops¬†earthquake scenarios¬†that help shape preparedness exercises such as the ShakeOut. USGS earthquake research helps emergency managers understand where earthquakes occur and provides valuable information about the potential damages and losses. The original ShakeOut was based on a comprehensive analysis of a major earthquake in southern California known as ‚ÄúThe ShakeOut Scenario.‚Ä̬†That project, completed in 2008, was led by the USGS and many partners as a demonstration of how science can be applied to reduce risks related to natural hazards. The concept and organization of a public drill came out of the collaboration between the USGS, the¬†Southern California Earthquake Center¬†and other partners of the¬†Earthquake Country Alliance. The success of the 2008 ShakeOut drill inspired other states and countries to want to participate. The third Thursday of October each year is now International ShakeOut Day, with more countries joining each year. ShakeOut‚Äôs growth is coordinated by the Southern California Earthquake Center (which also manages ShakeOut websites globally) with the support of many agencies and partners across the nation, including the USGS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Science Foundation, the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium and several others. ¬† ShakeAlert ‚Äď Earthquake Early Warning Last year, the USGS commemorated the 30th anniversary of one of the most destructive earthquake disasters in U.S. history ‚Äď the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The magnitude 6.9 quake struck October 17 in the southern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area near Santa Cruz and was responsible for the deaths of 63 people and more than 3,500 injuries. That event also marks the beginning of many years of intense work developing and testing what would ultimately become the ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning system. In 2019, in coordination with the California Governor‚Äôs Office of Emergency Services, the USGS commenced testing of the public delivery of earthquake alerts to wireless devices in California. In 2020, over sixty alert delivery partners in California, Oregon, and Washington operate a variety of applications that are powered by data from the ShakeAlert system. Oregon and Washington plan to roll out alert delivery to wireless devices sometime in 2021. The backbone of an earthquake early warning system is a widespread and robust network of seismometers. In the United States, the first regional seismic networks were begun by research institutions and universities like Caltech; University of California, Berkeley; and the University of Washington. ¬† Learn More The USGS provides rapid alerts of potential impacts from an earthquake through its¬†Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response¬†system. Sign up to receive earthquake notices through the¬†USGS Earthquake Notification System. If you feel an earthquake, report your experience on the USGS ‚ÄúDid You Feel It?‚ÄĚ website. Learn how to prepare at home using the¬†7 Steps to Earthquake Safety¬†from the guidebook ‚ÄúPutting Down Roots in Earthquake Country,‚ÄĚ written for different areas of the country and available in several languages.

Mixing Oil and Water

6 months ago

The Eagle Ford Group was also one of the first formations to be unconventionally drilled as part of the U.S. Shale Revolution, and since then, tens of thousands of wells have been drilled. The USGS has assessed recoverable oil and gas resources in parts of the Eagle Ford Group several times, with the most recent assessment in 2018. In 2019, the USGS built upon the 2018 petroleum assessment with an assessment of water and proppant ¬†requirements and water production that would potentially be associated with producing the undiscovered oil and gas resource. This 2018 image shows a coring and geophysical well-logging operation into the Eagle Ford Group adjacent to U.S. Route 90, Kinney County, Texas.¬†(Credit: Dr. Stanley T. Paxton, US Geological Survey. Public domain.) The Oil and Gas Assessment In 2018, the USGS assessed potential quantities of oil and gas resources that could be produced in the Eagle Ford Group, estimating a mean of 8.5 billion barrels of oil, 66 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 1.9 billion barrels of natural gas liquids. This assessment was unique, because it ranks in the top five of assessments in both the oil and gas categories.¬† USGS oil and gas assessments provide a probabilistic estimate, meaning the USGS estimate contains a range of potential amounts of oil and gas. For the Eagle Ford Group assessment, the USGS estimates a 95% chance of there being at least 5.27 billion barrels of oil and a 5% chance of there being at least 12.85 billion barrels of oil. USGS petroleum assessments estimate undiscovered, technically recoverable resources. Undiscovered resources are those that are estimated to exist based on geologic knowledge and statistical analysis of known resources, while technically recoverable resources are those that can be produced using currently available technology and industry practices. Whether or not it is profitable to produce these resources is not evaluated. In the past, this is where USGS oil and gas assessments have stopped. However, new assessment approaches have been developed in recent years, expanding what a USGS energy assessment can provide. Equipment set up to pump water from a lake to an impoundment for hydraulic fracturing in the Fayetteville Shale of Arkansas. (Credit: Bill Cunningham, USGS. Public domain.) Like Oil and Water Water plays a significant role in the development of oil and gas. It is necessary to the production of oil and gas, so knowing how much water is needed is important for decision makers and resource managers. Oil and gas production often occurs in areas with limited water supplies, as well as areas with many competing users for available water resources, such as residential neighborhoods, agriculture, or other industry. The resources in the Eagle Ford Group are mostly continuous resources, which are dispersed throughout a geologic formation rather than existing as discrete, localized occurrences, such as those in conventional accumulations. Because of that, continuous resources commonly require special technical drilling and recovery methods, such as hydraulic fracturing, which require substantial water volumes. Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping large volumes of fluid containing water and proppant (primarily sand) into the petroleum reservoir to hold open the newly created fractures and improve fluid-flow characteristics. The USGS estimates that, to produce the full amount of the continuous oil and gas resources of the Eagle Ford Group, a mean of about 672 billion gallons of water will be needed for the hydraulic fracturing process. Water is also a key component of drilling mud, which is a mixture of water and other materials that helps with the drilling of wellbores. Drilling mud brings the rock cuttings to the surface, helps to keep the wellbore stable, and stabilizes the drilling assembly. The USGS estimates that a mean of about 16 billion gallons of water would be required to complete the drilling and cement process to produce the oil and gas in the Eagle Ford Group. A water impoundment at a drill pad in the Fayetteville Shale gas play of Arkansas.¬†(Credit: Bill Cunningham, USGS. Public domain.) High Production Values Water is not only sent down the wellbore during the drilling and hydraulic fracturing of the well. It also returns to the surface, along with the oil and gas, as a mix of flowback and formation waters. Formation waters are those volumes of water that exist in the rock formation with the oil and gas and are often produced alongside the oil and gas. Produced waters often must be specially stored and disposed of due to the substances that are dissolved in them. Most produced waters have high levels of salts, and many have high concentrations of heavy metals or even radioactive materials. Knowing how much water could be produced alongside the oil and gas will help resource managers and decisionmakers know what storage capacity they will have to prepare for. The USGS estimates that, during production of the oil and gas in the Eagle Ford Group, a mean of about 177 billion gallons of produced waters could be brought up along with the oil and gas. Fine-grained silica sand is mixed with chemicals and water before being pumped into rock formations to prevent the newly created artificial fractures from closing after hydraulic fracturing is completed.‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč (Credit: Bill Cunningham, USGS. Public domain.) The Nitty Gritty Hydraulic fracturing requires not only water to fracture the rock, but also something to hold the fractures open so the oil and gas can flow to the wellbore to be produced. The material that keeps the fractures open is called proppant and is usually a high-quality silica sand. The USGS issued a report describing the types of sand most commonly used for proppant and where they can be found. The majority, around 70%, of sand used for proppant comes from the Great Lakes Region. In the Eagle Ford Group, silica sands are the primary type of proppant needed. As part of its assessment for water resources and production in the Eagle Ford Group, the USGS also included an estimate for the amount of proppant that would be required: a mean of about 420 million tons. Start with Science The USGS assesses oil and gas resources as part of informing decision makers and resource managers about the amount of energy resources available and the other materials required to produce that energy. This update to the 2018 USGS Eagle Ford Group Assessment provides that valuable context and is a model for future USGS oil and gas assessments to provide a more holistic picture of the country‚Äôs energy mix, future constraints and potential.

Fire Science Critical for Combating Wildfires Out West

6 months ago

Download images // Hacks because of jQuery-UI-1.8 incompatibility with our jQuery 2.1 on front end. jQuery.browser = {}; (function () { jQuery.browser.msie = false; jQuery.browser.version = 0; if (navigator.userAgent.match(/MSIE ([0-9]+)\./)) { jQuery.browser.msie = true; jQuery.browser.version = RegExp.$1; } })(); jQuery.curCSS = function(element, prop, val) { return jQuery(element).css(prop, val); }; jQuery('#before_after_image_65413565_1598455497').imagesLoaded(function() { // Adjust things to make sure they fit in their container (responsive). var width = jQuery(this).closest('.dnd-atom-rendered').innerWidth(); var halfWidth = width/2; var height = jQuery(this).closest('.dnd-atom-rendered').height(); var ratio = height/width; var newHeight = height*ratio; // The wrapper and links. jQuery(this).css({'width': width+'px', height: newHeight+'px'}).next('.balinks').css('width', width+'px'); // The drag bar. var dragbarXPos = (newHeight - 56)/2; // The drag bar X pos, half of height minus height of the dragbar. var dragbarYPos = (width - 8)/2; // The drag bar Y pos, half of width minus width of the dragbar. jQuery(this).find('.ui-draggable').css({'left': dragbarYPos+'px', 'height': newHeight+'px'}).find('img').css('top', dragbarXPos+'px'); // Before image. jQuery(this).find('.ba-image-wrap:has(img[alt="before"])').css({'width': halfWidth+'px', 'height': newHeight+'px'}); // After image. jQuery(this).find('.ba-image-wrap:has(img[alt="after"])').css({'width': width+'px', 'height': newHeight+'px'}); jQuery(this).find('.ba-image').attr('width', width).attr('height', newHeight); // Each image in the image wrapper. jQuery(this).beforeAfter({ imagePath: '/sites/all/libraries/beforeafter/js/', beforeLinkText: 'Show only left', afterLinkText: 'Show only right', enableKeyboard: true, }); }); Landsat 8 imagery shows the growth of the LNU Complex Fire in California during 2020 fire season. It has been a harrowing equation out West over the past few months: Abundant fuel + hot temperatures + winds = large, fast-moving wildfires. At one point San Francisco was bathed in an eerie orange glow that evoked comparisons to post-apocalyptic times. The Beachie Creek Fire in Oregon spread massively over a single night, from 500 acres to over 159,000 acres due to a windstorm with wind gusts as high as 50 miles per hour. People living in Portland, Oregon, were immersed in dense smoke with record poor air quality that on some days was listed as the worst air quality on Earth. In 2020, wildfire activity in California and the Pacific Northwest has been extreme, with more than 45,700 wildfires raging across 8.3 million acres (as of October 15, 2020). This puts the 2020 Fire Year on pace for being the most extensive of the last decade, even outpacing the fires of 2017 and 2018. What does this all mean? Fires are a new year-round reality across much of the U.S. We know it‚Äôs not a question of ‚Äúif‚ÄĚ more fires will burn, but rather what we can do to be better prepared to manage them ‚Äď including understanding the factors that influence where, when, and how fires burn, and what the consequences of fires are for humans and ecosystems. Science can provide these answers and, in the process, can also save lives, property and money. A Hotter, Drier United States ‚ÄúPeople accidentally or intentionally starting fires, warmer temperatures, dry and wet spells, and accumulation of fuels are some factors that have led to longer wildfire seasons, increases in the number of large and long-duration fires, and more severe effects from the wildfires,‚ÄĚ said Paul Steblein, USGS fire science coordinator. ‚ÄúSuch conditions ‚Äď along with the wildfires that accompany them ‚Äď are likely to increase in the future.‚ÄĚ Yet Steblein is optimistic about our ability to better manage wildfires of the future, in part because of the large cadre of federal, university and other fire researchers committed to science that not only supports the immediate needs of managers during a wildfire, but also will help managers determine the very best ways to manage lands to lessen wildfire risks. Fire science underlies all the training and tools used by firefighters today. Fire science is also critical for understanding the complex and changing situations encountered by communities and land managers, finding ways to address the rising wildfire risk to save lives, property, our wildlands and money. Keauhou fire in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park in 2018 (National Park Service). USGS Science on Fire ‚ÄúBecause USGS is positioned at the crossroads of academia and the federal emergency response agencies, we are able to quickly bring cutting-edge fire science to help firefighters, land-use and crisis managers and others address real-world fire scenarios,‚ÄĚ said Steblein. And, Steblein emphasizes, wildland fires are an important ecosystem process on our planet. For example, many coniferous forests have a natural frequent fire regime of low-intensity fires, which played an important role in reducing hazardous fuels and in rejuvenating the forests. Similarly, in the chaparral shrublands of California, high-intensity crown fires have helped guide the evolution of plant life and ecological communities. In contrast, in many desert habitats, fires occur far less frequently and often are a more severe disturbance. Today, the natural role of fire in these ecosystems is complicated by the fact that fire often favors non-native and invasive plants, which, in turn, can lead to more frequent and more intense fires to the detriment of native desert plants. Detailed USGS studies on fire patterns and histories on the Department of the Interior lands and forests are foundational to restoring fire cycles that will safeguard human lives and property and benefit the richness of land types across the country. Likewise, Steblein said, USGS‚Äôs ability to provide timely and accurate data and maps helps managers mitigate the effects of wildfire. ‚ÄúNot only do we have experienced fire scientists at USGS,‚ÄĚ said Steblein, ‚Äúbut we also have other researchers who bring their expertise to bear on complex issues surrounding wildfires, such as impaired water and air quality, debris-flow risks and how to manage and lessen the risk of wildfires in urban and wildland areas.‚ÄĚ Visit our new¬†USGS Wildland Fire Science webpage¬†and read about the projects below to learn how USGS fire science is making a difference: Screenshot of wildfire risk for Custer County, SD from¬†Wildfire Risk to Communities, a U.S. Forest Service tool that represents the first nationwide wildfire risk assessment for the United States. The tool leans heavily on data from LANDFIRE, a multiagency fuels mapping partnership whose data is produced by the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science Center. LANDFIRE! USGS Data Provides Insight into Vegetation, Terrain, Hydrology and More Management agencies and elected officials need sound information about the effects of large wildfires to make effective policy and make management decisions. The national¬†LANDFIRE¬†data set, a product co-produced by USGS, Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service does just that. One specific real-time tool of LANDFIRE, the Wildfire Decision Support System, is used by incident-management teams on the front lines of fighting wildfires in the field. LANDFIRE is also used by fire managers before fires to help discern where the highest wildland fire risks are and to take steps to reduce risks in those potential hot spots. The data are also used to reduce risk to areas of specific concern, like areas with giant sequoias, endangered species and even cultural artifacts. Monitoring Burn Severity Trends Helps Forecast Erosion, Debris-Flows and Flooding in Areas Burned by Wildfire Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity¬†(MTBS)¬†is an interagency program that maps the burn severity and extent of large fires, 1,000 acres or more in the West and 500 acres in the East, across all lands of the United States from 1984 to present. These data have already saved lives by enabling USGS scientists to use them in computer models that forecast potentially catastrophic flooding, debris-flows or mudslides in urban and suburban areas following wildfires. MTBS data are freely available to many users including policy-makers and others focused on implementing and monitoring national fire management strategies; field management units such as national forests, parks and other federal and tribal lands that benefit from GIS-ready maps and data; other federal land-cover mapping programs such as LANDFIRE, which uses burn severity data in their own efforts; and academic and agency research entities. MTBS data are generated by leveraging other national programs such as the Landsat satellite program, jointly developed and managed by the USGS and NASA. One of the greatest strengths of the program is the consistency of the data products going back to 1984, which would be impossible without the historic Landsat archive, the largest in the world. Download the MTBS Overview¬†paper here. The aftermath of the January 9, 2018 debris flows in Montecito, California. Wildfires Threaten Future Water Supplies in the West Across the West, wildfires are expected to increase in frequency, size and severity. Not only is fire a threat to life and property, but it can also reduce the quality of water supplies by increasing the amount of sediment entering streams ‚Äď turning clear mountain waters brown. These impacts can persist for years and require costly restoration. In 2017, researchers modeled how increased wildfire activity might impact future water supplies in the West. These projections demonstrated the first assessment of fire-induced soil erosion for the West ‚Äď and found that wildfires could double soil erosion in a quarter of western watersheds by 2050. Learn more about the study. Invasive Plants, Changing Wildfire Patterns, and Human Land Use: Three Challenges for the Greater Sage-Grouse The Greater Sage-grouse is a small bird found only in the sagebrush steppe of the Great Basin. Evolving wildfire patterns is just one of many concerns, including invasions of non-native grasses, grazing from livestock, and human land uses are changing this unique ecosystem. USGS research is helping managers in the Great Basin understand the best ways to deal with the effects of more frequent and often larger wildfires on animals like the at-risk greater sage-grouse, a species dependent on sagebrush habitat for food, cover and breeding. By analyzing 30 years of data, USGS modeled how sage-grouse populations are responding to changes in wildfire, rainfall and soil temperature in this region. This research demonstrated that if left unchecked, wildfires could cause significant habitat decline and a loss of nearly half of current sage-grouse populations in the next three decades. USGS research provides federal and state management agencies with the science needed to improve the effectiveness of rangeland fire suppression and conservation actions to benefit sage-grouse and other wildlife. For more about this project¬†visit the USGS project site. Permafrost: Wildfires Could Accelerate Degradation of Alaska‚Äôs Permafrost In interior Alaska, permafrost is insulated and protected from thaw by a layer of organic soil. In addition to changes in climate, a wildfire can alter permafrost conditions by burning the protective soil layer. Given that wildfire frequency and severity are predicted to increase in Alaska, researchers examined the sensitivity of permafrost to wildfire. Focusing on the region‚Äôs black spruce forests, researchers found that combined with warming temperatures, fire could significantly accelerate the degradation of Alaska‚Äôs permafrost ‚Äď particularly in upland forests, which have a thinner soil layer. Read more about it here. Thawing permafrost on various peatlands in Alaska. Permafrost thaw results in ground subsidence and inundation that kills black spruce and other understory plants living on the permafrost plateau. The black spruce forests found on permafrost plateaus are replaced with sedge- and moss-dominated bogs and fens, altering the ecosystem structure and function. Linking Atmospheric Rivers to Wildfire Patterns in the Southwest In 2017-2018, parts of drought-stricken California were besieged by heavy flooding, mudslides, and feet of snow. The cause? A meteorological phenomenon known as an atmospheric river, in which high concentrations of moisture are carried in narrow bands, often from the tropics, up to western North America. While we know these events can produce heavy precipitation along the West Coast, researchers wanted to see if atmospheric rivers influence wildfire patterns. Results show that atmospheric rivers can increase the area burned by fires in the year following an event, particularly in the aridest parts of the Southwest. This is because the extra precipitation spurs vegetation growth, providing fuel for fires once it dries out. Learn more at the¬†Climate Adaptation Science Centers project website. Do Fires Help Protect Forests from Drought? ¬† Even ancient humans used fire as a tool for food and landscape alteration, but did you know USGS scientists are using it to protect forests from drought? USGS ecologist Phil van Mantgem tests whether ‚Äúprescribed fire‚ÄĚ can reduce competition for resources like water, nutrients and sunlight among trees in the Sierra Nevada. His studies could help management agencies like the National Park Service make western forests more resilient and resistant to the harmful effects of longer, more severe droughts in the future. Visit the¬†USGS website¬†to learn more. Fires Becoming Increasingly Frequent at High Elevations in Sierra Nevada The effects of fire in high-elevation forests can be particularly severe. Fires are historically rare in higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada, meaning vegetation may not be adapted to frequent fire activity. Researchers found that the upper elevation extent of fires in California‚Äôs Sierra Nevada has been increasing over the past 100 years. Researchers hypothesize that this could be due to changes in fire management, temperature, available fuels or ignition frequencies ‚Äď or a combination of these factors. Whatever the cause, more frequent fires in these subalpine forests could affect their structure, composition, and function. Read more about the study or similar research here. Wildfire Risk for California Communities Every year, wildfires across California can cause severe property and ecological damage, with 2017, 2018, and 2020 being very damaging. USGS ecologist Jon Keeley and partners study the ecological factors, such as invasive grasses, that increase the risk of wildfire damage to homes, people, roads and other infrastructure. Their work and other USGS fire research supports science-based decisions to keep people and property safer during California‚Äôs fire season. Check out this¬†Living with Fire¬†video and visit the¬†USGS project website¬†for more information. Frosted flatwoods salamander, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida (Katie O'Donnell, USGS). Legendary Lizard-Like Creatures that Can Live in Fire? Ancient legends tell of mythical fire-dwelling lizards appearing from flames when a fire was lit. The creatures, thought to be immune to fire, were named salamanders, which (no joke) meant "legendary lizard-like creatures that can live in fire."¬†Now we know salamanders are not mythical beings (though they are amazingly awesome), but instead live in the logs used in fires, causing them to scurry away once the logs were lit. But as USGS scientists can tell you, salamanders and fire still go hand-in-hand: many species, including the frosted flatwoods salamander, rely on fire-dependent ecosystems. In St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (Florida), USGS scientists work closely with fire managers to help them make the most effective recovery actions of the federally protected frosted flatwoods salamander. During breeding season, females lay eggs on the outskirts of dry wetland basins, but for this to happen, the ground must be clear of plant detritus, like fallen leaves, branches, bark and stems. Prescribed burns are a critical tool in the recovery plan for the salamander; such fires help clear out accumulated plant litter and other vegetation to provide the best habitat conditions for breeding salamanders. For more information, please¬†visit the USGS project website. USGS Fire Resources The goal of USGS wildfire research is to better understand the causes, consequences, and benefits of wildfire, as well as help reduce the likelihood of larger, catastrophic events. Because the USGS is a diverse and multidisciplinary research agency, we are well equipped to address a variety of problems posed by wildland fires. Fire and land managers use our research to respond to fire-related issues when they arise. For a bit more information on USGS capabilities, here are a few additional resources: Program Description Related Publications Associated Imagery Interactive Storymap DOI Office of Wildland Fire A raging wildfire in Montana (John McColgan, U.S. Forest Service). Wildfire Partnerships Beyond land and fire managers, the USGS works with other partners to provide information on wildfires at the wildland-urban interface to help people understand what makes homes and communities vulnerable and what they can do to reduce the risk of wildfires. From the swamps to the prairies to the wildland-urban interface, the USGS provides critical information to understand and address the challenges of wildland fire. Some of our key partners in keeping communities safe include the National Weather Service; Federal Emergency Management Agency; Natural Resources Conservation Service; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; U.S. Forest Service; Bureau of Land Management; National Park Service; California Geological Survey; Cal FIRE; Washington State Geological Survey; Oregon Department of Geology and Minerals Industries; University of Nevada, Reno; North Carolina Geological Survey; and Colorado Geological Survey, among others. Fire management at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Nebraska (Northern Great Plains Fire Management Office, National Park Service).

Critical Cooperation: How Australia, Canada and the United States are Working Together to Support Critical Mineral Discovery

6 months ago

It is no secret that the United States is heavily dependent on foreign sources for many of the mineral commodities necessary for America’s economy and security. Of the 35 mineral commodities deemed critical by the Department of the Interior, the United States was 100 percent reliant on foreign sources for 13 in 2019. To address this dependency, the Administration published A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals, and, as part of that strategy, the USGS has begun multiple domestic projects to increase knowledge and understanding of the country’s mineral endowment. But in addition to that work, the USGS has also reached out to international partners, particularly those in Australia and Canada. Known Mineral Locations in the United States. (Public domain.) Critical Trading Partners Australia and Canada are major U.S. trading partners that export dozens of mineral commodities to the United States and have done so for many years. As part of this long-standing relationship, the U.S. State Department leads formal, bilateral, multi-agency, critical mineral collaborations with both Canada and Australia.  In addition to these bilateral efforts, which the USGS participates in, the USGS has been separately engaged in a three-way collaboration, the Critical Minerals Mapping Initiative, with Geoscience Australia and the Geological Survey of Canada under long-standing MOUs that provide for USGS cooperation with those organizations. Known Mineral Locations in Canada. (Public domain.) Mineral Resource Research Partnership The goal of the Critical Minerals Mapping Initiative will be to build a diversified supply of critical minerals in Australia, Canada, and the United States. The Initiative will accomplish this by developing a better understanding of known critical mineral resources, determining geologic controls on critical mineral distribution for deposits currently producing byproducts, identifying new sources of supply through critical mineral potential mapping, and promoting critical mineral discovery in all three countries. An intent of the Critical Minerals Mapping Initiative is to learn more through each country’s past and on-going efforts, and, together, forge new knowledge that can be applied to the three national geological surveys continuing mineral resource research. For instance, the Geological Survey of Canada and Geoscience Australia have extensive experience with nationwide subsurface mineral potential mapping, which the USGS hopes to learn from as it carries out its own effort through the Earth Mapping Resource Initiative, or Earth MRI. Although the particular minerals that each country has in significant quantities vary, the uses and importance remain much the same. Aerospace and defense industries need mineral products like chromium and vanadium to make steel alloys for aircraft and armored vehicles; the electronics and computer industries require rare earth elements, lithium, and gallium; the renewable energy sector relies on cobalt, scandium, and tellurium; and the medical fields need titanium, tin, and zinc, just to name a few. Because each country has expertise in different fields, bringing all of these experts together can create a strong foundation of mineral information that can be used by policy makers, resource-managers, industry and others to help meet the needs of all three countries’ economies and security. In addition, regular information-sharing can improve coordination between Australia, Canada and the United States, making the mineral supply lines more secure, reducing the chances of unexpected shortages or interruptions. Known Mineral Locations in Australia. (Public domain.) Mapping the Minerals A primary strength of the tri-national collaboration comes through developing scientific consensus around important aspects of critical mineral research. Several collaborative efforts are ongoing between scientists with the three national surveys under the Critical Minerals Mapping Initiative. These include development of a global database of critical mineral ore deposit samples, critical mineral systems classification, and definition of key geologic criteria for basin-hosted deposits.  A significant first step for the Critical Minerals Mapping Initiative is merging mineral resource information of the three agencies. Each database contains valuable geologic and geochemical information. By combining the data, a more wholistic picture can be drawn, yielding insights like where and how critical mineral commodities actually occur in ore deposits, which are highly complex systems. This distribution is currently poorly understood, and better mapping of those occurrences will help target the commodities for enhanced recovery and production during mining and mineral processing. In addition, each agency is working to better understand critical minerals in terms of a mineral systems framework. The mineral systems approach to mineral deposit genesis provides an integrated framework that considers geologic processes that control the formation and preservation of mineral deposits. Placing critical minerals into this agreed-upon mineral system framework represents one of the most important outcomes of the collaboration, because the knowledge and data sharing between the three geological survey organizations will be transferable to other mineral resource research and exploration worldwide. Finally, experts in economic geology, data science, geochemistry, and geophysics are working collaboratively under a multi-stage approach to map where mineral deposits are likely to be found within certain minerals systems in basins. This effort will involve coming to a consensus on geologic criteria that must be present to form these important deposit types. Once all three agencies agree on the criteria, scientists will create models based on existing data that meet these criteria, then the data will be integrated in a sophisticated machine learning environment to identify areas that might contain metal deposits within those basins.  Importantly, all the information and data derived from the Critical Minerals Mapping Initiative will be made available to the public. Charting a Path Forward As the agencies conduct their research, representatives will regularly meet to share the data collected and lessons learned, and from those meetings new insights will be taken back to their respective countries. From there, the mineral research projects of all three agencies will be refined and improved. This constant improving, collaborating and refining of mineral science between Australia, Canada, and the United States will set chart the path going forward. The three earth science agencies will promote a collective understanding of critical minerals science through the aforementioned database coordination and minerals system framework agreements. In addition, as research gaps are identified, the joint science strategies will incorporate how best to address them. Uncertainties will always exist in the mineral industries and supply chains, but the partnership between Geoscience Australia, the Geological Survey of Canada, and the USGS will ensure that those who depend on a steady, secure supply of these critical materials will have a firm foundation of the best information available. Learn more: https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2020/3035/fs20203035.pdf

Zeta’s Strong Waves Will Cause Coastal Change Along the Gulf Coast

6 months ago

A new U.S. Geological Survey coastal change¬†forecast predicts sandy beaches in Louisiana and Mississippi may be heavily damaged by Zeta, which is expected to make landfall Oct. 28 as a hurricane. Sandy beaches in Texas, Alabama and Florida may see moderate to minor damage. The Oct. 27 forecast will be updated whenever the National Hurricane Center‚Äôs surge forecasts for Zeta change. The most current forecast is always available on the¬†USGS Coastal Change Hazards Portal. The USGS coastal change forecast can help emergency management officials decide which areas to evacuate, where and when to close coastal roads and where to position clean-up equipment in advance of the storm. Louisiana and Mississippi are expected to bear the brunt of the storm‚Äôs strong waves and surge, with 23% of Louisiana's and 16% of Mississippi's¬†sandy beaches forecast to be inundated or continuously covered by ocean water. This is the most severe type of storm effect on coastal beaches, with flooding behind the dunes that may impact coastal communities. The areas currently projected to be inundated are from Marsh Island, Louisiana, to Biloxi, Mississippi. Texas, Alabama and Florida are not projected to have beaches inundated by Hurricane Zeta. The second worst type of coastal damage is called overwash and occurs when waves and surge reach higher than the top of dunes. Approximately 60% of sandy beaches along Louisiana‚Äôs coast and 46% of Mississippi‚Äôs beaches are expected to be overwashed by Zeta. About 11% of Alabama‚Äôs beaches and 1% of beaches in Bolivar Peninsula, Texas. Florida‚Äôs beaches are not predicted to be overwashed. When a beach is overwashed, sand can be deposited inland, causing significant changes to the landscape. Overwash can reduce the height of protective sand dunes, alter the beaches‚Äô profile, and leave areas behind the dunes more vulnerable to future storms. The least severe level of storm damage on sandy shorelines is erosion at the base of sand dunes. In Louisiana, 68% of sand dunes from Marsh Island to the Mississippi state line are projected to be eroded by Zeta. In Mississippi, 89% of dunes will likely erode along with 57% in Alabama, 24% in Texas and 1% in Florida. Zeta is the 27th named storm during the historically active 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Upon landfall it will become the 11th named storm to strike the U.S. this year, a new record for a single season. While Zeta is less intense than some earlier 2020 storms, the National Hurricane Center is currently forecasting life-threatening storm surge along parts of the Gulf coast. ‚ÄúZeta might be a small storm but it can still cause a lot of coastal change along the Gulf, especially since the area the storm is currently heading toward has already been hammered by several storms this year,‚ÄĚ said oceanographer Kara Doran, leader of the USGS Coastal Change Hazards Storm Team. The prediction of Zeta‚Äôs effects at landfall is¬†based on results of the USGS Coastal Change Forecast model, which has been in use since 2011 and is continually being improved. The model starts with inputs from the NHC‚Äôs storm surge predictions and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wave forecast models. It then adds detailed information about the expected landfall region‚Äôs beach slope and dune height. The predictions define ‚Äúvery likely‚ÄĚ effects as those that have at least a 90% chance of taking place, based on the storm‚Äôs forecast track and intensity.¬† As the USGS continues to take all appropriate preparedness actions in response to Zeta, those in the storm's projected path can visit¬†Ready.gov¬†or¬†Listo.gov¬†for tips on creating emergency plans and putting together an emergency supply kit.

Trick or Treat? The Frightening Threats to Bats

6 months ago

Bats perform valuable services, including pollinating plants and crops. This bat is covered in pollen. Iconic symbols of Halloween, bats have long suffered a spooky reputation. They‚Äôve been accused of harboring vampiric spirits, entangling themselves in human hair and are often associated with witches and warlocks. Few other mammals seem to frighten us with so many misunderstandings.¬†But bats, because of their incredible echolocation abilities, rarely fly into or touch people, and provide valuable and essential ecological roles in our country and across the world. Unfortunately,¬†white-nose syndrome¬†(WNS), a fatal fungal disease of hibernating bats, has killed over six million bats since 2006, and may well lead to the extinction of certain bat species. Bats are also susceptible to being killed or injured by wind turbines. ‚ÄúPeople often ask why we should care about bats, and evidence strongly suggests that bats are saving us big bucks by gobbling up insects that eat or damage our crops,‚ÄĚ said Paul Cryan, a bat ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. ‚ÄúIt is obviously beneficial that insectivorous bats are patrolling the skies at night above our fields and forests, and these bats deserve help.‚ÄĚ Unlike the dreaded vampire bat typically associated with Halloween, insect-eating bats perform services valuable to humans. Research by Cryan and his colleagues shows that insect-eating bats, through their free pest-control services,¬†save the agricultural industry billions of dollars¬†each year. A single little brown bat, which has a body no bigger than an adult human‚Äôs thumb, can eat four to eight grams (the weight of about a grape or two) of insects each night. The loss of millions of bats in the Northeast has likely resulted in between 1.4 and 2.9 million pounds (equivalent to about two to three full Boeing 747-8F airliners) of insects in the region no longer being eaten each year by bats. For more information about the economic value of bats, listen to¬†this podcast. An Invasive, Emerging Killer: White-Nose Syndrome This hibernating little brown bat shows the white muzzle that is typical of white-nose syndrome.¬†(Greg Turner, Pennsylvania Game Commission) U.S. bat populations have been declining at an alarming rate since the 2006 discovery of WNS in New York state. To date, the disease has been found in¬†35 states and seven Canadian provinces and has killed more than six million bats. The Northeast, where bat population declines have exceeded 80 percent, is the most severely affected region in the U.S. In March 2016,¬†USGS scientists confirmed WNS in a bat from Washington state, about 1,300 miles from the previous westernmost detection in Nebraska. The fungus that causes WNS has subsequently been found on other Washington bats and in bat guano, or feces. ‚ÄúThe high number of bat deaths and range of species being affected far exceed¬†the rate and magnitude of any previously known natural or human-caused mortality event in bats, and possibly in any other mammals,‚ÄĚ said Cryan. WNS is caused by a deadly fungus called¬†Pseudogymnoascus destructans (formerly called Geomyces destructans), according to¬†research by USGS scientists and partners. True to its ominous name,¬†P. destructans¬†causes a powdery white growth on the muzzles and wings of most infected bats (the telltale sign of a life-threatening WNS infection),¬†wing damage,¬†and abnormal bat behavior. The disease is spread by bat-to-bat contact during hibernation, bat contact with a¬†P. destructans-contaminated environment, and likely by humans carrying the fungus from infected caves to uninfected sites. Many caves in affected states have been closed to recreational use, and people visiting open caves are urged to follow specific¬†decontamination procedures. WNS is not known to pose a threat to humans, pets, livestock, or other wildlife. Long-wave ultraviolet (UV) and white-light are used to illuminate lesions associated with white-nose syndrome. This wing from a tri-colored bat is lit from above with a hand-held UV flashlight.¬†(USGS) A recent USGS study showed that P. destructans can be readily spread during the summer months, not only during winter hibernation when conditions are prime for fungal growth on bats. This finding emphasizes the importance of decontamination procedures when people visit caves and mines where bats are found at any time of year. The abrupt emergence and spread of¬†WNS¬†has impacted 12 North American bat species so far. If the current rate continues, WNS could threaten several of these species with extinction, including the threatened Northern long-eared bat and two federally endangered species, the Indiana bat and gray bat. There is no known cure for WNS, and diseases among wildlife are difficult to stop once they‚Äôve become established in free-ranging populations. However, studies by USGS scientists and collaborators provide critical information about WNS, which is used by natural resource managers to help preserve ecologically and economically valuable North American bat populations. Download Video Imagery from temperature-sensing cameras suggests that bats who warm up from hibernation together throughout the winter may be better at surviving white-nose syndrome. (Paul Cryan, USGS) ‚ÄúIncreased understanding of WNS through ongoing collaborative research has greatly accelerated efforts to develop strategies, including vaccination, to limit the impacts of this disease on North American ecosystems,‚ÄĚ said USGS scientist David Blehert. For example, new research shows that bats might have certain behaviors that help them survive WNS. "Bats continue to surprise us,‚ÄĚ Cryan said.¬†‚ÄúWe recently put video cameras into bat hibernation caves to see how WNS kills, but instead the videos revealed how different species of bats might survive winters when infected with the deadly fungus.‚ÄĚ The footage suggests that when bats warm up from hibernation together throughout the winter, they may be better at surviving WNS. In this way, bats might be showing us how to best fight the disease. Science can also help improve detection of P. destructans. For example, a 2018 USGS study found that the fungus spreads rapidly by way of bats, then establishes and persists in soil and on walls of underground hibernation sites. Scientists can use these results to determine what, where, and when to sample for the fungus, and the results can help managers assess the effectiveness of disease mitigation efforts. The USGS National Wildlife Health Center is also investigating the use of a bat-specific vaccine to help immunize bats against the disease. A recent study led by that center shows that vaccination may reduce the impact of WNS. In natural environments, vaccines could be applied to bats in a jelly-like substance that they would ingest as they groom themselves and each other. Bats would also transfer the vaccine-laden jelly to untreated bats.¬†This finding marks a milestone in the international fight against one of the most destructive wildlife diseases in modern times. Download Video This surveillance video from a temperature-imaging camera shows a bat interacting with a wind turbine at about 3 a.m. on a brightly moonlit summer night.¬†(Paul Cryan, USGS) Bats and Wind Energy Wind energy is one of the fastest-growing sources of renewable energy in the U.S. today. Land-based wind turbines can reach more than 425 feet above ground with a rotor-swept area of one to 2.5 acres. (Credit: Paul Cryan, USGS. Public domain.) Though wind turbines play an important role in the nation‚Äôs energy portfolio, bats and birds have been injured or killed from collisions with turbines and their massive turning blades. It is estimated that tens if not hundreds of thousands of¬†bats die at wind turbines each year. As our nation‚Äôs renewable energy portfolio continues to grow, it is critical that development be guided by sound science so that infrastructure can be built in the best way and in appropriate places. USGS researchers are assessing why bats and birds interact with wind turbine blades at night and are investigating methods to reduce the numbers of bat and bird fatalities. The USGS is creating new applications of innovative technologies, like employing radar to track flight patterns of bats; using low-light surveillance cameras to discover underlying causes of bat-turbine encounters; developing models to predict wildlife fatalities; recording flight calls of bats and birds to determine the distribution of migrants in time and space; and experimenting with new ways of keeping bats away from wind turbine blades.¬†Together, this information may help reduce the harmful effects of wind energy on bats by providing information needed for better turbine design, operation and placement. To learn more, please listen to this¬†podcast¬†on bats, birds, and wind energy, and browse through this USGS Story Map on wind power and wildlife. Conservation Counts, and so do Partnerships There are 47 species of bats in North America whose distribution and abundance are documented by the¬†North American Bat Monitoring Program, or NABat. Established in 2015, this multi-national, multi-agency bat-tracking program, led by the USGS, is critical for evaluating potential impacts of the many stressors on bat populations. The program also helps managers determine bat conservation priorities and assess the efficacy of actions aimed at mitigating these impacts. In collaboration with its partners, the USGS uses data from bat surveys to understand how bats are distributed on the landscape and how their populations are changing over time in response to threats like white-nose syndrome. But the USGS can‚Äôt do it alone. More than 100 partner organizations contribute data to NABat, including U.S. state and federal agencies, Canadian agencies and provinces, Tribal organizations, military installations, nongovernmental organizations and private industry. Even the general public can be involved by engaging in community science. ‚ÄúThe more standardized monitoring data we have, the better we can understand the health of our bat populations and the more useful NABat can be to informing bat conservation,‚ÄĚ said Brian Reichert, a USGS scientist and the NABat program coordinator. ‚ÄúEfforts by NABat partners are invaluable.‚ÄĚ New and old data and information gathered beyond formal scientific surveys are all useful to bat scientists and managers. Learn how you can get involved through the NABat Partner Portal. About Bats Bats remarkably similar to the ones we have today first appeared on Earth more than 50 million years ago. No other mammal has ever achieved the ability to sustain flight. There are more than 1,300 species of bats, some the size of a human thumb and others with a six-foot wingspan. Most bats eat insects, many eat fruit and nectar from plants, some eat rodents, and yes, some consume blood. All are primarily active at night. Many species of bats rely on echolocation (locating objects by reflected sound) and incredible dim-light vision to navigate through the night and in the caves and tree-roosting sites they inhabit. While mother bats¬†are out foraging, the young bats huddle together in groups that biologists call a cuddle. (Alan Cressler, USGS) ‚ÄúMany people think bats are blind, but they actually have really sensitive vision, which helps them see in conditions we might consider pitch black,‚ÄĚ Cryan said. ‚ÄúThey don‚Äôt have the sharp and colorful vision we do, but they don‚Äôt need that. Think a dark-adapted Mr. Magoo.‚ÄĚ During winter, many species of bats hibernate in cool and moist caves or mines. Hibernation is an adaptation for bat survival during cold winter months, when there are no insects available for bats to eat. Bats must store energy in the form of fat prior to hibernation.¬†One of the consequences of WNS is that the hibernation of many afflicted bats is interrupted, often causing them to depart their winter roost early and eventually starve to death. Bat reproduction begins with mating in the fall before hibernation, yet new USGS research revealed that a surprising amount of mating also occurs during winter hibernation. Female bats store sperm throughout the winter and become pregnant in the spring soon after emerging from caves or other winter roosts.¬†In spring, bats migrate to their summer territories, often in wooded locations with lots of trees and vegetation. Females usually roost together in maternity colonies under the peeling bark or in cavities of dead and dying trees, and in other structures in groups of up to 100 or more. Each female in the colony typically gives birth to only one pup per year. Young bats are nursed by the mother, who leaves the roost only to forage for food. While mothers are out foraging, the young bats huddle together in groups that biologists call a cuddle. The young stay with the maternity colony throughout most of their first summer. Bats remain a frontier of wonder and discovery. Scientists recently discovered that bats are among the longest-lived mammals for their size and may hide biological secrets to longevity. We also now know that bats are more closely related to horses, dogs and cats than to any other mammals. ‚ÄúThese mysterious creatures will undoubtedly continue to benefit us as they fly above our heads in the dark, and science can help us discover and help protect those free and irreplaceable benefits,‚ÄĚ Cryan said. This¬†map shows bat diversity in the U.S. (Paul Cryan, USGS.) More Information: USGS National Wildlife Health Center USGS Fort Collins Science Center National coordinated response to white-nose syndrome Bat Week NABat Fun facts about bats Battle for Bats video USGS Story Map: Can We Make Wind Power Compatible with Wildlife? USGS Beyond Billions podcast USGS Tattered Wings podcast USGS Wind Energy: A Scare for Bats and Birds podcast USGS Top Story: Partly Cloudy With a Chance of Birds, Bats, and Bugs This story was originally published in October 2013 and last updated in‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč October 2020. A USGS pathologist and a technician necropsy (animal autopsy) a little brown bat at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center. (USGS) This little brown bat has wing damage from the P. destructans¬†fungus. (Kim Miller, USGS) These are back-lit photographs of wings of white-nose syndrome-positive little brown bats, one with subtle circular and irregular pale areas (arrows) indicating areas of fungal infection (A) and another bat (B) with areas of relatively normal tone and elasticity (black arrow), compared to a WNS affected area that looks like crumpled tissue paper with loss of elasticity, surface sheen and areas of irregular pigmentation (white arrow). (C) Microscopic section of wing membrane from a little brown bat showing extensive infection with the fungus (magenta structures), P. destructans. (Carol Uphoff Meteyer, USGS) This spotted bat, native to western North America, may be at risk as the disease white-nose syndrome moves westward. (Paul Cryan,¬†USGS) ¬†

Magnitude 7 Earthquake Off the Coast of Greece and Turkey

6 months ago

A magnitude 7¬†earthquake struck¬†offshore of the city of Neon Karlovasion, Greece (north of Simos Island in the eastern Agean Sea)¬†on¬†October 30th, 2020 at 1:51¬†pm local time (11:51¬†UTC).¬†Seismic instruments indicate the earthquake originated at a depth of 13¬†miles (21¬†kilometers).¬† ¬† The earthquake struck about 9 miles north-northeast of Neon Karlovasion, Greece, just off the Turkish coast.¬†Perceived shaking for the quake was¬†very strong. The event was widely felt, with close to 600¬†"Did You Feel It?" reports thus far submitted. ¬† Early impact estimates from¬†USGS Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response (PAGER)¬†indicate the likelihood for fatalities and significant economic losses. ¬† Visit the¬†USGS earthquake event page¬†for more information. ¬† If you felt this earthquake, report your experience on the¬†‚ÄúUSGS Did You Feel It?‚ÄĚ website¬†for this¬†event.¬† ¬† For information about tsunami watches, warnings or advisories, visit the¬†National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tsunami website.¬† ¬† The USGS operates a 24/7 National Earthquake Information Center in Colorado that can be reached for more information at 303-273-8500.¬† ¬† Learn more about the¬†USGS Earthquake Hazards Program.¬† ¬† We will update this story if more information becomes available.¬† ¬† Earthquake Information/Resources¬† Earthquake Basics¬† USGS Earthquakes Homepage¬† Earthquake Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)¬† USGS Roles, Responsibility, and Research¬† Did You Feel It?¬†

USGS Program Tackles Complex Water Questions

6 months ago

The Next Generation in Water Science USGS scientist¬†surveys water levels¬†on the Delaware River¬†while¬†streamflow¬†measurements are made by boat. These measurements¬†help scientists understand the¬†amount¬†of water and constituents being transported by the river.¬† Credit: Mario Martin-Alciati , USGS.¬† The USGS is investing in a Next Generation Water Observing System, or NGWOS, to help answer today‚Äôs complicated water questions. The USGS is currently using NGWOS to study two watersheds: the Delaware River Basin was chosen as the pilot watershed, followed by the Upper Colorado River Basin. The Illinois River Basin will be the third and was chosen to better understand water availability in a Midwestern watershed. In time, the USGS plans to increase the number of watersheds to 10 across the country. Information from these basins will help to develop a better understanding of water systems across the country to improve predictions of water quantity and quality for the future. ¬† Filling the Gaps To Tackle Critical Questions Water-resource managers rely on USGS data to address water challenges involving too much, too little or poor quality water. The USGS operates and maintains real-time monitoring networks that provide data on the nation‚Äôs water resources, including more than 11,300 streamgages that monitor surface-water flow and/or levels; 2,100 water-quality stations; 17,000 wells that monitor groundwater levels; and 1,000 precipitation stations. However, the current monitoring networks ‚Äď while providing data at critical locations ‚Äď cover less than 1% of the nation‚Äôs streams and groundwater aquifers. The current reach of USGS monitoring networks was designed to fulfill past needs. To fill these gaps, NGWOS will use sophisticated new monitoring capabilities resulting from recent advances in water science. NGWOS also brings together the knowledge and expertise of USGS scientists, resource managers and stakeholders to determine water information needs now and into the future. A team of 4 USGS scientists¬†drive a hole for installation of a shallow groundwater well. These¬†wells help¬†scientists understand the¬†exchange of groundwater and surface water in the Delaware River Basin.¬†Credit: Chris Gazoorian, USGS.¬† Solving Problems Using Stakeholder Input The data-collection plan in each watershed will be driven by national USGS mission priorities and informed by stakeholder information needs. Some examples of the challenging questions each study hopes to answer include: What are the near- and long-term risks of floods and droughts, and what scenarios change these risks? How much water is stored in seasonal snow packs, and how will changes affect water supplies? Are we in the early stages of a drought? How long will drought recovery take? How is streamflow affected by water losses to evapotranspiration¬†and soil moisture?¬†How does soil moisture affect seasonal runoff? What is the quality of water and how will it change during wet/dry periods? How much does groundwater contribute to streamflow, or vice-versa? In each watershed, data will be collected that can be used to provide state-of-the-art information related to floods, droughts and water availability. This information is critical to making informed water-management decisions to protect life and property. ¬† Examining the Illinois Water Basin The Illinois River Basin was chosen as the third watershed to examine because it consists of an extensive amount of urban and agricultural land uses that can help improve understanding of how nutrient sources, in combination with climate- and land-use change, may limit water availability. The Illinois River Basin is estimated to be one of the largest geographic sources of nutrients to the Gulf of Mexico. Insights gained through study of this watershed will help inform nutrient-reduction efforts in Illinois and in the broader Mississippi River Basin. Harmful algal bloom occurrences are commonplace in the Illinois River Basin and having a better understanding of the factors leading to these outbreaks can help inform solutions throughout the Midwestern U.S. First Watershed: Preserving Water for NYC and Philadelphia The Delaware River Basin provides water to big cities such as New York and Philadelphia. This was the first watershed selected for NGWOS and is helping scientists better understand other water basins in the Northeast region. USGS water experts started working on the Delaware River Basin in 2018 by asking stakeholders what information they need to better manage water resources. Based on their feedback, close to 100 new monitoring stations were installed over the past two years to provide additional streamflow, temperature and salinity data. ‚ÄúReliable and accurate scientific data are essential to making informed decisions about river and reservoir management,‚ÄĚ said Paul Rush, Deputy Commissioner for the Bureau of Water Supply, New York City Department of Environmental Protection. Examining Water in the West Software-defined radar integrated on a small, unmanned aircraft system used to measure snow depth remotely on¬†Cameron Pass, Colorado.¬†Credit: John Fulton, USGS.¬† The entire Colorado River Basin provides water for more than 40 million people in seven states and nearly 5.5 million acres of farmland across the western U.S. and Mexico. Several major cities and urban areas rely on water from the basin including Denver, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. The Upper Colorado River Basin supplies about 90% of the water for the entire Colorado River Basin with about 85% of the river flow originating as snowmelt from about 15% of the basin at the highest altitudes. The Lower Basin is arid and depends upon managed use of the Colorado River system to make the surrounding land habitable and productive.¬† The UCRB study started this year and is still in the early planning stages. Water availability in the UCRB is dominated by an annual spring melt and runoff of winter snowpack from the surrounding high-elevation mountains. Understanding snow accumulation and melt processes in this basin will improve water-availability estimates for downstream water users and will provide information transferable to other snowmelt-dominated watersheds in the western U.S.¬† ‚ÄúNew monitoring technology is essential to addressing many issues associated with our annual water balance in the Upper Colorado River Basin,‚ÄĚ said Dave ‚ÄúDK‚ÄĚ Kanzer, Deputy Chief Engineer at Colorado River Water Conservation District. As Needs Change, Plans Change NGWOS plans are informed by stakeholder input and USGS scientists are working with external partners to develop data-collection plans that meet multiple objectives. This collaboration will allow for an improved understanding of processes and more accurate water predictions to ensure stakeholders are getting the water information needed for informed decision making. To learn more, visit the USGS NGWOS website. USGS scientist¬†John Fulton¬†measures streamflow on Middle Fork Ranch Creek, Colorado using instream, conventional methods. USGS radar equipment is also shown recording non-contact river discharge.¬†Credit: Graham Sexstone, USGS.¬† USGS scientists¬†installed a thermal¬†imaging¬†camera¬†on a current USGS¬†streamgage¬†on the¬†Neversink¬†River near¬†Claryville, New York. This equipment will help¬†monitor surface water temperatures and can help understand the amount of groundwater contributing to surface runoff. This map illustrates the Upper Colorado Basin.¬†¬† The Colorado River near Grand Junction, Colorado.¬†The entire Colorado River Basin provides water for more than 40 million people in seven states and nearly 5.5 million acres of farmland across the western¬†U.S.¬†and Mexico.¬† ¬†

Bird of Courage

6 months ago

Benjamin Franklin¬†was¬†quite¬†fond of turkeys. How do we know? Well, in one well-publicized case, the founding father was so disappointed that the bald eagle was chosen the¬†country‚Äôs¬†national bird that he wrote a letter¬†in 1784¬†to his daughter, Sarah Bache,¬†disparaging the choice.¬†¬† Male and female wild turkeys seen in Texas. In¬†Benjamin Franklin‚Äôs¬†famous letter¬†he¬†complained¬†that people‚Äôs fondness for the eagle was misplaced and that the turkey was ‚Äúa much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America...He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage.‚Ä̬†¬† Today this very same nation continues to honor this bird as the symbol of a plentiful feast,¬†gratitude¬†and prosperity. And of course, every year on the morning of Thanksgiving, one special turkey is invited to the White House for an official presidential pardon.¬† USGS¬†likes¬†turkeys, too!¬†Wild ones, that is. The¬†USGS¬†Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units in Alabama, Mississippi, New York and Pennsylvania ‚ÄĮhave conducted research on the forestry practices¬†of¬†native wild turkeys across the United States.¬† These and other¬†USGS Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units¬†support natural resource management decisions through research, education,¬†and technical assistance. The Units, established in 1935, enhance graduate education in fisheries and wildlife sciences and aid important research between natural resource agencies and universities.¬† Turkey Research¬† Because of¬†restoration efforts of wild turkey species over the past 75 years, turkeys are now found nearly everywhere they occurred when the Pilgrims arrived.‚ÄĮThese restoration efforts have been supported by funds from the ‚ÄĮPittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act.¬† ‚ÄúResearch in Mississippi has centered¬†on providing management agencies and the public with reliable information on landscape-level aspects influencing wild turkeys and tools to manage their populations,‚ÄĚ says Francisco J. Vilella, a USGS research scientist at the Mississippi Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.¬† Angela¬†Fuller, a USGS research scientist at the New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, echoes Vilella,¬†‚ÄúToday,¬†research on turkeys is not about restoring populations, but doing a better job of managing them for society.‚Ä̬†¬† In Pennsylvania, turkeys¬†occur¬†everywhere ‚ÄĒ from the suburbs of Philadelphia to the most remote state forests. Turkeys are an important game species to sportsmen¬†and wild turkeys are often the star at many a Thanksgiving dinner¬†in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.¬† ‚ÄúResearch¬†in¬†New York and Pennsylvania helps¬†ensure a sustainable population of turkeys for hunter harvest¬†and¬†opportunities for all citizens to view and enjoy wild turkeys,‚ÄĚ says Duane Diefenbach, a USGS research scientist at the Pennsylvania¬†Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research¬†Unit.¬† In addition, researchers¬†at the¬†Alabama¬†Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit¬†are conducting a long-term research project for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to inform management of the state‚Äôs eastern wild turkey populations.¬† A Turkey‚Äôs Feast A strutting wild male turkey. Although the turkey¬†is typically¬†the main course of one of the most filling¬†American¬†meals of the year, turkeys themselves have‚ÄĮa pretty filling diet¬†of plants¬†and small animals. These large birds forage for food on the ground where they feast on acorns, nuts, berries, insects, lizards, salamanders and snakes. To digest this varied diet, turkeys have an organ called a gizzard that acts as a muscular chewer or food crusher. They also consume small stones or pebbles to help the gizzard do its work.¬† Dressing the Turkey¬† Similar to other birds, the male¬†turkey¬†has fancier plumage, or feather pattern¬†than the female.¬†The male birds‚Äô¬†feathers have¬†beautiful hues of red and blue, which they display to attract females. In addition to different-colored breast feathers, male turkeys exhibit a long ‚Äúbeard‚ÄĚ (which are¬†actually special feathers) growing from the center of their chest.¬† Breeding and Harvest Seasons¬† Fall and spring are the two harvest seasons for the wild turkey in many states. Though both seasons are carefully monitored by state wildlife agencies, the fall harvest can affect population trends because both males and females can be harvested ‚Äď only males are legally hunted in the spring. The numbers of females that survive to breed and rear young are critical to whether a turkey population expands or shrinks. Fortunately, there are more turkeys today¬†than there were¬†even¬†one hundred years ago.¬† USGS researchers in New York and Pennsylvania have developed¬†models¬†to help¬†managers¬†make effective, science-based decisions for fall wild turkey-hunting seasons.‚ÄĮ Diefenbach noted that because New York and Pennsylvania are affected by similar wild turkey management issues, the two states joined¬†forces in tackling management¬†issues such¬†as how¬†changes in the length of fall hunting season affect the harvest.¬†¬† ‚ÄúUnderstanding the effect on hunter harvest by changing the season‚Äôs length by one week will help state wildlife agencies make better decisions when it comes to setting hunting regulations,‚Ä̬†said Diefenbach.¬† In another¬†USGS¬†study, researchers in Mississippi examined how weather conditions in the northern and southern portions of the state influenced spring gobbling behavior of wild turkeys and how this related to the hunting season. Other studies used information collected by turkey hunters and biologists from state and federal agencies to develop tools for predicting statewide gobbling activity.¬† Habitat and Range¬† A wild turkey‚Äôs range¬†‚Äď the habitat they regularly use --¬†is roughly 400-2,000 acres (0.5 to 3.0¬†square miles), and the bird can cover up to 2 miles per hour while feeding. Typically, a wild turkey requires three types of habitat to survive: a nesting habitat, a brooding habitat¬†where young turkeys are raised,¬†and a winter habitat, all¬†with an abundant food source.¬† Female wild turkey with chicks. Turkey hens begin to nest¬†before new¬†plant¬†growth begins in the spring and require residual cover from the previous years to protect their young from predators. Nesting habitats generally consist of low brush that obstructs visibility between¬†the¬†ground and about 3¬†feet high. In woodland areas, turkeys will nest at the base of trees, by fallen logs and boulders and by any other physical feature that may provide additional concealment.¬† Brooding habitats need to be sufficient for newly hatched turkeys to grow and develop¬†well. These areas consist of mainly grass and small plants, which typically¬†provide¬†abundant insects¬†for the young to eat.¬†In addition, brooding habitats are ideally located¬†near brushy and wooded areas to be used for escape cover and roosting overnight. The ideal habitats for developing juvenile turkeys are orchards or groves of trees that are spaced widely enough for sunlight and are mowed only once¬†or twice¬†yearly.¬† A good winter habitat depends on an abundant food source, thermal covering for roosting and protected travel corridors. Places where ground¬†water comes to the surface are ideal because they¬†not only¬†provide drinking water,¬†but they help¬†melt the snow, giving turkeys access to the plant and animal life buried beneath it. Conifer trees and shrubs also provide covered travel corridors¬†for turkey flocks¬†to navigate warmly and safely through the land.¬† Birds of a Feather Flock Together¬† Here‚Äôs a little bit of trivia to share¬†with your family¬†this holiday -¬†a¬†group of turkeys is¬†called¬†a¬†‚Äúrafter.‚Ä̬†So,¬†this Thanksgiving, when celebrating¬†and giving¬†thanks, remember¬†the turkey as more than just the main course, but as Benjamin Franklin did so many years ago, as a noble fowl of American tradition.¬† Learn More¬† USGS Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units¬† USGS ‚Äď Ecosystems Mission Area¬†

Kńęlauea Volcano Erupts

6 months ago

2020 Ends with a Bang This animation shows lava erupting from Kńęlauea Volcano on Dec 20, 2020. At about 9:30 p.m. HST on Sunday evening, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory detected a glow¬†within¬†Halema Ľuma Ľu¬†crater at the summit of¬†Kńęlauea¬†Volcano. Shortly after, it was confirmed that an eruption had begun within¬†Kńęlauea‚Äôs¬†summit¬†caldera in Hawai Ľi Volcanoes National Park. USGS scientists and National Park Service officials will continue to monitor the situation and provide updated information as the eruption continues. For awareness of those living or working near the summit, Kńęlauea‚Äôs¬†volcano alert level has been set to WATCH and its aviation color code is ORANGE. At this time, no explosions have been detected, and the lava is isolated within the caldera. The eruption is generating a plume of ash and gas that is drifting to the southwest. Increased sulfur dioxide in the air may lead to voggy conditions downwind. Visitors to the park should note that under southerly (non-trade) wind conditions, rockfalls and explosions can result in a dusting of powdery to gritty ash made of volcanic glass and rock fragments. These ashfalls represent a minor hazard, but visitors should be aware that dustings of ash at areas around the summit are possible. For those attempting to view the eruption, please follow the safety guidelines issued by the National Park Service. If there are any significant changes to the volcano‚Äôs eruptive status, the USGS will notify local authorities and the public. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is in close contact with¬†Hawai‚Äėi Volcanoes National Park, County of¬†Hawai‚Äėi¬†Civil Defense Agency and other agencies responsible for public safety.¬† If you would like to receive notifications about¬†Kńęlauea, you can subscribe to the Volcano Notification Service online. You can also get up-to-date information by following USGS on Twitter at @USGSVolcanoes and on Facebook at USGS Volcanoes. You can sign up for Civil Defense notifications by visiting¬†the County of¬†Hawai‚Äėi Civil Defense Agency webpage. ¬† Additional Information Kńęlauea - Volcano Updates Geology and History Monitoring Web Cams December 21, 2020 - sunrise at the new eruption site in Kńęlauea caldera.

Chronic Wasting Disease: Can Science Save Our Dear Deer?

6 months ago

Cervids, such as this healthy, male white-tailed deer, are susceptible to chronic wasting disease. (Credit: Scott Bauer, USDA)¬† Cervids encompass animals in the deer family, including white-tailed deer, mule deer, reindeer, elk and moose. CWD is an always-fatal wildlife disease that is contagious among free-ranging and captive cervids. Its neurological impacts result in brain damage that causes affected animals to slowly waste away to death. CWD is spreading and has been detected in more than half of U.S. states as well as in Canada, South Korea, Norway, Finland and Sweden. Currently, there‚Äôs no treatment or vaccine. ‚ÄúBig game like deer and elk are valued by people for food, and they‚Äôre culturally important to tribal communities and hunters in North America,‚ÄĚ said Bryan Richards, emerging disease coordinator at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center. ‚ÄúCervids are also intrinsically valuable. That‚Äôs why we care about this disease.‚ÄĚ Richards and many other USGS scientists across the U.S. are working to understand the biology of CWD, assess and predict the spread of the disease and develop tools for early detection and control. Oh, Deer This deer shows visible signs of chronic wasting disease.¬†(Credit: Terry Kreeger, Wyoming Game and Fish and Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance) CWD is not known to directly affect humans or livestock, but it plagues people nonetheless. Cervids are fundamental to America‚Äôs outdoor recreation economy (PDF), which generates billions of dollars in consumer spending annually and billions more in federal, state and local tax revenue, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that wildlife-related recreationalists spent $156.9 billion on their hunting, wildlife watching/photographing and angling activities in 2016. Big game, including deer and elk, was the most common type of hunting. ‚ÄúHealthy environments bolster healthy economies,‚ÄĚ Richards said. ‚ÄúUnhealthy animal populations do the opposite.‚ÄĚ For these reasons, CWD is of great concern to wildlife managers, but managers need information to make key conservation decisions. That‚Äôs where USGS science comes in. The Scoop on the Scope Adult male cervids are the most vulnerable to CWD. More than 40% of free-ranging cervids in this category are infected with CWD in the heavily affected areas of Colorado, Wisconsin and Wyoming. As of July 2020, CWD was detected in 26 U.S. states and three Canadian provinces, a sobering statistic that includes free-ranging cervids and/or commercial captive cervid facilities. ‚ÄúThe CWD problem is significant and the disease is growing and spreading,‚ÄĚ Richards said. True to USGS's map-making legacy, the bureau maintains a map to track the spread of CWD. The USGS Expanding Distribution of Chronic Wasting Disease map for North America is used by federal, state and academic partners to understand where the disease exists and where it moves on the landscape. The map uses data from state wildlife agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and it‚Äôs been updated regularly since 2005. The CWD spread map can be used in conjunction with products that document big-game migration corridors, such as new maps developed by the USGS and partners to track over 40 big-game migration routes. Facilitated by Department of the Interior¬†Secretary‚Äôs Order 3362, these new maps will help land managers and conservationists pinpoint actions necessary to keep migration routes open and functional to sustain healthy big-game populations. Distribution of Chronic Wasting Disease in North America, updated December 17, 2020. (Credit: Bryan Richards, USGS National Wildlife Health Center) A Simulation Tool to Assist CWD Management Hunters play a role in wildlife management, and altering how deer, elk or moose are harvested is one of the primary ways that CWD can be managed. With this in mind, the USGS, in collaboration with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, developed a tool to simulate different scenarios associated with¬†CWD¬†over a 5- to 10-year time horizon based on a set of assumptions about how the disease spreads. The CWD simulation app allows decision-makers to enter parameters for deer or elk populations, hunting mortality and disease transmission. Users can run scenarios for a species and region of interest by modifying parameters. The model provides the estimated number of deaths, along with age and sex distribution, and how many were natural, hunting or¬†CWD-related. These results can provide resource managers with critical information to help slow the spread of CWD. ‚ÄúThis tool provides an easy way for natural resource managers to think through the potential effects of different harvesting strategies and how long it may take to observe any changes,‚ÄĚ said Paul Cross, a scientist at the USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center. ‚ÄúWe are also developing inexpensive ways to measure cervid density and identifying high concentration areas to help facilitate adaptive management to reduce disease risk.‚ÄĚ Cross and other scientists at the science center have several research projects dedicated to understanding CWD.¬† CWD in Your Parks This bull elk in Wind Cave National Park shows signs of late-stage CWD. (Credit: National Park Service) Even if you‚Äôre an urbanite, or you don‚Äôt live on or near property that‚Äôs commonly visited by cervids, CWD is on your land ‚Äď our national parks ‚Äď and so is the USGS. ‚ÄúNational parks belong to the public, and the USGS is supporting the National Park Service in their efforts to manage CWD within park boundaries,‚ÄĚ said Glen Sargeant, a scientist with the USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center. For example, past USGS research found that CWD was the leading cause of death in Wind Cave National Park‚Äôs elk population. Now, USGS scientists are studying the relationship between elk population density and CWD prevalence and evaluating the effectiveness of the park‚Äôs elk population-control efforts in curtailing disease spread. Findings can help guide CWD-related management decisions in other parks and preserves with high-density elk populations. Further work by USGS scientists and partners in Shenandoah National Park may help improve early detection of CWD. Traditionally, scientists and managers have monitored the disease in deer by collecting samples randomly and broadly. In a 2018 study, scientists developed and used a computer simulation to hone in on white-tailed deer in Shenandoah that have a higher risk of disease, such as older males. ‚ÄúWith this new approach, researchers can test fewer numbers of deer by using existing information on the disease risk of different demographic groups,‚ÄĚ said Daniel Walsh, a USGS scientist and coauthor of the study. Surveying animals with the greatest likelihood of sickness rather than the entire population can save time and money and allow for a quicker response if CWD is detected.¬†¬† ¬†¬†¬†¬† Prions: Gross or Engrossing? Your browser does not support the audio element. USGS Outstanding in the Field podcast, Episode 3: Chronic Wasting Disease - Oh, Deer (Credit: USGS) CWD is caused by prions, which are misfolded, abnormally-shaped proteins in the body. Mammals regularly produce healthy proteins that are broken down by cells, but prions associated with disease accumulate in parts of the body such as the brain and spread by infecting the normal proteins. Mad cow disease and scrapie are prion diseases, but CWD is the only such disease known to affect free-ranging wildlife. Prions and Early Disease Detection Currently, CWD is typically detected once an affected animal has died by looking for prions in the animal‚Äôs tissue. However, USGS scientists are working to expand the options for CWD testing to gain a more thorough understanding of the disease. ‚ÄúThe USGS is enthusiastic about efforts to develop advanced, state-of-the-art CWD-testing techniques that go beyond carcass tissue sampling,‚ÄĚ said Cynthia Tam, Invasive and Disease Program Coordinator for the USGS Ecosystems Mission Area. ‚ÄúThese tests will look for prions in biological samples from live animals and in samples taken from the environment.‚ÄĚ For example, scientists hope to collect prions from biological samples such as fecal material and blood, and from environmental samples such as soil. The ability to test for CWD using these samples from live animals and from the environment will greatly enhance critical surveillance and early detection of the disease. Old Data, New Science Mule deer investigate a game camera in Madison Valley, Montana. (Credit: USGS) Managers have long used animal harvesting or hunting policies to slow the spread of CWD. Agencies often adjust hunting regulations in CWD-affected areas to help reduce cervid population density and curtail animal-to-animal infections once CWD is detected. However, the effectiveness of this strategy in slowing CWD has been difficult to measure. A new scientific project led by the USGS Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit will examine past animal harvest strategies and policy actions to help determine how they may be used to affect CWD going forward. Results will help inform adaptive management techniques, including disease management and monitoring over time.¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄúThe USGS Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit is an essential partner in linking research with real-world wildlife management,‚ÄĚ said Mark Rickebach, chair of the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. ‚ÄúWhether maintaining habitat for songbirds or addressing the vexing problem of CWD, the unit leverages expertise from across campus to bring the best science to bear. The unit‚Äôs emphasis on graduate training ensures that future scientists and leaders understand the connection between science and management, Rickebach added. ¬† Providing management with the best science possible is, after all, the USGS mission. It‚Äôs also the most effective strategy for controlling North America‚Äôs most complicated ‚Äď and chronic ‚Äď wildlife disease. Moose are cervids that are susceptible to CWD.¬†(Credit: Nate De Jager, USGS) Moving Forward As CWD progresses, so will USGS research to combat its spread. In October 2020, the America's Conservation Enhancement Act (PDF) became law, calling for an official CWD task force. Section 104 of this new law authorizes $5 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a fellow DOI bureau, to execute an interstate action plan for¬†CWD¬†and $1.2 million for the USGS to carry out a CWD Academia Resource Study on the disease‚Äôs spread. The USGS study will provide science-based recommendations to help minimize the risk of CWD transmission within or between cervid herds. Resources If you see sick or dead wildlife, please contact your state department of natural resources or state game and fish agency. The information provided in this story is a sampling of the CWD research being conducted by the USGS and its partners. To explore the larger scope of CWD science across North America, please browse through the following resources. USGS Quick Links USGS Outstanding in the Field podcast: Episode 3, Chronic Wasting Disease USGS Story Map on CWD Fact Sheet: U.S. Geological Survey Response to Chronic Wasting Disease Map: Distribution of Chronic Wasting Disease in North America USGS Chronic Wasting Disease Simulation App USGS National Wildlife Health Center USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Teamwork Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‚Äôs CWD website U.S. Department of Agriculture ‚Äď Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service CWD website Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission ‚Äď CWD page Wyoming Migration Initiative Weighted Surveillance for Detection of Chronic Wasting Disease application

Magnitude 6.4 Earthquake in Croatia

6 months ago

A magnitude 6.4 earthquake¬†struck near Petrinja, Croatia, about 30 miles southeast of the capital of Zagreb, on December 29, 2020 at about 6:20 am Eastern Time (12:20 pm local time).¬†Seismic instruments indicate the earthquake originated at a depth of about 6 miles (10 kilometers). This is the largest earthquake to occur in Croatia since the advent of modern seismic instruments. An earthquake of similar size occurred in 1880 near Zagreb and three magnitude 6 and larger earthquakes have occurred within 125 miles (200 kilometers) of the December 29, 2020 earthquake since 1900. A magnitude 5.6 earthquake on November 27, 1990, about 110 miles (175 kilometers) to the southeast, injured 10 people. The USGS has posted an¬†event page¬†providing more details.¬†Perceived shaking for the earthquake was very strong.¬†The preliminary¬†PAGER¬†report is Orange for economic losses, indicating significant damage is likely and the disaster is potentially widespread. This event was also felt in Germany, Italy, Hungary and other nearby countries. Map shows the epicenter of the December 29, 2020 Petrinja, Croatia earthquake. (Credit: USGS. Public domain.) If you felt this earthquake, report your experience on the ‚ÄúUSGS Did You Feel It?‚ÄĚ website for this event. Learn more about the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program. Earthquake Information/Resources Earthquake Basics USGS Earthquakes Homepage Earthquake Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) USGS Roles, Responsibility, and Research Did You Feel It?

Post-Wildfire Debris Flow Awareness

6 months ago

USGS geologist Dennis Staley studies the Montecito area impacted after a Jan. 9, 2018 debris flow event. (Credit: Donyelle K. Davis) This year, tens of thousands of fires burned more than 8.75 million acres across the West, which is about 2 million more acres than the 10-year average. Sadly, more than 80% of these wildfires were human-caused. Colorado was hit particularly hard by wildfires with the East Troublesome and Cameron Peak fires impacting numerous residents and Department of the Interior-managed lands such as Rocky Mountain National Park. These fires damage property and uproot families, which is exactly why President Trump has taken bold actions to reduce wildfire risk and promote active management of our forests and rangelands throughout his presidency. The Department of the Interior‚Äôs wildland firefighter crews have worked expeditiously to ramp up preventative treatments across the nation covering a record 5.4 million acres of lands since 2017 and treating 1.5 million acres in 2020 alone. This has been accomplished while wildland firefighter crews also worked around the clock to control and put out ongoing fires throughout the country in a heroic effort to protect Coloradans and other Westerners. However, the fight against wildfires is not simply a preventative one. What about after the fire occurs: what happens after the smoke clears? Fire not only destroys the vegetation; it can also alter landscapes by destabilizing slopes and baking soils such that they actually repel water. When a storm passes over a burned area, it may trigger post-fire debris flows and flash flooding, both of which can be particularly devastating for areas downslope. A notable example of Colorado‚Äôs history of wildfire and post-fire hazards occurred in my hometown of Colorado Springs. The Waldo Canyon fire of 2012 forced the evacuation of over 32,000 people and destroyed over 29 square miles of forest lands and 346 homes. Tragically, two people were killed in this fire. Following the fire, rains above Manitou Springs generated a debris flood that swept through town destroying an access road to I-70 as well as numerous businesses and homes. At the U.S. Geological Survey, the research arm of the Department of the Interior, our mission is to utilize science to safeguard all communities from natural disasters. We support emergency responders who work to keep people and communities safe, provide the resources that assess how landscapes change after a wildfire, and develop the tools necessary to forecast and prepare for possible threats. Our USGS Landslide Hazards Program based in Golden, Colorado, delivers actionable information, risk assessments, and advice to emergency responders and other managers that can improve public safety regarding landslides, including those triggered after wildfires. Much of the landslide program is located on the Colorado School of Mines campus, also home to our colleagues at the Colorado Geological Survey. Post-fire debris flow assessments are typically completed toward the end of wildfire suppression efforts and in advance of forecasted heavy rainfall. Work is also underway to improve our assessments to not only identify drainage basins where debris flows will begin, but to also provide information on their path of travel and where they will end up. Since 2015, the USGS has delivered more than 220 landslide assessments for wildfires covering more than 36 million acres ‚ÄĒ an area roughly the size of the state of Connecticut. This work has proved invaluable for emergency managers and evacuation planners, like the National Weather Service, which uses this information to guide its flash flood and debris-flow alerts. With advances in data analytics, we are constantly improving our knowledge and the dissemination of that knowledge to our most important customers: the citizens of Colorado and the rest of the Nation. The post-fire debris flows that sometimes follow wildfires can have serious consequences, but you can reduce your risk. READYColorado has great advice on how to prepare before, during and after a wildfire and other hazards. If you want to learn more about USGS research, visit USGS Wildland Fire Science Program¬†and USGS Landslide Hazards Program. Be safe. Be prepared. Be informed. fullscreen

Who’s Sharing? Inconsistent Eyewitness Accounts Can Affect How We Understand Earthquakes

6 months ago

As early American pioneers forged a long, arduous path across the country during the Westward Expansion, an earthquake hit what is now the State of Oklahoma on October 22, 1822.¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄúThe trembling and vibrating were so severe as to cause door and window shutters to open and shut, hogs in pens to fall and squeal, poultry to run and hide, the tops of weeds to dip, [and] cattle to¬†lowe¬†[sic],‚ÄĚ the¬†Cherokee Advocate¬†reported.¬†¬†¬†¬† Almost two centuries later, scientists determined that this earthquake¬†had an approximate magnitude of¬†4.8¬†and occurred within the Ouachita Fold and Thrust Belt in the southeastern part of Oklahoma.¬†The¬†Choctaw Nation¬†likely felt it most intensely¬†and¬†according to the¬†Arkansas Gazette¬†on October 31, 1882,¬†the tremor¬†was strong enough to topple chimneys.¬†These accounts helped alert scientists to the quake and guide their research.¬†¬† Gathering information about¬†an¬†historic¬†earthquake from people rather than scientific instruments may seem like a task for Sherlock Holmes, but even today¬†scientists rely on eyewitness reports to help determine the location and shaking effects of tremors¬†in regions with¬†and without¬†seismometers.¬†¬† Researchers use this information to understand seismic hazards,¬†guide¬†emergency¬†responders¬†and inform policies that could potentially save lives¬†and property. However, self-reported data can be spotty and hindered by socioeconomic and geopolitical factors,¬†said¬†Susan Hough,¬†a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey,¬†and¬†Stacey¬†Martin,¬†a graduate student¬†now¬†at Australia National University¬†and native of Pune, India,¬†in their¬†recently published paper.¬†¬† To characterize biases in datasets that include information from people who experienced shaking,¬†Hough and Martin studied the 1822 Oklahoma earthquake, three earthquakes between 2011 and 2015 in Bihar, India, and three earthquakes between 1989 and 2019 in California.¬†¬† The importance of sharing what happened¬† The 1822 Oklahoma quake‚Äôs geographic location was initially misplaced by scientists, with estimated locations in three different states, but after examining eyewitness accounts scattered in newspapers and studying the region‚Äôs underlying geology, researchers were able to more precisely pinpoint the location to near Fort Gibson, Oklahoma.¬†¬†¬† Apart from this earthquake, which was large enough to be felt in surrounding areas, there are no other¬†known¬†records of small earthquakes in Oklahoma‚Äôs Native American territories through the 19th¬†century, in part because most Native American communities shared stories orally.¬†¬† The 1822 Oklahoma quake is a unique and illustrative case study that called attention to an otherwise overlooked potential earthquake hazard area in the central part of the country, Hough and Martin say.¬†¬† Although the world is a much different place than it was two centuries ago, lacking eyewitness accounts¬†can¬†still¬†lead to poor characterizations of even relatively strong shaking, which can hinder immediate emergency response and affect tools that are used to estimate losses in life and property.¬†¬† However, Hough did note a bright spot. ‚ÄúAlthough there are disparities in reporting between places like California and India, over time, eyewitness reporting systems in California appear to¬†have become more inclusive,‚ÄĚ Hough said, in part because more people are aware of the systems.¬†¬† Did you feel it?¬†¬† Immediately after feeling the ground tremble and seeing light fixtures sway, most people want to ask their neighbors, ‚ÄúDid you feel it?‚Ä̬†¬† In 1999, the USGS decided to ask the world the same thing, introducing the official¬†Did You Feel It (DYFI) system, which collects user experiences through a webform. DYFI data support critical USGS products like¬†ShakeMap, which provides near¬†real-time maps of ground motion and shaking intensity following significant earthquakes, and the¬†Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response (PAGER)¬†system, which provides¬†timely¬†fatality and economic loss impact estimates for significant earthquakes worldwide.¬† Both ShakeMap and PAGER are used for¬†emergency response efforts. In California, for example, the USGS partners with the California Department of Transportation¬†to¬†share detailed ShakeMap¬†information at overpasses and bridges across the state¬†with an¬†application called¬†ShakeCast. The app gives¬†the¬†state‚Äôs¬†engineers an immediate look at the severity of shaking at key structures.¬† In a previous study from 2016,¬†scientists¬†Sum¬†Mak¬†and¬†Danijel¬†Schorlemmer,¬†then¬†with the Helmholtz Center Potsdam,¬†confirmed an expected positive correlation between the number of DYFI responses¬†and three variables - an earthquake's magnitude, person's closeness¬†to¬†the epicenter and the affected region's population size. Furthermore, residents of California and the Central and Eastern U.S. states¬†were equally likely to report feeling an earthquake, despite how many more earthquakes hit California.¬†¬† Socioeconomic factors¬† For earthquakes in California, there is some tendency for¬†people from relatively affluent areas to contribute¬†more reports, Hough said, but DYFI is usually able to gather enough felt reports from a wide range of socioeconomic areas to map out an earthquake‚Äôs intensity in detail. In India, however, contributed reports are overwhelmingly submitted from affluent urban areas, with very few¬†submissions¬†from less affluent rural villages.¬† Hough and Martin attribute that disparity to higher income levels and more ubiquitous access to internet and smartphones in California compared to Bihar. Education is also critical. ‚ÄúDo people in a specific region of India know that¬†‚ÄėDid You Feel It‚Äô¬†exists?‚Ä̬†asked¬†Sara McBride, a research social scientist at the USGS.¬†‚ÄúAnd even if people know about it, they would need to want to submit that information to a U.S. government agency.‚Ä̬† ‚ÄúWe need to be mindful about why people are giving¬†us¬†information,‚ÄĚ McBride said,¬†and provide compelling reasons for them to share their experiences.¬†For instance,¬†she added,¬†sending out teams of local researchers with physical DYFI forms could be a way to build trust with the community and emphasize why data collection is important.¬†¬†

The Disaster that Helped the Nation Prepare for Future Earthquakes: Remembering San Fernando

6 months ago

At 6 o‚Äôclock in the morning on February 9, 1971, the reservoir keeper of the Lower Van Norman Dam in Southern California tried to get out of bed.¬†¬† He couldn‚Äôt. A magnitude-6.6 earthquake was shaking his home nestled at the bottom of the dam. After checking on his wife and child, he¬†drove to the top of the dam to examine the damage. ‚ÄúIt was hard to believe what I saw,‚ÄĚ he said.¬†¬† The Lower Van Norman Dam, which sat¬†above the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles County, had nearly collapsed in the wake of the quake. ‚ÄúAs wind-whipped waves chewed at the damaged lip of the 1,100-foot Van Norman Dam, police spread through a nine-square-mile area between the reservoir and the Ventura Freeway, warning residents to evacuate,‚ÄĚ The Los Angeles Times reported on February 10, 1971. Approximately 80,000 people did evacuate as officials lowered the water levels in the dam.¬†¬† The 1971 San Fernando, or Sylmar, earthquake was the worst to hit an urban area of California since the 1933 magnitude-6.4 Long Beach quake. It led to 64 deaths and more than $500 million in damage. It prompted Governor Ronald Reagan to declare Los Angeles County a disaster area and President Richard Nixon to send Vice President Spiro Agnew to inspect the area.¬†¬† After the San Fernando earthquake, the State of California enacted the¬†Alquist Priolo Act¬†to limit construction along faults that¬†likely caused earthquakes¬†able to rupture the ground surface¬†in the last 11,000 years.¬† On the federal level, Congress renewed its interest in earthquake safety, held hearings and introduced new bills to establish a national earthquake research program. Congress eventually passed the¬†Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977, which led to the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, or NEHRP,¬†and was pivotal in helping establish what is now the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program.¬† Over the years, NEHRP agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency¬†(FEMA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Geological Survey, made research and policy recommendations that in part contributed to the City of Los Angeles enacting an ordinance in 2015 to retrofit¬†weaker¬†first-story¬†wood-frame buildings and¬†non-ductile, or¬†brittle,¬†concrete buildings, which are both more vulnerable to collapse during strong shaking. In 2013, San Francisco enacted the Mandatory Soft Story Retrofit Program, which was based in part on work sponsored by NEHRP and on the aftermath of the 1989 Loma¬†Prieta¬†earthquake.¬†¬† "NEHRP was founded on the belief that while earthquakes are inevitable, there is much that we can do as a¬†nation¬†to improve public safety, reduce losses and impacts¬†and increase our resilience to earthquakes and related hazards,‚Äú Gavin Hayes, the USGS¬†senior¬†science¬†advisor¬†for Earthquake¬†and¬†Geologic Hazards, said.¬† An unforgettable earthquake¬† An earthquake large enough to spur legislative action and help form new federal programs garnered much media attention.¬† ‚ÄúA Major Disaster,‚ÄĚ the New York Times printed on Feb 10, 1971. ‚ÄúQuake Cost in Death, Damages Staggering,‚Ä̬†the¬†Valley News and Valley Green Sheet declared on Feb 11.¬† The latter newspaper printed an article that captured the quake‚Äôs desolation in a paragraph. ‚ÄúThe cities of San Fernando and Sylmar were left in shambles. Some destruction was reported throughout the Newhall and Saugus areas, 10 miles west of the quake‚Äôs epicenter. And the destruction spread, almost like the ring on a pond after the rock‚Äôs initial splash.‚Ä̬†¬† North-Trending fracture pattern near the Sylmar Converter Station above the upon Van Norman Dam. The fracture was due to a landslide and the dam's setting in extensive fill material. Photo taken from a view¬†looking northeast on Feb 10, 1971. (Credit: USGS. Public domain.) The earthquake was the first disaster in the¬†United States¬†to happen after the¬†Disaster Relief Act of 1970, which directed federal agencies to provide assistance to state and local governments. At the time of the earthquake,¬†FEMA¬†did not exist.¬†¬† The epicenter of the quake was about 8.7 miles (14 km) north of San Fernando in a sparsely populated area of the San Gabriel Mountains. It was 5.6 miles (9 km) deep and generally felt over approximately 80,000 square miles (208,000 square km) of California, Nevada and Arizona.¬†¬† More than 200 aftershocks with a¬†magnitude¬†of¬†3 or more occurred over the next month. The upper San Fernando Valley, including the northern section of the City of Los Angeles, sustained the most severe damage to buildings and utilities.¬† There were 64 causalities directly related to the earthquake, with 49 people killed at the San Fernando Veterans Administration Hospital. Two of its buildings were completely destroyed by the quake. Others died at Olive View Hospital, under¬†collapsed¬†freeway overpasses¬†and at other locations. At Olive View, four 5-story wings pulled away from the main building and three of them toppled.¬†¬† Two fallen structurally separated stair towers and the collapsed basement at Olive View Hospital after the San Fernando earthquake in February 1971. View is north. (Credit: USGS. Public domain.) Photo of San Fernando Veterans Administration Hospital in Sylmar from the publication, ‚ÄúEngineering Aspects of the 1971 San Fernando Earthquake,‚ÄĚ published by the U.S. Department of Commerce‚Äôs National Bureau of Standards in December 1971. The hospital's roof collapsed and the shaking caused damage to the vertical pillars at the corners of the building. (Public domain.) In front of the San Fernando Valley Juvenile Hall facilities, railroad tracks were twisted, broken and displaced as much as¬†4 feet (1.2 m) from the intense shaking.¬†¬† Photo showing railroad track damage following the San Fernando Earthquake on February 9, 1971. (Credit: USGS. Public domain.) Major freeways and traffic arteries in the northern San Fernando Valley were closed following the earthquake because of pavement fissures and collapsed bridges blocking lanes.¬†¬† The California Department of Transportation adopted seismic design practices using lessons learned from the San Fernando earthquake. The agency created a Post-Earthquake Investigation Team that examines damage to bridges after all earthquakes and makes recommendations.¬†CalTrans¬†creates and implements¬†seismic design criteria¬†for infrastructure across the state.¬†¬† Oblique aerial view of collapsed highway overpasses and bridges at the interchange of the Foothill and Golden State Freeways after the San Fernando earthquake in February 1971.¬†The principal highway link between northern and southern California was temporarily cut¬†and traffic had to be re-routed for several months. (Credit: R. E. Wallace, USGS. Public domain.) ‚ÄúI remember biking on the [not yet open] 210 freeway and seeing damaged bridges including near Foothill Boulevard, which had mushroomed columns,‚ÄĚ Glenn¬†Biasi, a scientist at the USGS, said.¬†¬† Biasi‚Äôs¬†home in Sunland, about 11 miles (18 km) from the epicenter, was damaged in the earthquake.¬†He also recalled¬†seeing people¬†during the recovery phase¬†salvaging used lumber from destroyed¬†homes in San Fernando.¬† Margaret Vinci, manager of the Office of Earthquake Programs at the California Institute of Technology, was living in Arcadia, about 30 miles (48 km) from Sylmar, at the time of the earthquake and although her home had no damage, her relatives in the San Fernando Valley really struggled with repairs. ‚ÄúIt took them months to recover,‚ÄĚ Vinci said. She recalled her aunt‚Äôs home in Reseda was so damaged that her aunt had to live with Vinci immediately after the quake. ‚ÄúHer front yard was a plot of mud for weeks because of broken pipes,‚ÄĚ Vinci said.¬† It was the cacophony of¬†toppling and shaking¬†appliances,¬†dressers¬†and other household items that Doug Given, a geophysicist with the USGS, remembers from the earthquake.¬†Given, still in bed¬†at home¬†when the quake struck¬†Glendale,¬†pulled the covers over his head to drown out the noise. After the 12-second temblor, Given biked to downtown Glendale and recalled seeing broken glass and tumbled bricks.¬† Eyewitnesses are valuable during an earthquake and can help scientists understand the intensity of the shaking for areas near and far from the quake‚Äôs epicenter. Although people nowadays can easily submit ‚Äúfelt reports‚ÄĚ to USGS through the¬†Did You Feel It portal, which launched in 1999, in 1971, people would have sent in postcard surveys¬†like the one below detailing their experience.¬†¬† Survey sent in as part of postcard to report feeling the Northridge earthquake of 1994. These types of surveys predate the now online Did You Feel It portal.¬† (Public domain.) Even though the San Fernando quake was 50 years ago, 28 years before the invention of the Did You Feel it portal, more than 1,000 people have submitted¬†retroactive¬†electronic¬†reports¬†so¬†far.¬† These felt reports help support critical USGS products like¬†ShakeMap, which provides near-real-time maps of ground motion and shaking intensity following significant earthquakes, and the¬†Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response (PAGER)¬†system, which provides¬†fatality and economic loss impact estimates for significant earthquakes worldwide.¬† Measuring the quake¬† In addition to eyewitness accounts, scientists look to seismographs to determine the size, or magnitude, of an earthquake and the subsequent intensity of ground shaking. The instruments measure the shaking‚Äôs amplitude, frequency and duration at various locations and distances from the earthquake, which gives scientists and decision makers an idea of ground and building motions, as well as potential damage, across an affected region.¬† There were¬†more than¬†250 strong-motion seismographs around Southern California at the time of the San Fernando earthquake. Most of them were privately owned but maintained by the then-Seismological Field Survey unit of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Ocean Survey¬†as part of a cooperative network.¬†¬† These seismographs provided a wealth of data to better characterize the ground motion and help scientists understand how structures responded to the ground motion. The data points helped answer fundamental questions in earthquake engineering, such as¬†how does local geology affect ground motion? What ground motion characteristics are most damaging to buildings, bridges, dams¬†and other engineered structures?¬†¬† The San Fernando earthquake was the first to record more than¬†1-g of acceleration¬†in a horizontal direction, which happened on a seismograph at the abutment of Pacoima Dam. Before that point, the maximum thought reasonable was much lower. Since then, many higher recordings have been made, but in the history of strong motion seismology, San Fernando was a turning point.¬† Southern California has a tumultuous tectonic past dating back tens of millions of years. Its¬†crustal movements are an ongoing part of a pattern of deformation ultimately responsible for the San Fernando earthquake as well as California‚Äôs reputation as a shaky state.¬†¬†¬† Although most people think of the San Andreas Fault system when they think of a California quake, the¬†San Fernando earthquake¬†actually occurred on a less well-known fault system called the Sierra Madre Fault Zone, which runs along the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. The 1971 earthquake ruptured a subsection named the San Fernando Fault¬†Zone,¬†which extends from the¬†western San Fernando Valley to Big Tujunga Wash,¬†about 12 and a half miles (20 km) across.¬† The San Fernando Fault is a¬†thrust fault, which means a section of land above the fault moved up and over a region below it. The earthquake was a single episode of ongoing crustal deformation, which, in a local sense,¬†has pushed the San Gabriel Mountains¬†up¬†and south¬†towards the broader Los Angeles Basin.¬†In a broader sense, this motion is consistent with the plate boundary along the San Andreas Fault, where the plate to the west is¬†moving¬†northward relative to the plate on the eastern side¬†at¬† two inches (52¬†mm) per year.¬† During the quake, the mountains lurched as much as 5 feet to the south in a matter of seconds, damaging roadways, pipelines and other structures embedded in the ground, and leaving a discontinuous tear where the fault ruptured the ground surface across the mountain front.¬†¬† Severe ground fractures and land sliding caused extensive damage in areas away from the fault itself, which is a common phenomenon for earthquakes of this magnitude. Landslides on very gentle slopes, known as lateral spreads and related to a process called liquefaction, happened in swaths of the northwestern San Fernando Valley. Though less visually dramatic, these caused significant damage to pipes and other infrastructure.¬†¬† In steeper terrain,¬†more than¬†1,000 landslides and rockfalls were identified and mapped from aerial images. They were concentrated in the foothills and mountainous areas of the San Gabriel Mountains. One of largest slides occurred on the east side of Schwartz Canyon and was approximately 600 feet (180 m) wide.¬† A path to earthquake legislation¬† Seven years before Southern California was rocked by the San Fernando earthquake, the most powerful recorded earthquake in U.S. history hit the state of Alaska. The magnitude-9.2 quake hit Prince William Sound on March 27, 1964, at 5:36 p.m. local time and ruptured for about 4.5 minutes. The quake triggered a major tsunami that caused death and destruction from the Kodiak Islands to northern California.¬†¬† Although the mighty Alaska quake took place in a sparsely populated area, it demonstrated the potential for devastation in other parts of the country and started the conversation toward a coordinated federal program focused on earthquake risk mitigation and response.¬†¬† The San Fernando earthquake revitalized those talks and helped push forward what eventually became NEHRP in 1977. The bill created an¬†Office of Earthquake Hazard Reduction¬†that eventually became the¬†USGS Earthquake Hazards Program. The program works with partners to monitor and report earthquakes, assess earthquake impacts and hazards¬†and perform research into the causes and effects of earthquakes.¬† Since NEHRP‚Äôs inception in 1977, it has been reviewed and reauthorized by Congress many times. The four agencies that currently lead the effort, including¬†FEMA¬†, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation and the USGS, are each¬†tasked with specific roles.¬†¬† Most recently,¬†NEHRP was reauthorized¬†and signed into law in December 2018. This most recent bill expands its¬†purview to bolster communities‚Äô ability to prepare for, recover from and adapt to earthquakes¬†and¬†publish maps of active faults and other seismically induced hazards. It also¬†continues¬†to¬†support and¬†develop the Advanced National Seismic System, including the¬†ShakeAlert¬†earthquake early warning system,¬†which is now operational throughout California, Oregon and Washington.¬†

ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning Delivery for the Pacific Northwest

6 months ago

As massive slabs of¬†Earth¬†squish¬†into and grind past each other off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, many people may wonder when they will feel ensuing earthquakes.¬†¬†¬† Although the U.S. Geological Survey cannot predict where and when future earthquakes will occur, the bureau, along with a team of organizations, helped create a system that can provide vital seconds of warning that an earthquake is¬†happening¬†and shaking is imminent.¬†¬† The¬†ShakeAlert¬ģ¬†Earthquake Early Warning system¬†is a network of sensors that¬†collects and shares real-time information about the magnitude, location and expected shaking from earthquakes on the West Coast to distribution partners who then deliver alerts via cell phones and the internet. Partners can also¬†initiate automatic protective actions such as stopping trains to prevent derailments and closing water valves to protect infrastructure.¬†¬† ShakeAlert¬†can save lives and reduce injuries by giving people¬†time¬†to take protective actions, such as moving away from hazardous areas and making sure to drop, cover and hold on.¬†ShakeAlert¬†complements existing products from the¬†Advanced National Seismic System¬†that contribute to earthquake risk reduction.¬† For the first time,¬†ShakeAlert-powered alerts will be delivered directly to wireless devices¬†in Oregon starting on March 11, 2021. Oregon will be the second state to ‚ÄĚgo live,‚ÄĚ following California on October 17, 2019. Washington state will join Oregon and California in May 2021, which will complete the wireless alert delivery rollout across the entire continental West Coast.¬† For more than two years, a growing number of¬†ShakeAlert¬†technical partners in all three states have been using the¬†ShakeAlert¬†system for triggering automated actions to support public safety. Although¬†ShakeAlert¬†is¬†operational¬†in all three states, the USGS and its university and state partners are working to finish building the seismic network¬†to¬†support prompt¬†earthquake detection. The network is now¬†70% complete for the West Coast, with 1,132 out of 1,675 seismic stations installed as of Jan. 31, 2021.¬†¬† ‚ÄúThe rollout of public alerting for¬†ShakeAlert¬†in the Pacific Northwest is a major milestone in the evolution of this critical system and has the potential to provide users with life-saving warnings seconds before they experience damaging shaking in future earthquakes,‚ÄĚ Gavin Hayes, USGS senior science advisor for¬†earthquake and¬†geologic¬†hazards, said. ‚ÄúThis represents a major achievement for the USGS, the ANSS¬†and for our¬†state and regional partners.‚Ä̬† Upcoming events¬†¬†¬† To help residents of the Pacific Northwest learn how to¬†use¬†ShakeAlert, a team of organizations is rolling out various events and resources over the next few months.¬†¬†¬†¬† February¬†18: Pacific Northwest¬†ShakeAlert¬†Ask Me Anything on Reddit¬†¬†¬† February 25: Washington state¬†ShakeAlert¬†Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) demonstration¬†¬†¬†¬† March 11:¬†ShakeAlert-powered alert delivery to wireless devices goes live in Oregon¬†¬† May 2021:¬†ShakeAlert-powered alert delivery to wireless devices goes live in Washington¬† Flyer for Reddit Ask me Anything on ShakeAlert in the Pacific Northwest. The event will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. PST.¬† (Public domain.) Pacific Northwest¬†ShakeAlert¬†Ask Me Anything on Reddit On Feb. 18, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. PST,¬†ShakeAlert¬†partners will host a Reddit Ask Me Anything focused on¬†ShakeAlert¬†in the Pacific Northwest.¬†¬† Representatives from the USGS, Oregon Office of Emergency Management, Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, University of Oregon and Washington State Emergency Management Division will answer questions related to the Washington State WEA demonstration, Oregon and Washington alert delivery rollouts, and anything else that relates to¬†ShakeAlert¬†earthquake early warning in the Pacific Northwest.¬†¬†¬† ShakeAlert Wireless Emergency Alert demonstration in Washington On Thursday, Feb. 25 at 11 a.m. PST, the Washington Emergency Management Division and the USGS will jointly deliver a¬†ShakeAlert-powered¬†WEA test message through¬†FEMA‚Äôs Integrated Public Alerting & Warning System¬†across wireless devices in King, Pierce and Thurston counties.¬†This test coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Feb. 28, 2001,¬†Nisqually¬†earthquake, which was Washington's most recent damaging earthquake.¬†WEA¬†is one of multiple methods used by the¬†ShakeAlert¬†earthquake early warning system that will provide public alerting in Washington state beginning in May of this year.¬†¬† The Washington Emergency Management Division¬†is excited to test the¬†ShakeAlert¬†earthquake¬†early¬†warning system and complete it for the West Coast. ‚ÄúThere are a lot of people who remember the Nisqually earthquake and testing our¬†earthquake¬†early¬†warning system is a great way for us to get ready for the rollout of public alerting to wireless devices in May,‚ÄĚ said Maximilian Dixon,¬†geologic¬†hazards¬†supervisor for the Washington Emergency Management Division. ‚ÄúTesting WEA distribution of¬†ShakeAlert-powered alerts on Feb 25th¬†is an important step before rolling out public alerting to wireless devices in May. This is all part of a monumental effort to reduce our state‚Äôs earthquake and tsunami risk.‚Ä̬† To participate in this test,¬†members of the public in these three counties¬†will need to¬†OPT IN. The device may vibrate and/or make a distinctive sound and a message will appear in a text window on the screen. The WEA test message will say the following, depending on your phone‚Äôs language setting:¬† English: TEST of the Earthquake Alert System. (https://mil.wa.gov/alerts) TEST -USGS¬†ShakeAlert¬†¬† Spanish: PRUEBA del¬†sistema¬†de¬†alerta¬†de¬†terremotos. (https://mil.wa.gov/alerts) -USGS¬†ShakeAlert¬†¬† Participation in a survey during the test will also help improve future¬†ShakeAlert-powered¬†alert¬†delivery.¬†For directions on how to opt in to the test and participate in the survey, visit¬†https://mil.wa.gov/alerts.¬† ShakeAlert-powered alert delivery in Oregon Leading up to March 11, Oregon, in collaboration with USGS and other partners, will use various methods to announce the availability of alerts powered by the¬†ShakeAlert¬†Earthquake Early Warning system to be delivered to wireless devices. On March 11,¬†ShakeAlert¬†will be activated to deliver alerts directly to wireless devices in Oregon when earthquakes strike.¬† The delivery date coincides with the 10th anniversary of the magnitude-9.1 Great Tohoku¬†earthquake in Japan, which took about 20,000 peoples‚Äô lives. This quake was the strongest in Japan‚Äôs history and struck below the North Pacific Ocean, 81 miles (130 km) east of Sendai, the largest city in the Tohoku region. The quake caused a tsunami that produced waves up to 132 feet (40 m) high and caused the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.¬†¬† After traveling across the Pacific, the tsunami rose to more than 26 feet (5 m) in Hawaii and more than 6.5 feet (2 m) in California and Oregon, causing debris to wash up on the Oregon coastline. A task force made up of state and federal agencies, along with non-governmental organizations, worked together for three years to coordinate nearly 900 clean-up events during which an estimated 40,000 volunteers picked up more than 446,000 pounds of debris on the Oregon coast.¬† Alert delivery using the WEA system will go live on March 11, with a WEA demonstration for educational purposes planned for July 2021 to allow time for Oregon, USGS and partners to broadly promote the system and effectively train the public on how to opt into the test and participate in a statewide alert experiment.¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄúOregon is one of the most earthquake-prone areas in the continental United States, and over the years, we have had many earthquakes ‚Äď large and small,‚ÄĚ said Althea Rizzo, geologic hazards program coordinator for Oregon‚Äôs Office of Emergency Management. ‚ÄúWarning resources such as¬†ShakeAlert¬†can help to mitigate loss of lives, severe injury and devastating damage to infrastructure. ShakeAlert¬†on social media¬† Various organizations‚Äô social media accounts will be sharing the latest updates and news about¬†ShakeAlert¬†in the Pacific Northwest using #ORShakeAlert and #WAShakeAlert. Visit¬†these accounts to learn more:¬† @USGS_ShakeAlert on Twitter¬†¬†¬† @OregonOEM on Twitter¬†¬† @WAEMD on Twitter¬†¬†¬† @PNSN1 on Twitter¬†¬† @thePNSN on Facebook @WashEMD on Facebook¬†¬† Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest¬†¬† Japan and the Pacific Northwest have almost mirror-image tectonic settings. Both are susceptible to quakes as one tectonic plate slides under another in a subduction zone.¬†¬†¬† The Pacific Northwest is susceptible to three main types of earthquakes as its underlying tectonic plates build up stress on faults: deep¬†intraslab¬†tremors that occur within a tectonic plate, shallow crustal quakes, and large megathrust earthquakes on the Cascadia Subduction Zone. The area can also experience¬†episodic tremor and slip events, which can release energy equivalent to at least a M7 earthquake.¬† As the Juan de Fuca Plate spreads away from the Pacific Plate and plunges beneath the North American Plate, it‚Äôs strained as it‚Äôs bent and pulled by gravity into the Earth‚Äôs mantle. When the strain builds to a breaking point, earthquakes as deep as 25 to 43 miles (40 to 70 km) can occur within the Juan de Fuca Plate roughly every few decades; these quakes tend to happen beneath western Washington state.¬†¬† There have been three deep¬†intraslab¬†quakes with magnitudes greater than M6.5 to hit the region since 1949: the M6.8 Nisqually quake on February 28, 2001, the M6.5 Puget Sound quake in 1965 and the M7.1 Olympia quake in 1949.¬†¬†¬† Shallow crustal earthquakes tend to occur less frequently than deeper¬†intraslab¬†quakes in the Pacific Northwest, but when they do happen they can be more damaging because of their shallow depths and proximity to densely populated cities. Some quakes are so shallow that they can break or deform the ground surface while others are up to 22 miles (35 km) deep and may not be connected to faults that we see at the surface.¬†¬† The M6.8 to 7.5¬†Entiat earthquake in 1872¬†in central Washington and the approximately M7.5¬†Seattle Fault earthquake 900-930 A.D. are two examples of crustal earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest.¬†¬†¬† Lastly, the Cascadia Subduction Zone is a 600-mile (1,000 km) long¬†megathrust fault¬†with a history of large M8 to M9 earthquakes. It stretches from Northern Vancouver Island to Cape Mendocino, California, and separates the Juan de Fuca and North American plates.¬†¬†¬† Subduction zone earthquakes are the largest earthquakes in the world and reach magnitudes greater than 8.5. The¬†last known megathrust earthquake in the Pacific Northwest¬†was in January 1700 and¬†was¬†estimated to be M9. Looking at geological evidence, scientists estimate that these great earthquakes have occurred at least seven times in the last 3,500 years, which make them likely to happen on average every 400 to 600 years.¬†¬†¬† Earthquake early warning for the Pacific Northwest¬†¬† In 2012, the¬†Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, which is an¬†Advanced National Seismic System¬†regional network operated by the USGS, the University of Washington and the University of Oregon, joined the earthquake early warning efforts that began in California in 2006.¬†¬†¬† Incorporation of the PNSN into¬†ShakeAlert¬†extended the¬†USGS ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System¬†across the entire U.S. mainland Pacific Coast, which grew to include support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the City of Los Angeles and the state governments of California, Oregon and Washington.¬†¬† Karl Hagel and Pat McChesney, field engineers with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network team at the University of Washington, install earthquake monitoring equipment on the slopes of Mount St. Helens, with Mount Hood in the distance. (Credit: Marc Biundo, University of Washington. Courtesy of Marc Biundo/University of Washington) Residents in most locations throughout the Pacific Northwest, including Seattle, Portland, Tacoma, Newport¬†(Oregon)¬†and Eureka¬†(California)¬†should expect that most alerts they receive will be from nearby shallow crustal and¬†intraslab¬†earthquakes.¬†¬†¬† The vast majority of these alerts will be for earthquakes smaller than M7. In these scenarios,¬†ShakeAlert¬†users who will experience strong (or worse) shaking should expect warning times¬†of¬†less than 10 seconds¬†after which¬†it becomes difficult to take protective actions because of the intense shaking.¬†¬†¬†¬† In these quakes, there will be a region near the epicenter where shaking arrives before the alert. People should take protective actions as soon as they feel shaking whether they have received an alert yet or not.¬†¬†¬†¬†

Mars 2020 Mission: The Perseverance Rover Landing

6 months ago

Landing zone for Mars 2020 mission¬†(Credit: Ryan Anderson, USGS). The time is finally here! When you‚Äôre planning to explore someplace new, it‚Äôs always a good idea to bring a map so you can avoid dangerous terrain. This is true whether you‚Äôre heading out for a hike on Earth or you‚Äôre landing a rover on Mars. In either case, the USGS has you covered. After nearly seven months of travel through space, NASA‚Äôs Perseverance rover¬†will touch down on Mars on Thursday, February 18. The mission‚Äôs goals are to search for evidence of past life and habitable environments in Jezero crater and collect and store samples that, for the first time in history, could be returned to Earth by a future mission. The intricate landing sequence, known as Entry, Descent and Landing, or EDL, is guided by the most precise maps of Mars ever created, courtesy of the¬†USGS Astrogeology Science Center. To safely land on the rugged Martian landscape, the spacecraft will use a new technology called ‚ÄúTerrain Relative Navigation.‚ÄĚ As it descends through the planet‚Äôs atmosphere, the spacecraft will use its onboard maps to know exactly where it is and to avoid hazards as it lands on the planet‚Äôs surface. For the navigation to work, the spacecraft needs the best possible maps of the landing site and surrounding terrain. ‚ÄúAs much as we would love to manually steer the spacecraft as it lands, that‚Äôs just not possible,‚ÄĚ said Robin Fergason, USGS research geophysicist. ‚ÄúMars is so far away -- some 130 million miles at the time of landing -- that it takes several minutes for radio signals to travel between Mars and Earth. By using the maps we created, the spacecraft will be able to safely steer itself instead.‚ÄĚ Download Video This video highlights¬†the Jezero crater landing site on Mars, as well as several key locations that the Perseverance rover may visit once it is on the surface. (Credit: USGS). The USGS initially developed two maps for the Mars 2020 mission, including a surface terrain map that spans the landing site and much of the surrounding area and a high-resolution base map that was used by researchers to accurately map surface hazards at the landing site. The terrain map and maps of surface hazards traveled aboard the spacecraft and will be used to help it land safely. The base map will continue to serve for mission operations on Earth as scientists plot where the rover will explore once it‚Äôs on the ground. All the maps have been aligned with unprecedented precision to each other and to global maps of Mars to ensure that they show where everything really is. In addition to the onboard maps used during the descent, USGS researchers also assisted in publishing a new geologic map of Jezero crater and Nili Planum ‚Äď the ancient, cratered highlands where the crater impacted. The geologic map covers the landing site and surrounding terrain that the rover will encounter on its travels during the course of its mission. The geologic map is at a similar scale to our own USGS topographic maps, which is quite an impressive feat given that no one has ever set foot on the Martian surface, which is literally worlds away. The full extent of the geologic map covers roughly 40 square miles and includes some of the oldest terrain on Mars. And most importantly, the area being explored shows a rich history of diverse surface processes involving liquid water ‚Äď an essential feature for life. Geologic Map of Jezero crater on Mars (Credit: USGS). ‚ÄúExploration is part of human nature,‚ÄĚ said Jim Skinner, USGS research geologist. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm excited to see what the rover sees and how its discoveries will expand our knowledge of the Martian surface and the planet‚Äôs geologic history.‚ÄĚ Beyond mapping, once the Perseverance rover lands, several USGS scientists will continue to be involved in the day-to-day operations of the rover. In fact, as soon as Perseverance‚Äôs wheels roll out onto the Martian soil, USGS researchers Ken Herkenhoff, Ryan Anderson and Alicia Vaughan will continue to support NASA‚Äôs mission of unlocking the mysteries of the red planet by supporting two of the instruments onboard ‚Äď the Mastcam-Z and SuperCam. Both instruments are mounted atop the remote sensing mast of the rover and were selected to help carry out the mission‚Äôs goals to search for evidence of past life. What will we learn about Mars over the next year? Was there life on Mars and was it in Jezero crater? We don‚Äôt yet know. But we are excited to find out. The USGS first began mapping objects in space in the 1960s while preparing astronauts for the Apollo missions. Back then the priority was the Moon. Efforts to map other planets started in the 1970s. With Mars specifically, the first USGS maps came out in 1978 based on imagery from the Mariner 9 mission. The 1980s brought updated imagery and updated maps thanks to the Viking Orbiter. But the most exciting USGS contributions came in the late 1990s and early 2000s when better images of the Martian surface allowed USGS to precisely map landing sites for Mars rover missions. The Mars 2020 mission is just the most recent opportunity that the USGS has had to improve the understanding of Mars and contribute to the further exploration of space. For more details about USGS involvement in the Perseverance rover mission, visit the USGS Astrogeology Science Center website. For the latest news about the mission, visit the NASA Mars 2020 mission¬†website.

Kermadec and New Zealand Earthquakes

6 months ago

A magnitude 8.1 earthquake near the Kermadec Trench was the third and largest earthquake of the three. This event is near the magnitude 7.4 earthquake that occurred earlier this afternoon, some 600 miles (950 km) north of New Zealand. While large, these earthquakes are remote and¬†the USGS¬†PAGER¬†report is Green for fatalities and economic losses. The M8.1 earthquake is about 11 times larger than the earlier M 7.4 and occurred at a shallower depth (early estimates about 12 miles, or 20 km).¬†The larger size and shallower depth increase the tsunami potential, and NOAA have released tsunami warnings for many islands in the southwest Pacific. The National Emergency Management Agency of New Zealand have also released a tsunami warning. Map shows shaking intensity of the March 4, 2021 New Zealand earthquake. (Credit: USGS. Public domain.) Like the preceding M7.4, the M 8.1 earthquake occurred as the result of thrust faulting at shallow depth, likely on the subduction zone interface between the Pacific and Australia plates. Large earthquakes in this region are common. While the M 7.4 earthquake was unlikely to have been triggered by static stress changes caused by the prior M 7.3 near New Zealand this morning, the M 8.1 and M 7.4 are directly related. The M 7.4 event can¬†be considered a foreshock of the M 8.1.¬† Further and updated information about the earthquake can be found here: M 8.1 - Kermadec Islands, New Zealand (usgs.gov) M 7.4 - Kermadec Islands, New Zealand (usgs.gov) M 7.3 - 174 km NE of Gisborne, New Zealand (usgs.gov) USGS scientists expect that these events will trigger aftershocks, but these will decrease in frequency over time. If you felt the M7.3 earthquake, report your experience on the ‚ÄúUSGS Did You Feel It?‚ÄĚ website for this event. For information about tsunami watches, warnings or advisories, visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tsunami website. Follow our discussion about these events on twitter. Learn more about the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program. We will update this story if more information becomes available. Earthquake Information/Resources Earthquake Basics USGS Earthquakes Homepage Earthquake Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) USGS Roles, Responsibility, and Research Did You Feel It? ¬†

Invasive Zebra Mussels Found in Pet Stores in 21 States

6 months ago

A¬†moss ball sold in pet stores containing an invasive zebra mussel.¬†USGS photo. (Public domain.) Amid concerns that the ornamental aquarium moss balls containing zebra mussels may have accidentally spread the pest to areas where it has not been seen before, federal agencies, states, and the pet store industry are working together to remove the moss balls¬†from¬†pet store¬†shelves¬†nationwide. They have also drawn up¬†instructions¬†for people who bought the moss balls or have them in aquariums to carefully decontaminate them, destroying any zebra mussels and larvae they contain¬†using one of these methods:¬†freezing them for at least 24 hours, placing them in boiling water for at least one minute, placing them in diluted chlorine bleach, or submerging them in undiluted white vinegar for at least 20 minutes. The decontamination instructions were developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the USGS and representatives of the pet industry.¬†¬† Zebra mussels are an invasive, fingernail-sized mollusk native to freshwaters in Eurasia. They clog water intakes for power and water plants, block water control structures, and damage fishing and boating equipment, at great cost.¬†The¬†federal¬†government, state agencies, fishing and boating groups and others have worked extensively to control their spread.¬† In 1990, in response to the first wave of zebra mussel invasions, the USGS set up its¬†Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database,¬†which tracks sightings of about 1,270 non-native aquatic plants and animals nationwide, including zebra mussels. State and local wildlife managers use the database to find and eliminate or control potentially harmful species.¬†¬† The coordinator of the Nonindigenous Aquatic Species¬†Database, USGS fisheries biologist Wesley Daniel, learned about the presence of zebra mussels in moss balls¬†on¬†March 2 and alerted others nationwide about the issue.¬†Moss balls are¬†ornamental plants¬†imported from Ukraine¬†that are¬†often added to aquariums.¬†¬† ‚ÄúThe issue is that somebody who purchased the moss ball and then disposed of them could end up introducing zebra mussels into an environment where they weren‚Äôt present before,‚ÄĚ Daniel said.¬†‚ÄúWe‚Äôve been working with¬†many¬†agencies on boat inspections and gear inspections, but this was not¬†a pathway we‚Äôd been aware of until now.‚Ä̬† On February 25,¬†an employee of a pet store in Seattle, Washington,¬†filed a report to the database that the employee had recently recognized a zebra mussel in a moss ball.¬†Daniel¬†requested confirming information and a photograph and received it¬†a few days¬†later.¬† Daniel¬†immediately¬†notified the aquatic invasive species coordinator for Washington State¬†and¬†contacted invasive species managers at the USGS and USFWS.¬†He¬†visited¬†a pet store in Gainesville, Florida, and found a zebra mussel in a moss ball there. At that point¬†federal non-indigenous species experts realized the issue was extensive.¬† The USFWS¬†is coordinating the response along with¬†the¬†USGS. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, several state wildlife agencies and an industry group, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, are also taking steps to mitigate¬†the problem.¬†National alerts have gone out from the USFWS, the¬†federal¬†Aquatic Nuisance Task Force and regional aquatic invasive species management groups. Reports of zebra mussels in moss balls have come from Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida,¬†Georgia,¬†Iowa,¬†Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana,¬†Nebraska,¬†Nevada,¬†New¬†Mexico,¬†North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon,¬†Tennessee,¬†Vermont, Virginia,¬†Wisconsin,¬†Washington¬†and Wyoming.¬† ‚ÄúI think this was a great test of the rapid-response network that we have been building,‚ÄĚ Daniel said. ‚ÄúIn two days, we had a coordinated state, federal and industry response.‚Ä̬† The USGS is also¬†studying potential methods¬†to help control zebra mussels that are already established in the environment, such as low-dose copper applications, carbon dioxide and microparticle delivery of toxicants.¬†¬† To report a suspected sighting of a zebra mussel or another non-indigenous aquatic plant or animal, go to¬†https://nas.er.usgs.gov/SightingReport.aspx.¬† In May of 2018, USGS Hydrologic Technician Dave Knauer found a batch of zebra mussels attached to the boat anchor in the St. Lawrence River in New York.¬† (Credit: John Byrnes, USGS. Public domain.)

USGS Landsat Satellites Enable Google to Portray Global Change

6 months ago

The USGS, along with NASA, the European Commission, and the European Space Agency, has been critical in the provision of imagery for this new version of Google Earth Timelapse that shows visual evidence of global changes spanning nearly 40 years. In the biggest update to Google Earth since 2017, you can now see our planet in an entirely new dimension: time. With Timelapse in Google Earth, 20 million satellite photos from the past 37 years have been¬†embedded into Google Earth,¬†allowing users to¬†explore changes to our planet's surface over time. Now anyone can watch time unfold across the globe and witness nearly four decades of planetary change. The new Timelapse tool allows researchers, educators, nonprofits, governments, and the world-wide community to access powerful 3D visuals to study our planet‚Äôs stories and consider actions regarding climate change, sustainable development and much more. ¬†None of this would have been possible without the help of USGS: The data from USGS/NASA Landsat satellites have been the major source for the global imagery behind the Google Earth application, including this new feature. USGS Landsat 8 image showing algal bloom in Lake Erie in September of 2017. Landsat‚Äôs spectral bands allow researchers to see photosynthetic activity that is invisible to the naked eye.¬† (Public domain.) Google partnered with Carnegie Mellon University‚Äôs CREATE Lab to create five thematic ‚ÄúEarth Voyager‚ÄĚ stories that users can explore through guided tours: forest change, urban growth, warming temperatures, mining and renewable energy sources, and the Earth‚Äôs fragile beauty. To explore Timelapse in Google Earth, go to g.co/Timelapse. You can use the search bar to choose any place on the planet where you want to see the changes over time in motion. Or open Google Earth and click on the ship‚Äôs wheel to find interactive guided tours of the new imagery and featured locations. Google is also releasing more than 800 time-lapse videos covering more than 300 locations on YouTube. The videos will be available for free download in ready-to-use MP4 format. Landsat is Indispensable for Google Timelapse The content served by 3D Timelapse is derived, in large part, from five decades of U.S. Government investment in Landsat observations and data distribution. These substantial investments, measured in tens of billions of dollars, have created a Landsat archive containing nearly 300 billion square kilometers of global imagery. Every day, the Landsat data archive grows by about 40 million square kilometers ‚Äď the size of Europe and North America combined. At an altitude of 705 km, one Landsat satellite takes 232 orbits, or 16 days, to complete global coverage. The baseline configuration of two operational Landsat satellites achieves 8-day repeat coverage of any location on Earth. Landsat‚Äôs unique multi-spectral instruments simultaneously collect visible, shortwave and thermal infrared data. By observing phenomena that can‚Äôt be seen by the human eye, Landsat helps users identify and analyze a wide variety of critical landscape changes . This USGS Landsat 8 image shows the extent of Bear Glacier (upper) and Aialik Glacier (lower) on Alaska‚Äôs Kenai Peninsula, as of September 4, 2018. Both glaciers have retreated significantly since the launch of the first Landsat satellite in 1972. Scientists can use Landsat‚Äôs deep historical archive to study glacial loss.¬† (Public domain.) In the past, data delivery was cumbersome, and users had to pay for access. Today, by leveraging digital communications, supercomputer technology, and cloud processing, USGS makes the world‚Äôs largest archive of land surface imagery accessible to anyone for free. Landsat Highlights: The Landsat imagery collection is the world‚Äôs only long-term, continuous, data record of the entire Earth‚Äôs land surfaces dating back to 1972. Processed Landsat data are globally recognized for their scientific quality, precision and consistency. The processed data are at 30-meter resolution ‚Äď meaning 1 pixel is 30 x 30 meters, roughly the size of a baseball field. This provides the ideal scale to observe and measure human- and natural land change. Consistent collection methods provide direct comparability across decades, making it easier to detect subtle land change. More than 100 million Landsat scenes have been downloaded from the USGS since 2008, when the data became free as part of the Department of the Interior‚Äôs Open Data Policy. The Future of Landsat To emphasize the USGS‚Äôs commitment to future Landsat missions, NASA and the USGS will continue the global data record with the launch of the Landsat 9 satellite this September. The successor mission, Landsat Next, is currently being planned for lift-off toward the end of the decade. That satellite will include major improvements over today‚Äôs observation platforms to support a broader range of scientific and commercial uses. Continued dialogue with, and support from, Landsat data users will be essential to maintain Landsat continuity and improvements in the future. These enhancements will result in better information products and services. To learn more about the history of the USGS/NASA Landsat missions, their societal benefits, how to download data and much more, go to: https://www.usgs.gov/core-science-systems/nli/landsat ¬† Screenshots¬†from a Google Earth 3D Timelapse video that compare¬†urban growth and landchange in New York City from Landsat images, 1984 to 2018. (Public domain.)

Celebrating Earth Day from Above

6 months ago

The idea for Landsat began in 1966, three years before Apollo 11 landed on the Moon.¬† At that time, the Department of the Interior and NASA announced plans for a civilian satellite that would focus specifically on Earth imagery. In 1972, the same year the famous Blue Marble image was taken by Apollo 17, NASA launched the first satellite of the Landsat program. Landsat, a joint effort of the USGS and¬†NASA, has produced the longest, continuous record of Earth‚Äôs land surface as seen from space. A timelapse of the coast of Chatham, Massachusetts, showing the changing shoreline. Created with Landsat imagery using Google Earth 3D Timelapse. Courtesy of Google. (Timelapse courtesy of Google) We‚Äôre now on Landsat 8 (with Landsat 7 still in orbit and continuing to acquire images), and NASA plans on launching Landsat 9 this September. As the technology deployed by Landsat advances, the uses for Landsat imagery also advance. On April 15, 2021, Google announced its Google Earth 3D Timelapse tool, which is based on imagery from Landsat, along with other imagery from NASA, the European Commission, and the European Space Agency. Timelapse allows users to access powerful 3D visuals to study our planet‚Äôs stories and consider actions regarding climate change, sustainable development and much more. To celebrate Earth Day, we thought we would share some of the uses of Landsat imagery throughout the decades, and we also want to highlight Landsat‚Äôs beautiful imagery of the Earth. A series of USGS Landsat images shows deforestation near Santa Cruz, Bolivia, from 1986 to 2016. Focus on the Forests Graceful and majestic, forests have long held humanity‚Äôs imagination and been synonymous with the health of the environment. Through Landsat, the USGS has been studying the world‚Äôs forests and various factors that have affected them. From the ground, the extent of forestland damage may simply be too large for field observers to quantify. But 438 miles above the Earth, Landsat satellites pass over every forest in the country dozens of times a year‚ÄĒevery year‚ÄĒcreating a historical archive of clear, composite images that tells the hidden stories of life and death in our nation‚Äôs forests. From pine beetles to the hemlock woolly adelgid, forest damage from invasive species is tracked by Landsat so forest managers can identify and quantify the impacts and develop effective mitigation strategies. Unfortunately, it‚Äôs not just insects that are affecting our forests. Human-caused deforestation is a worldwide issue. In 2013, the first global image maps of tree growth and disappearance were published using data exclusively from the Landsat 7 satellite. The uniform data from more than 650,000 scenes, spanning the years 2000‚Äď2012, ensured a consistent global perspective across time, national boundaries, and regional ecosystems. Our Dynamic Planet¬† The New York City Council‚Äôs Data Team used Landsat 8 data to create an interactive map showing temperature differences throughout the city. (courtesy council.nyc.gov) (Public domain.) It is not just forest landscapes that change over time. In the past 50 years, cities have grown, farmlands have expanded, wilderness has shrunk, and glaciers have retreated, all under Landsat‚Äôs watchful gaze. Through Landsat imagery, scientists and decisionmakers can see where land usage has changed and to what purpose it is currently being put. Idaho, for example, has emerged as the second-leading state for irrigation usage behind California, and they needed a way to keep tabs on their water usage. After all, Idaho is not known for its high rainfall. Landsat‚Äôs eye in the sky has helped Idaho‚Äôs resource managers account for and track how much water they have and how much water they use each year for irrigation. In another example of Landsat assisting with water usage, Canada and the United States share the St. Mary and Milk River system in Alberta and Montana. Apportioning water between the two countries, as well as the Blackfeet Nation, which also uses water from the rivers, can be a challenge, because irrigation and evapotranspiration are difficult to track using traditional methods. However, scientists from Canada and the United States were able to figure out how to use Landsat to get a much clearer idea of the amount of water actually being taken out of the rivers, either by human activities or other natural processes. In the United States and around the world, cities are growing. The USGS seeks to illustrate and explain the spatial history of urban growth and corresponding land-use change. Scientists are studying urban environments from a regional perspective and a time scale of decades to measure the changes that have occurred in order to help understand the impact of anticipated changes in the future. One example of how Landsat is aiding city planners lies in addressing areas of extreme heat that develop in cities during the summer. In New York City, planners and health officials were able to use Landsat to identify which neighborhoods had the worst hot spots and even track what effects their mitigation efforts had. Landsat Burned Area Example See the Landsat Science Products page for more details. (Public domain.) Watching over the World The power of observation through Landsat is not just used to watch over environmental impacts and land-use change. The imagery is also brought to bear during natural hazard events. From hurricanes to wildfires to volcanoes, Landsat has helped responders during the events and has supported rebuilding efforts after the fact. Landsat goes beyond the United States. The USGS Landsat program is part of the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters,‚ÄĚ which serves as an important source of satellite imagery for responding to major natural and man-made disasters worldwide. The Charter comprises 17 member agencies from countries around the world and has been activated more than 700 times in the 20 years it has been in effect. A serene gradient from red to smoky blue-gray seems to mask a chaotic scene underneath, expressing a wide range of emotion. Looking like a NASA closeup of Jupiter, this image reveals sediment in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast. Source: Landsat 8¬†Download Imagery¬†(Public domain.) Work of Art With all its uses, it‚Äôs no wonder that Landsat is treasured by both USGS scientists and its users outside the agency. Also, studies have shown it provides billions of dollars of value to people around the world. But one of the unanticipated benefits of Landsat is that the imagery allows us to see the Earth‚Äôs natural beauty from a perspective that only astronauts get.¬† And on this Earth Day, we wanted to share the beauty of the images it produces. USGS scientists have been so captivated by the views of Landsat that they have created a regular series, called Earth As Art. So, as you enjoy Earth Day 2021, enjoy the Earth as seen by the world‚Äôs longest continually operating Earth observation program!

Progressives Strongly Oppose John E. Morton As Climate Czar | Common Dreams Newswire

6 months ago

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