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 “USGS Did You Feel It?” 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?
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’s 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’s 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 – while providing data at critical locations – cover less than 1% of the nation’s 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. “Reliable and accurate scientific data are essential to making informed decisions about river and reservoir management,” 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. “New monitoring technology is essential to addressing many issues associated with our annual water balance in the Upper Colorado River Basin,” said Dave “DK” 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.
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’s 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’s famous letter he complained that people’s fondness for the eagle was misplaced and that the turkey was “a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America...He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage.” 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 have 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. These restoration efforts have been supported by funds from the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act. “Research 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,” 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, “Today, research on turkeys is not about restoring populations, but doing a better job of managing them for society.” In Pennsylvania, turkeys occur everywhere — 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. “Research 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,” 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’s eastern wild turkey populations. A Turkey’s 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 a 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’ 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 “beard” (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 – 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. 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. “Understanding the effect on hunter harvest by changing the season’s length by one week will help state wildlife agencies make better decisions when it comes to setting hunting regulations,” 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’s range – 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’s a little bit of trivia to share with your family this holiday - a group of turkeys is called a “rafter.” 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 – Ecosystems Mission Area
2020 Ends with a Bang This animation shows lava erupting from Kīlauea Volcano on Dec 20, 2020. At about 9:30 p.m. HST on Sunday evening, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory detected a glow within Halemaʻumaʻu crater at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano. Shortly after, it was confirmed that an eruption had begun within Kīlauea’s summit caldera in Hawaiʻi 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, Kīlauea’s 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’s eruptive status, the USGS will notify local authorities and the public. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is in close contact with Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, County of Hawai‘i Civil Defense Agency and other agencies responsible for public safety. If you would like to receive notifications about Kīlauea, 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‘i Civil Defense Agency webpage. Additional Information Kīlauea - Volcano Updates Geology and History Monitoring Web Cams December 21, 2020 - sunrise at the new eruption site in Kīlauea caldera.
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’s no treatment or vaccine. “Big game like deer and elk are valued by people for food, and they’re culturally important to tribal communities and hunters in North America,” said Bryan Richards, emerging disease coordinator at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center. “Cervids are also intrinsically valuable. That’s why we care about this disease.” 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’s 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. “Healthy environments bolster healthy economies,” Richards said. “Unhealthy animal populations do the opposite.” For these reasons, CWD is of great concern to wildlife managers, but managers need information to make key conservation decisions. That’s 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. “The CWD problem is significant and the disease is growing and spreading,” 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’s 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’s 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. “This 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,” said Paul Cross, a scientist at the USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center. “We are also developing inexpensive ways to measure cervid density and identifying high concentration areas to help facilitate adaptive management to reduce disease risk.” 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’re an urbanite, or you don’t live on or near property that’s commonly visited by cervids, CWD is on your land – our national parks – and so is the USGS. “National parks belong to the public, and the USGS is supporting the National Park Service in their efforts to manage CWD within park boundaries,” 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’s elk population. Now, USGS scientists are studying the relationship between elk population density and CWD prevalence and evaluating the effectiveness of the park’s 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. “With this new approach, researchers can test fewer numbers of deer by using existing information on the disease risk of different demographic groups,” 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’s tissue. However, USGS scientists are working to expand the options for CWD testing to gain a more thorough understanding of the disease. “The USGS is enthusiastic about efforts to develop advanced, state-of-the-art CWD-testing techniques that go beyond carcass tissue sampling,” said Cynthia Tam, Invasive and Disease Program Coordinator for the USGS Ecosystems Mission Area. “These tests will look for prions in biological samples from live animals and in samples taken from the environment.” 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. “The USGS Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit is an essential partner in linking research with real-world wildlife management,” said Mark Rickebach, chair of the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Whether 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’s 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’s also the most effective strategy for controlling North America’s most complicated – and chronic – 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’s 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’s CWD website U.S. Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service CWD website Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission – CWD page Wyoming Migration Initiative Weighted Surveillance for Detection of Chronic Wasting Disease application
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 “USGS Did You Feel It?” 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?
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’s 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’s 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 — 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
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. “The 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],” 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’s 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’s 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’s 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. “Although there are disparities in reporting between places like California and India, over time, eyewitness reporting systems in California appear to have become more inclusive,” 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, “Did you feel it?” 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’s 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’s 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. “Do people in a specific region of India know that ‘Did You Feel It’ exists?” asked Sara McBride, a research social scientist at the USGS. “And even if people know about it, they would need to want to submit that information to a U.S. government agency.” “We need to be mindful about why people are giving us information,” 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.
At 6 o’clock 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’t. 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. “It was hard to believe what I saw,” 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. “As 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,” 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,“ 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. “A Major Disaster,” the New York Times printed on Feb 10, 1971. “Quake Cost in Death, Damages Staggering,” the Valley News and Valley Green Sheet declared on Feb 11. The latter newspaper printed an article that captured the quake’s desolation in a paragraph. “The 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’s epicenter. And the destruction spread, almost like the ring on a pond after the rock’s initial splash.” 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, “Engineering Aspects of the 1971 San Fernando Earthquake,” published by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s 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.) “I remember biking on the [not yet open] 210 freeway and seeing damaged bridges including near Foothill Boulevard, which had mushroomed columns,” Glenn Biasi, a scientist at the USGS, said. Biasi’s 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. “It took them months to recover,” Vinci said. She recalled her aunt’s home in Reseda was so damaged that her aunt had to live with Vinci immediately after the quake. “Her front yard was a plot of mud for weeks because of broken pipes,” 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’s epicenter. Although people nowadays can easily submit “felt reports” 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’s 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’s 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’s 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’ 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.
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® 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 ”go live,” 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. “The 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,” Gavin Hayes, USGS senior science advisor for earthquake and geologic hazards, said. “This represents a major achievement for the USGS, the ANSS and for our state and regional partners.” 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’s 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. “There 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,” said Maximilian Dixon, geologic hazards supervisor for the Washington Emergency Management Division. “Testing 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’s earthquake and tsunami risk.” 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’s 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’ lives. This quake was the strongest in Japan’s 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. “Oregon is one of the most earthquake-prone areas in the continental United States, and over the years, we have had many earthquakes – large and small,” said Althea Rizzo, geologic hazards program coordinator for Oregon’s Office of Emergency Management. “Warning resources such as ShakeAlert can help to mitigate loss of lives, severe injury and devastating damage to infrastructure. ShakeAlert on social media Various organizations’ 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’s strained as it’s bent and pulled by gravity into the Earth’s 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.
Landing zone for Mars 2020 mission (Credit: Ryan Anderson, USGS). The time is finally here! When you’re planning to explore someplace new, it’s always a good idea to bring a map so you can avoid dangerous terrain. This is true whether you’re heading out for a hike on Earth or you’re landing a rover on Mars. In either case, the USGS has you covered. After nearly seven months of travel through space, NASA’s Perseverance rover will touch down on Mars on Thursday, February 18. The mission’s 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 “Terrain Relative Navigation.” As it descends through the planet’s atmosphere, the spacecraft will use its onboard maps to know exactly where it is and to avoid hazards as it lands on the planet’s surface. For the navigation to work, the spacecraft needs the best possible maps of the landing site and surrounding terrain. “As much as we would love to manually steer the spacecraft as it lands, that’s just not possible,” said Robin Fergason, USGS research geophysicist. “Mars 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.” 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’s 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 – 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 – an essential feature for life. Geologic Map of Jezero crater on Mars (Credit: USGS). “Exploration is part of human nature,” said Jim Skinner, USGS research geologist. “I’m excited to see what the rover sees and how its discoveries will expand our knowledge of the Martian surface and the planet’s geologic history.” 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’s wheels roll out onto the Martian soil, USGS researchers Ken Herkenhoff, Ryan Anderson and Alicia Vaughan will continue to support NASA’s mission of unlocking the mysteries of the red planet by supporting two of the instruments onboard – 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’s 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’t 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.
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 “USGS Did You Feel It?” 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?
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. “The 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’t present before,” Daniel said. “We’ve been working with many agencies on boat inspections and gear inspections, but this was not a pathway we’d been aware of until now.” 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. “I think this was a great test of the rapid-response network that we have been building,” Daniel said. “In two days, we had a coordinated state, federal and industry response.” 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.)
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’s 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’s spectral bands allow researchers to see photosynthetic activity that is invisible to the naked eye. (Public domain.) Google partnered with Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab to create five thematic “Earth Voyager” stories that users can explore through guided tours: forest change, urban growth, warming temperatures, mining and renewable energy sources, and the Earth’s 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’s 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 – 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’s unique multi-spectral instruments simultaneously collect visible, shortwave and thermal infrared data. By observing phenomena that can’t 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’s 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’s 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’s largest archive of land surface imagery accessible to anyone for free. Landsat Highlights: The Landsat imagery collection is the world’s only long-term, continuous, data record of the entire Earth’s 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 – 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’s Open Data Policy. The Future of Landsat To emphasize the USGS’s 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’s 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.)
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’s 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’re 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’s 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’s 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’s imagination and been synonymous with the health of the environment. Through Landsat, the USGS has been studying the world’s 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—every year—creating a historical archive of clear, composite images that tells the hidden stories of life and death in our nation’s 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’s 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 2000–2012, ensured a consistent global perspective across time, national boundaries, and regional ecosystems. Our Dynamic Planet The New York City Council’s 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’s 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’s eye in the sky has helped Idaho’s 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,” 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’s 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’s 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’s longest continually operating Earth observation program!
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