Outdated and inconsistent elevation data cost lives and hinder prosperity across our Nation. Current and accurate 3D elevation data are essential to help communities cope with natural hazards, support infrastructure, ensure agricultural success, strengthen environmental decision making and bolster national security. Flood and landslide maps are just a few of the hundreds of applications benefiting from enhanced lidar data. A coordinated effort among Federal, State, local government and the private sector could meet our country’s needs for high-quality, 3D elevation data in just 8 years. Come learn how the USGS and its partners are working to assemble and apply better data to keep citizens safe and help America thrive.
|Emcee:||Kevin Gallagher – Associate Director for Core Science Systems, USGS
|Where:||Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2325, Washington, D.C.
|When:||Friday, July 25, 2014 - 11:00 a.m.
|Host:||Refreshments provided courtesy of Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS)
|High-resolution lidar image of Mount St. Helens, Washington.|
Heidi Koontz ( Phone: 303-202-4763 );
ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico. — Groundwater pumping has produced significant changes in water levels below some parts of the Albuquerque metropolitan area, according to two new reports published by the U.S. Geological Survey.
For many decades, the water supply requirements of the Albuquerque metropolitan area in central New Mexico were met almost exclusively by groundwater withdrawal from the Santa Fe Group aquifer system. Reliance on groundwater led to variable responses in groundwater levels across the area, with declines in some areas exceeding 120 feet below predevelopment water level conditions.
“We observed that over time the way groundwater moved and where it was present changed significantly,” said USGS hydrologist Rachel Powell, lead author of the report Estimated 2012 groundwater potentiometric surface and drawdown from predevelopment to 2012 in the Santa Fe Group aquifer system in the Albuquerque metropolitan area, central New Mexico. “Groundwater used to flow roughly parallel to the Rio Grande valley, but now it moves away from the Rio Grande and towards clusters of water supply wells in the east, north, and west parts of the metropolitan area.” .
The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority began diverting surface water from the Rio Grande with the San Juan-Chama Drinking Water Project to reduce reliance on groundwater reserves in December 2008.
In the new reports, USGS scientists investigated the variability and extent of groundwater level changes as well as the more recent effects of reduced groundwater use following the introduction of surface water supplies. Measured water levels from wells across the metropolitan area, as well as simulated water levels from a groundwater model, were used to delineate changes in groundwater levels both spatially as well as over time.
While groundwater level declines are substantial in many areas, hydrographs (graphs of water level change) show several instances where groundwater levels are increasing since the introduction of surface water supplies from the San Juan-Chama Drinking Water Project.
“Albuquerque’s sole reliance on groundwater for supply was likely an unsustainable option, even with water conservation measures,” said USGS hydrologist Steve Rice, lead author of report Simulated and measured water levels and estimated water-level changes in the Albuquerque area, central New Mexico, 1950-2012. “The addition of surface water supplies should continue to mitigate the effects of decades of extensive groundwater withdrawal.”
However, the surface water supplies are only reducing groundwater reliance for the City of Albuquerque; other parts of the metropolitan area where groundwater remains the sole source of supply continue to see groundwater level declines.
Analysis of the magnitude and spatial distribution of water level change can help improve the understanding of how the groundwater system responds to withdrawals. This information can support efforts to minimize future water-level declines and may assist with development of strategies for maintaining a sustainable groundwater reserve in the future.
The USGS reports were completed with support and cooperation from the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority.
A summary of the project, links to the two reports, as well as other USGS investigative reports in the Albuquerque area can be found online.
Replacing outdated and inconsistent elevation data will save lives and improve prosperity across our Nation
The USGS, along with other federal, state, local and private agencies is establishing a new 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) designed to respond to the growing needs for three-dimensional mapping data of the United States. This coordinated partnership can help meet the country’s needs for high-quality, 3D elevation data.
Current and accurate 3D elevation data are essential to help communities cope with natural hazards and disasters such as floods and landslides, support infrastructure, ensure agricultural success, strengthen environmental decision-making and bolster national security.
The primary goal of the 3DEP partnership is to systematically collect 3D elevation data across the Nation, using lidar, a remote sensing detection system that works on the principle of radar, but uses light from a laser.
“We are excited about working with partners to apply the game-changing technology of lidar to benefit many critical needs of national importance,” said Kevin Gallagher, USGS Associate Director of Core Science Systems. “For example, FEMA and NOAA are some of our strongest partners because they rely on this type of data to significantly improve floodplain mapping and to better communicate flood risks to communities and citizens.”
The 3DEP initiative is based on the results of the National Enhanced Elevation Assessment that documented more than 600 business and science uses across 34 Federal agencies, all 50 States, selected local government and Tribal offices, and private and nonprofit organizations. The assessment also shows that 3DEP would provide more than $690 million annually in new benefits to government entities, the private sector, and citizens.
A recent White House fact sheet described how accessibility of accurate, high-quality 3D elevation data provides the foundation to the Administration’s overall plan to assist populations in the areas of flood risk management, water resource planning, mitigation of coastal erosion and storm surge impacts, and identification of landslide hazards.
The USGS will host a briefing on Capitol Hill on July 25 to further describe the importance, benefits and growing needs for 3D elevation data.
More information about 3DEP and state specific fact sheets is available online.
|A comparison of an air photo and a lidar image of an area along Secondary Road and Camp Creek, 12 miles north of John Day, OR. The lidar image allows identification of landslide activity that is otherwise masked by trees. (Photo courtesy of the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries).|
Vital research on water flows from 1964 law
The U.S. Geological Survey joins its many partners in other federal agencies, at universities, and in state and local governments in recognizing the importance of the Water Resources Research Act (WRRA) of 1964.
Signed into law 50 years ago by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 17, 1964, the WRRA established a Water Resources Research Institute in each state and Puerto Rico. “Abundant, good water is essential to continued economic growth and progress,” said President Johnson at the time in a prepared statement. “The Congress has found that we have entered a period in which acute water shortages are hampering our industries, our agriculture, our recreation, and our individual health and happiness.”
“Water makes life on Earth possible, defines our landscape, and shapes our natural heritage. It is key to our continued prosperity,” observed Anne Castle, assistant secretary for water and science at the Department of the Interior. “The keen appreciation of the importance of water resources that was expressed by our nation’s leaders in 1964 appears even more visionary today as we are facing the challenges of population growth, increased demand, and climate change.”
The WRRA’s geographically distributed approach to water research and education, Johnson’s 1964 statement continued, “will enlist the intellectual power of universities and research institutes in a nationwide effort to conserve and utilize our water resources for the common benefit. The new centers will be concerned with municipal and regional, as well as with national water problems. Their ready accessibility to state and local officials will permit each problem to be attacked on an individual basis, the only way in which the complex characteristics of each water deficiency can be resolved.”
Subsequent amendments to the 1964 act broadened the list of National Institutes for Water Resources (NIWR) so that, by 1983, there were 54 institutes, one in each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.
The Water Resources Research Institute Program originally authorized by WRRA in 1964 is a federal-state partnership that provides for competitive grants to be awarded for research projects focusing on the state and region. Each of the 54 institutes is charged with overseeing competent research that addresses water problems or expands the understanding of water and water-related phenomena. They are also responsible for aiding the entry of new research scientists into water resources fields, helping to train future water scientists and engineers, and transferring the results of sponsored research to water managers and the public.
“The water research partnerships fostered by the Water Resources Research Act are unparalleled,” said Sharon Megdal, Director of the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center and president-elect of NIWR. “The network of Water Resources Research Institutes connects within states, across regions, and with USGS and other federal agencies to tackle the most pressing water resource challenges of our nation."
Fifty years later, the Water Resources Research Institutes, in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, continue to fulfill their roles assigned by Congress in 1964. They have produced path-breaking research, developed innovative information and technology transfer programs, and provided training to more than 25,000 students in their 50-year history.
- National Institutes for Water Resources (NIWR)
- Statement of President Lyndon B. Johnson on the occasion of the approval of the Water Resources Research Act of 1964, July 17, 1964.
- History of Water Resources Research Institutes program
Robin Fergason ( Phone: 928-556-7034 );
TEMPE, Ariz. – A heat-sensing camera designed at Arizona State University has provided data to create the most detailed global map yet of Martian surface properties. The map uses data from the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), a nine-band visual and infrared camera on NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter. An online version of the map optimized for scientific researchers is also available.
The new Mars map was developed by Robin Fergason of the U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, in collaboration with researchers at ASU's Mars Space Flight Facility. The work reflects the close ties between space exploration efforts at Arizona universities and the USGS.
"We used more than 20,000 THEMIS nighttime temperature images to generate the highest resolution surface property map of Mars ever created," said Fergason, who earned her Ph.D. degree at ASU in 2006. "Now these data are freely available to researchers and the public alike."
Surface properties tell geologists about the physical nature of a planet or moon's surface. Is a particular area coated with dust, and if so, how thick is it likely to be? Where are the outcrops of bedrock? How loose are the sediments that fill this crater or that valley? A map of surface properties lets scientists begin to answer such questions.
The new map uses nighttime temperature images to derive the "thermal inertia" for football field-sized areas of Mars. Thermal inertia is a calculated value that represents how fast a surface heats up and cools off. As night follows day on Mars, loose fine-grain materials such as sand and dust change temperature quickly and thus have low values of thermal inertia. Bedrock has a high thermal inertia because it cools off slowly at night and warms up slowly by day.
"Darker areas in the map have a lower thermal inertia and likely contain fine particles, such as dust, silt or fine sand," said Fergason. “Brighter regions have higher thermal inertia surfaces, consisting perhaps of coarser sand, surface crusts, rock fragments, bedrock or combinations of these materials.”
The designer and principal investigator for the THEMIS camera is Philip Christensen, Regents' Professor of Geological Sciences in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences on the Tempe campus. Four years ago, Christensen and ASU researchers used daytime THEMIS images to create a global Mars map depicting the planet's landforms, such as craters, volcanoes, outflow channels, landslides, lava flows and other features.
"A tremendous amount of effort has gone into this great global product, which will serve engineers, scientists and the public for many years to come," Christensen said. "This map provides data not previously available and will enable regional and global studies of surface properties. I'm eager to use it to discover new insights into the recent surface history of Mars."
Fergason noted that there's a practical side, too.
"NASA used THEMIS images to find safe landing sites for the Mars Exploration Rovers in 2004 and Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory rover, in 2012," she said. "THEMIS images are now helping to select a landing site for NASA's next Mars rover in 2020."
Understanding the Past to Enable Future Exploration
|This new global geologic map of Mars depicts the most thorough representation of the “Red Planet’s” surface. This map provides a framework for continued scientific investigation of Mars as the long-range target for human space exploration.(High resolution image)|
A new global geologic map of Mars –the most thorough representation of the "Red Planet's" surface – has been published by the U.S. Geological Survey. This map provides a framework for continued scientific investigation of Mars as the long-range target for human space exploration.
The new map brings together observations and scientific findings from four orbiting spacecraft that have been acquiring data for more than 16 years. The result is an updated understanding of the geologic history of the surface of Mars – the solar system’s most Earth-like planet and the only other one in our Sun’s “habitable zone.” The new geologic map of Mars is available for download online.
For hundreds of years, geologic maps have helped drive scientific thought. This new global geologic map of Mars, as well as the recent global geologic maps of Jupiter’s moons Ganymede and Io, also illustrates the overall importance of geologic mapping as an essential tool for the exploration of the solar system.
"Spacecraft exploration of Mars over the past couple decades has greatly improved our understanding of what geologic materials, events and processes shaped its surface," said USGS scientist and lead author, Dr. Kenneth Tanaka. “The new geologic map brings this research together into a holistic context that helps to illuminate key relationships in space and time, providing information to generate and test new hypotheses.”
The USGS-led mapping effort reveals that the Martian surface is generally older than previously thought. Three times as much surface area dates to the first major geologic time period - the Early Noachian Epoch - than was previously mapped. This timeframe is the earliest part of the Noachian Period, which ranges from about 4.1 to about 3.7 billion years ago, and was characterized by high rates of meteorite impacts, widespread erosion of the Martian surface and the likely presence of abundant surface water.
The map also confirms previous work that suggests Mars had been geologically active until the present day. There is evidence that major changes in Mars’ global climate supported the temporary presence of surface water and near-surface groundwater and ice. These changes were likely responsible for many of the major shifts in the environments where Martian rocks were formed and subsequently eroded. This new map will serve as a key reference for the origin, age and historic change of geological materials anywhere on Mars.
"Findings from the map will enable researchers to evaluate potential landing sites for future Mars missions that may contribute to further understanding of the planet’s history," said USGS Acting Director Suzette Kimball. "The new Mars global geologic map will provide geologic context for regional and local scientific investigations for many years to come."
The Martian surface has been the subject of scientific observation since the 1600s, first by Earth-based telescopes, and later by fly-by missions and orbiting spacecraft. The Mariner 9 and Viking Orbiter missions produced the first planet-wide views of Mars’ surface, enabling publication of the first global geologic maps (in 1978 and 1986-87, respectively) of a planetary surface other than the Earth and the Moon. A new generation of sophisticated scientific instruments flown on the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, Mars Express and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft has provided diverse, high quality data sets that enable more sophisticated remapping of the global-scale geology of Mars.
The production of planetary cartographic products has been a focal point of research at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center since its inception in the early 1960s. USGS began producing planetary maps in support of the Apollo Moon landings, and continues to help establish a framework for integrating and comparing past and future studies of extraterrestrial surfaces. In many cases, these planetary geologic maps show that, despite the many differences between bodies in our solar system, there are many notable similarities that link the evolution and fate of our planetary system together.
The project was funded by NASA through its Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program.
The mission of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center is to serve the Nation, the international planetary science community, and the general public’s pursuit of new knowledge of our solar system. The Team’s vision is to be a national resource for the integration of planetary geosciences, cartography, and remote sensing. As explorers and surveyors, with a unique heritage of proven expertise and international leadership, USGS astrogeologists enable the ongoing successful investigation of the solar system for humankind. For more information, visit Astrogeology Science Center
Jennifer LaVista ( Phone: 303-202-4764 );
Seasonal carbon dioxide frost, not liquid water, is the main driver in forming gullies on Mars today, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey study that relied on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s (MRO) repeated high-resolution observations.
Martian gullies are landforms typically consisting of steep channels, usually having a recessed head, that feed into a fan of material deposited at the bottom. The discovery of active gullies was first reported in 2000, which generated excitement due to consideration that they might result from action of liquid water. Mars has water vapor and plenty of water ice, but liquid water, a necessity for all known life, has not been confirmed on modern Mars. The new report, published in the journal Icarus, is available online.
"As recently as five years ago, I thought the gullies on Mars indicated activity of liquid water," said USGS scientist Colin Dundas, lead author of the new report. "We were able to get many more observations, and as we started to see more activity and pin down the timing of gully formation and change, we saw that the activity is in winter."
A smaller type of seasonal flow seen on some slopes on Mars may involve liquid water, but is yet to be determined. These flows are called recurring slope lineae (RSL), and are sometimes found within small channels but not systematically associated with larger gullies.
Dundas and collaborators used the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on MRO to examine each of 356 Martian sites with gullies at least twice, beginning in 2006. Thirty-eight of the sites showed activity, such as cutting a new channel segment or adding material to the apron-shaped deposit at the downhill end of a gully. Wherever the timing of before-and-after observations enabled determining the season of gully activity, it was a time too cold for the possibility of melting water-ice, but consistent with seasonal carbon dioxide frost.
"RSL and mass movements in Martian gullies are two distinct types of slope activity,” said Dundas “It's not hard to tell them apart in HiRISE images. The classic Martian gullies are much larger than RSL. Many of them are more the size that you'd call ravines on Earth."
Frozen carbon dioxide, commonly called dry ice, does not exist naturally on Earth, but it is plentiful on Mars. It has been linked to active processes on Mars such as geysers of carbon dioxide gas from springtime sublimation of dry ice, and blocks of dry ice that plow lines on sand dunes by sledding down dunes on cushions of sublimated gas. One mechanism for how carbon dioxide frost might drive gully flows is by gas that is sublimating from the frost, providing lubrication for dry material to flow. Another might be slides due to accumulating weight of seasonal frost buildup on steep slopes.
Work by Dundas and others has previously pointed to winter timing of gully formation on dune and non-dune slopes, with suggested involvement of seasonal changes in frozen carbon dioxide. The new report adds evidence for the changes. The findings also make a new point that the pace of gully formation that has now been documented is swift enough that all of the fresh-appearing gullies seen on Mars can be attributed to current processes. Some earlier hypotheses attributing the gullies to action of liquid water have suggested they formed thousands to millions of years ago when climate conditions were possibly more conducive to Mars having liquid water due to variations in the planet's tilt and orbit.
Dundas' co-authors on the new report are Serina Diniega of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, and Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson.
"Much of the information we have about gully formation and other active processes on Mars comes from the longevity of MRO and other orbiters,” said Diniega. “This enables repeated observation of sites to examine changes over time."
Data will appear in an upcoming special issue of Icarus with multiple reports about active processes on Mars, including RSL.
"I like that Mars can still surprise us," Dundas said. "Martian gullies are fascinating features where we can investigate a process that we just don't see on Earth."
HiRISE is operated by the University of Arizona. The instrument was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorado. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project is managed for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, by JPL.
Visit the USGS Astrogeology Center to learn more.
Visit HiRISE for more information.
Additional information about MRO is available online.
|These two images show changes in a gully on Mars, and illustrate that these landforms are evolving rapidly. A rubbly flow (noted by the arrows) has been deposited near the mouth of the channel between the time of the two images. Further up the slope, the channel system has been modified by both erosion and deposition. The timing of such changes is often in winter or early spring, suggesting that they are caused by the carbon dioxide frost that forms in and around most gullies every year. (High resolution image)|
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Monitoring wildlife in the Arctic is difficult. Study areas are cold, barren and often inaccessible. For decades scientists have struggled to study animals, like polar bears, which live in these remote areas. Now researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey have begun testing a new, yet counterintuitive solution – rather then get close to the animals, monitor them from afar. Scientists have started using satellites to observe, count and track polar bears. USGS scientists and their Canadian collaborators have begun analyzing high-resolution satellite images from a part of the Canadian High Arctic to determine the feasibility of using satellites to study polar bear populations.
“We tested the use of satellite technology from DigitalGlobe to count polar bears by tasking the satellite to collect photos from an area where we were also conducting aerial surveys,” said Dr. Todd Atwood, research leader for the USGS Polar Bear Research Program. “We then analyzed the satellite and aerial survey data separately and found that the abundance estimates were remarkably similar.”
The study, which is led by former USGS scientist and current University of Minnesota researcher Dr. Seth Stapleton, is part of an ongoing effort to identify non-invasive technologies to better understand how polar bears respond to the loss of sea ice due to a warming climate. This study tries to determine the number of polar bears and where they reside on Rowley Island in Nunavut’s Foxe Basin during the ice-free summer. “We selected Rowley as our study site because bear density is high during summer and the flat terrain provides an ideal setting to evaluate the use of satellite imagery,” said Stapleton.
Traditionally, scientists study polar bears by capturing and tagging them or by conducting aerial surveys with low flying aircraft. While these methods provide a wealth of important information, they are disruptive to the animals and are often not possible when dealing with remote locations. “We think satellite technology has the potential to open vast, remote regions of the Arctic to regular monitoring. It has tremendous potential to aid the circumpolar management of polar bears,” said Stapleton.
The next steps in the research focus on testing the satellites’ ability to detect polar bear populations over larger areas, including sites along coastal Alaska. Using satellite imagery shows incredible promise and provides one more tool for those interested in preserving polar bear populations for future generations.
A significant number of urban water wells in Minnesota — over a third of those studied — contain chemicals from consumer and industrial products, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report.
From November 2009 through June 2012, USGS and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency scientists collected groundwater samples from 118 wells throughout Minnesota, including some in the Twin Cities area and near St. Cloud. The scientists found that 43 of the samples — or 35 percent — contained one or more chemicals from everyday products such as antibiotics, pesticides and detergents, known as chemicals of emerging concern (CECs).
“The majority of Minnesotans — about 78 percent — use groundwater as drinking water,” said Mindy Erickson, USGS scientist and lead author of the study. “Low levels of the chemicals we use every day were found in groundwater sampled during the study, some of it drinking water.”
Sampled wells were chosen because previous water chemistry results demonstrated they were vulnerable, they were in susceptible aquifers or because they were in proximity to a closed landfill. Because the wells were targeted for sampling, these results are not representative of general groundwater or drinking water conditions.
The most frequently detected contaminant in the study was the antibiotic sulfamethoxazole, which is used to treat infections such as urinary tract infections, middle ear infections and travelers' diarrhea. Other commonly found chemicals were bisphenol A, a component in plastic; tributyl phosphate, a flame retardant; and the antihistamine diphenhydramine.
Of the 14 detected contaminants with government-designated water-quality standards, none were found at concentrations considered unsafe to human health. However, 21 of the contaminants detected in the study — including some of the most common chemicals like tributyl phosphate and diphenhydramine — have no federal or state health benchmarks.
Most of the chemicals enter groundwater from wastewater systems, stormwater runoff, agricultural runoff, leaky sewer lines and unknown sources, according to the study. The CECs were found in both deep and shallow Minnesota wells.
This study is the first comprehensive groundwater study of its kind in Minnesota. The full report is available on the USGS website.
For more information about water-quality studies in Minnesota, please visit the USGS Minnesota Water Science Center website.
Several large rivers in the U.S. are less acidic now, due to decreasing acidic inputs, such as industrial waste, acid mine drainage, and atmospheric deposition.
A USGS study showed that alkalinity, a measurement of a river's capacity to neutralize acid inputs, has increased over the past 65 years in 14 of the 23 rivers assessed in the U.S.
Reduced acidity levels were especially common in rivers in the Northeast, such as the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers; the Midwest, such as the Illinois and Ohio Rivers; and the Missouri River in the Great Plains.
"Long-term monitoring of streamflow and water-quality is essential to track how changes in climate and land use are impacting rivers and how riverine inputs may impact valuable commercial and recreational fisheries in estuaries across the Nation," said William Werkheiser, associate director for water. "Increasing alkalinity levels in large rivers across the country since 1945 is a positive trend."
Acidification of U.S. rivers in the early part of the 20th century was mostly associated with these acid inputs, which reduced the alkalinity of some rivers and caused them to become more acidic.
Increased alkalinity concentrations in large rivers draining a variety of climate and land-use types in this country are an indicator of recovery from acidification.
By looking at changes in multiple chemicals, scientists conducting the study found that the alkalinity increases were due to decreasing acidic inputs. The reasons for decreased acidic inputs have been diverse and include greater regulation of industrial emissions and waste treatment and increased use of agricultural lime.
"This study shows us that our cumulative management actions over the last half century have reduced acidity levels in U.S. rivers," said lead author Edward Stets, research ecologist at the USGS. "Acidification of rivers that empty into estuaries can adversely impact shell-bearing organisms such as oysters and crabs."
This study was published in the journal Science for the Total Environment. Information on USGS long-term water-quality monitoring can be accessed at the National Water-Quality Assessment Program page.
Heidi Koontz ( Phone: 303-202-4763 );
As part of a continuing earthquake hazard study in the Seattle urban area, the U. S. Geological Survey will be conducting a series of seismic-reflection surveys starting July 10 on Mercer Island and the city of Seattle, Washington. The studies will conclude on or around July 19.
USGS scientists will re-survey the area where they conducted the 2008 seismic-reflection profile on Mercer Island. Exact locations include: along 84th Ave. SE from SE 39th St. to SE 29th St., and along 84th Ave SE from approximately SE 26th St., to the north tip of Mercer Island.
During the 2008 USGS survey, the energy source used was a small vibration truck. This truck used two 12 second sweeps to put vibrations into the earth, which reflected off the boundary between rock types and back to the surface. The reflected vibrations were recorded by sensors attached to a cable placed along the ground surface.
The unique aspect of the 2014 experiment is that no active energy source (vibration truck) will be used. The data collection will record vibrations in the ground and along its surface generated by ambient noise. This ambient noise, sometimes referred to as “cultural noise,” comes from everyday movement of traffic, people, aircraft, ocean waves, etc. USGS recording equipment will collect the ambient noise data over about a six hour period during the day for two to three days, testing different acquisition parameters.
The goal of this first of its kind experiment in an urban area is to determine if seismic imaging using ambient noise sources can produce an image of similar quality to what was achieved using a vibration source. This new methodology, if successful, would be very useful to have for additional subsurface imaging studies in urban areas where access of a truck would be limited by narrow streets or sensitive environmental areas such as parks and roadless areas.
Yvette Gillies ( Phone: 907-786-7039 );
Editor: In the public interest and in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations, the USGS is announcing this airborne project. Your assistance in informing the local communities is appreciated.
Starting on July 5 (weather permitting), U.S. Geological Survey scientists will conduct a high-resolution airborne survey over the next 30 days to study the distribution of minerals exposed at the surface in various parts of Alaska.
A spectrometer (which measures light reflecting off the Earth’s surface) and a camera on the aircraft will collect detailed information about the composition of surficial rocks, soils and vegetation covering the study areas. The data from this hyperspectral survey will be integrated with geochemical, geophysical, and geologic data for studying natural resources in Alaska. When the analysis is complete, the resulting state-of-the-art maps of surficial mineralogy will help USGS researchers better understand the links between past geologic processes and mineral resource potential.
The data can also be used to establish a baseline for vegetation conditions for monitoring future changes due to climate or land use.
Flights will take place at an altitude of 10,000 – 17,000 feet over the Arctic, Bonnifield, Estelle and Nabesna study areas. In these areas, a diverse set of geologic processes have deposited copper, molybdenum, lead, zinc, gold, silver or rare earth elements. The new data will allow scientists to get information that may subsequently be used to help assess mineral resource potential in other parts of Alaska using such cutting edge technology.
The sensors and aircraft are under contract to the USGS. The flight crew will be operating from the Fairbanks International Airport. None of the instruments carried on the aircraft pose a health risk to people or animals.
|This site location map shows four areas-of-interest (Artic, Bonnifield, Estelle, and Nabesna) where the U.S. Geological Survey plans to collect hyperspectral data during July 2014.|
HAWAII ISLAND, Hawaiʻi — Scientists and technicians who work at volcano observatories in 11 countries are visiting the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory this week to learn techniques for monitoring active volcanoes.
The International Training Program in Volcano Hazards Monitoring is designed to assist scientists from other nations in attaining self-sufficiency in monitoring volcanoes and reducing the risks from eruptions. Field exercises on Kilauea and Mauna Loa Volcanoes allow students to observe and operate a variety of instruments, and classroom instruction at the Observatory provides students the opportunity to interpret data, as well as plan a monitoring network for their home volcanoes. U.S. scientists are providing training on monitoring methods, data analysis and interpretation, and volcanic hazard assessment, and participants are taught about the use and maintenance of volcano monitoring instruments. Participants learn about forecasting events, responding rapidly during volcanic crises, and how to work with governing officials and the news media to save lives and property.
Organized by the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, with support from the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa and the joint USGS-U.S. Agency for International Development Volcano Disaster Assistance Program, the annual program has been training foreign scientists for 24 years. This year’s class includes 16 volcano scientists from Chile, Colombia Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Italy, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea.
“Hawaiian volcanoes offer an excellent teaching opportunity because our volcanoes are relatively accessible, they're active, and USGS staff scientists can teach while actually monitoring volcanic activity," said the USGS’s HVO Scientist-in-Charge, Jim Kauahikaua. “The small investment we make in training international scientists now goes a long way toward mitigating large volcanic disasters in the future.”
“Providing training in volcano hazards assessment and monitoring is by far the most cost effective strategy for reducing losses and saving lives for those developing nations exposed to high volcanic hazards risks,” said CSAV Director Donald Thomas. “The goal of our course is to provide our trainees with an understanding of the technologies that can be applied to an assessment of volcanic threats as well as how to interface with their respective communities to increase awareness of how to respond to those threats.”
“The training program directly benefits the United States, through international exchange of knowledge concerning volcanic eruptions, and it serves as an important element in our country’s humanitarian assistance and science diplomacy programs around the world,” said the USGS’s VDAP Chief, John Pallister.
The international participants are learning to use both traditional geological tools and the latest technology. To anticipate the future behavior of a volcano, basic geologic mapping brings an understanding of what a volcano is capable of doing, how frequently it has erupted in the past, and what kind of rocks, and ash it produces. Using Geographic Information Systems, the students learn to predict lava flow paths, conduct a vulnerability assessment, and tabulate the predicted costs associated with the damage from a lava flow. Participants are trained in the emerging field of infrasound monitoring, which is critical for rapidly detecting volcanic explosions and/or rift zone eruptions, as well as basic seismological fundamentals, and a survey of pre-eruptive seismic swarms at various volcanoes around the world. Monitoring and modeling deformation of a volcano focuses on different techniques from traditional leveling methods to GPS and satellite-based radar.
Providing critical training to international scientists began at HVO, leading to the creation of CSAV to continue the legacy. Since 1990, almost 200 scientists and civil workers from 29 countries have received training in volcano monitoring methods through CSAV. USGS’s HVO continues to provide instructors and field experiences for the courses, and VDAP has a long-term partnership with CSAV, providing instructors and co-sponsoring participants from countries around the world.
Number of Species in Studied Streams Drops by Half
KEARNEYSVILLE, W.Va. – Appalachian streams impacted by mountaintop mining have less than half as many fish species and about a third as many fish as non-impacted streams, according to U.S. Geological Survey research published this week in the journal Freshwater Science.
The researchers used data from several time periods to track changes in fish diversity and abundance in the Guyandotte River basin in West Virginia, including streams with and without headwater mining operations. The original fish data were collected by a team from Pennsylvania State University between 1999-2001, and USGS collected additional data from 2010-2011.
“The Appalachian Mountains are a global hotspot for freshwater fish diversity,” said Nathaniel Hitt, a USGS research fish biologist and lead author of the study. “Our paper provides some of the first peer-reviewed research to understand how fish communities respond to mountaintop mining in these biologically diverse headwater streams.”
Hitt, along with USGS biologist and co-author Douglas Chambers, found no evidence that fish communities have recovered over time, and instead observed persistent effects of mountaintop mining associated with water quality degradation.
Prior research has linked water quality deterioration from mountaintop mining to the degradation of stream insect communities. The new USGS paper is the first to evaluate this issue for stream fish communities.
“Our results indicate that headwater mining may be limiting fish communities by restricting the prey base available for fish,” said Hitt. “For instance, fish species with specialized diets of stream insects were more likely to be lost from the streams over time than fish species with more diverse diets.”
Results of the new study indicated that water quality was generally more important than physical habitat for the observed fish community changes. The authors found elevated selenium and conductivity levels where fish community degradation was observed but saw no significant differences in physical habitat availability.
Selenium is an essential micronutrient that can become toxic when ingested at high doses. It naturally occurs within geological formations in Appalachia but can become concentrated in streams flowing from mountaintop mining operations. Conductivity is a measure of the capacity of water to carry an electrical current, and is used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to assess a stream’s ability to support aquatic life.
Mountaintop mining is a type of surface mining used to extract coal in Appalachia by moving surface layers of soil and rock into adjacent valleys, creating “valley fills.”
This mining practice can significantly alter landscape topography, lowering mountaintop elevations by nearly 1,000 feet in some cases. It has been used extensively since the 1990s and currently is the greatest source of land use change in the region. Prior research by USGS and others has demonstrated that headwater mountaintop mining affects downstream flows, water chemistry, stream insect communities, and public health in nearby communities.
The study, “Temporal changes in taxonomic and functional diversity of fish assemblages downstream from mountaintop mining” by Nathaniel P. Hitt and Douglas B. Chambers is published online by The Society for Freshwater Science.
LEETOWN, W.Va. —Intersex fish have been found in Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna, Delaware and Ohio river basins, indicating that the effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals are more widespread than previously known. Previously sampling within the Chesapeake Bay drainage indicated signs of reproductive endocrine disruption in the Potomac river basin.
New U.S. Geological Survey-led research published in Environmental Monitoring and Assessment found two fish species, smallmouth bass and white sucker, exhibiting the effects of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Intersex characteristics caused by hormones and hormone-mimicking compounds include immature eggs in male fish.
Male smallmouth bass from all sites sampled had immature eggs in their testes; prevalence was lowest in the Ohio drainage, intermediate in the Delaware and highest in the Susquehanna. Neither the white sucker nor the redhorse sucker had intersex characteristics in any basin, though white suckers sampled at some sites in the Delaware and Susquehanna basin did have a yolk precursor in their blood.
In aquatic environments, the presence of these intersex characteristics is widely used as a biomarker for assessing exposure to estrogenic chemicals, as well as anti-androgenic chemicals which inhibit development of male characteristics. Bass in general, appear to be sensitive to estrogenic chemical exposure, particularly in regard to development of intersex.
“The prevalence and severity of the immature eggs in smallmouth bass corresponded with the percent of agricultural land use in the watershed above the collection sites,” said Vicki Blazer, a research fish biologist and lead author of the study. “Chemical compounds associated with estrogenic endocrine disruption, in particular estrone, a natural estrogen, were also associated with the extent and severity of these effects in bass.”
Sites in the Susquehanna drainage had a higher prevalence and severity of these effects than sites in the Ohio drainage. In general, the percentage of agricultural land use was highest throughout the Susquehanna drainage and the Schuylkill River, and lowest throughout the Ohio drainage.
Sites upstream and downstream of waste water treatment plant sites were also sampled, and the watersheds varied greatly in the number of waste water treatment plant and sewage discharges. There was no significant relationship between the number of waste water treatment plants and the prevalence of immature eggs in male fish, though results did indicate that the severity of intersex characteristics of male small mouth bass generally increased at downstream sites from waste water treatment plants.
“The sources of estrogenic chemicals are most likely complex mixtures from both agricultural sources, such as animal wastes, pesticides and herbicides, and human sources from waste water treatment plant effluent and other sewage discharges,” said Blazer. Further research is underway to better characterize the sources and timing of exposure to these complex mixtures in relation to fish health.
The article, “Reproductive Health Indicators of Fish from Pennsylvania Watersheds: Associations with Chemicals of Emerging Concern,” by V.S. Blazer, D.D. Iwanowicz, H.L. Walsh, A.J. Sperry, L.R. Iwanowicz, D.A. Alvarez, R.A. Brightbill, G. Smith, W.T. Foreman, and R. Manning is available in Environmental Monitoring and Assessment online.
The Isle of Enchantment is added as The National Map Corps Crowd-Sourcing Project continues to grow
Since August 2013, all 50 states have been available for editing under the USGS The National Map Corps Volunteer Geographic Information project. Starting this month, TNMCorps is pleased to add Puerto Rico to that list.
Using crowd-sourcing techniques, TNMCorps encourages citizen volunteers to collect data about manmade structures in an effort to provide accurate and authoritative spatial map data for the USGS National Geospatial Program’s web-based The National Map.
Through an online map editor, volunteers use aerial imagery and other resources to improve structures data by adding new features, removing obsolete points, and correcting existing data. Points available to edit include schools, hospitals, post offices, police stations and other important public buildings. Volunteers may find editing structures in Puerto Rico quite challenging, as some source data points shown in the map editor may be out of date, and some structure types are missing entirely.
"I appreciate the opportunity to participate with The National Map Corps and, from time to time, field verify USGS structures in my community”, said Reuben, a crowd-sourcing volunteer from Washington state. “The National Map has provided for some enjoyable weekend trips... with a bit of a purpose.
In an effort to show appreciation to our volunteers, TNMCorps has instituted a recognition program that awards "virtual" badges" based on the number of points edited. Badges consist of a series of antique surveying instruments ranging from the Circle of the Surveyor's Chain (25 – 50 points) to the Theodolite Assemblage (2000+ points). Additionally, volunteers are publically recognized (with permission) via Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.
Volunteers only need access to a computer and the Internet to participate. The National Map Corps’ website explains how volunteers can edit any area, regardless of their familiarity with the selected structures. Registration is simple and requires only an email address and self-selected username.
Participants make a significant addition to the USGS's ability to provide accurate information to the public. Data collected by volunteers become part of The National Map structures dataset which is available to users free of charge.
See for yourself how much fun participating can be. Go to The National Map Corps home page and give it a try.
|Screen shot of The National Map Corps editor webpage showing a university at the end of the Isla Grande Airport – which is why The National Map Corps needs your help. (Larger version)|
|Badges awarded for submitting edits, shown in from first to last: Order of the Surveyor’s Chain (25-49), Society of the Steel Tape 50-99), Pedometer Posse (100-199), Surveyor’s Compass (200-499), Stadia Board Society (500-999), Alidade Alliance (1000-1999), and Theodolite Assemblage (2000+).|
La "Isla del Encanto" ha sido añadida al Proyecto de Cartografía Participativa a medida que continúa creciendo el programa de "The National Map Corps"
Desde agosto de 2013, cada uno de los 50 estados se han encontrado disponible para editarse dentro del USGS (“United States Geological Survey”, por su nombre en inglés) The National Map Corps (Cuerpo de El Mapa Nacional o “TNM Corps” por sus siglas en inglés), a través del proyecto Voluntario de Información Geográfica. A partir de este mes, el TNM Corps tiene el placer de agregar a Puerto Rico a ese listado.
Usando las técnicas de cartografía participativa, el TNMCorps anima a los voluntarios ciudadanos a recopilar datos acerca de estructuras hechas por el hombre, en un esfuerzo de proveer data espacial que sea precisa y autoritaria para los mapas que se encuentran en el internet a través de The National Map y dentro del USGS National Geospatial Program (Programa Geoespacial Nacional).
A través de un editor virtual para mapas, los voluntarios utilizan imágenes aéreas y otros recursos para mejorar la data estructural al añadir facciones nuevas, remover puntos obsoletos y corregir data actual. Los puntos disponibles para editar incluyen colegios, hospitales, oficinas de correo, cuarteles de la policía, y otros edificios públicos importantes. Los voluntarios podrán encontrar que las estructuras para editar en Puerto Rico son un reto mayor porque algunos de los puntos de data demostrados en el editor virtual pueden ser anticuados y algunas estructuras faltan por completo.
“Agradezco la oportunidad de participar en The National Map Corps y de vez en cuando verifico las estructuras de campo del USGS en mi comunidad,” dijo Reuben, un voluntario de cartografía participativa del estado de Washington. “The National Map me ha provisto unas agradables excursiones de fin de semana…con algo de propósito.”
Para demostrar nuestro aprecio a los voluntarios, TNMCorps ha instituido un programa de reconocimiento que otorga “medallas virtuales” basado en el número de puntos editados. Las medallas consisten en una serie de instrumentos antiguos de agrimensura, desde el “Círculo de la Cadena del Agrimensor” (25-50 puntos) hasta el “Montaje Teodolito” (2000+ puntos). Además, los voluntarios (con su permiso) son reconocidos públicamente a través de Twitter, Google+ y Facebook.
Los voluntarios solamente necesitan acceso a una computadora y al Internet para participar. El sitio de la red de The National Map Corps explica cómo los voluntarios pueden editar cualquier área, sin importar su familiaridad con las estructuras seleccionadas. La inscripción es sencilla y sólo requiere que los voluntarios provean la dirección de su correo electrónico y el nombre de usuario, seleccionado por el voluntario.
Los participantes contribuyen de manera significativa a la habilidad del USGS de proveer información actualizada y precisa al público. La data recopilada por los voluntarios se convierte en parte del sistema de datos de The National Map, y el uso es libre de costo para cada usuario.
Les invitamos a ver por sí mismos cuán divertido es participar en esta actividad. Visiten el sitio de la Internet The National Map Corps y pruébenlo.
|Esta imagen aérea de The National Map Corps , página de la red del editor virtual, demuestra la universidad a finales del Aeropuerto Isla Grande – lo que demuestra porqué The National Map Corps necesita de su ayuda. (Versión más grande)|
|Badges awarded for submitting edits, shown in from first to last: Order of the Surveyor’s Chain (25-49), Society of the Steel Tape 50-99), Pedometer Posse (100-199), Surveyor’s Compass (200-499), Stadia Board Society (500-999), Alidade Alliance (1000-1999), and Theodolite Assemblage (2000+).|
Interior Releases Report on Anniversary of Presidents Climate Action Plan; New Visualization Tool Helps Land Managers Make Smart, Informed Landscape-Level Decisions
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today released a new report showing that forests, wetlands and farms in the eastern United States naturally store 300 million tons of carbon a year (1,100 million tons of CO2 equivalent), which is nearly 15 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions EPA estimates the country emits each year or an amount that exceeds and offsets yearly U.S. car emissions.
In conjunction with the national assessment, today USGS also released a new web tool, which allows users to see the land and water carbon storage and change in their ecosystems between 2005 and 2050 in the lower 48 states. This tool was called for in the President’s Climate Action Plan.
“Today we are taking another step forward in our ongoing effort to bring sound science to bear as we seek to tackle a central challenge of the 21st century – a changing climate,” said Secretary Jewell. “This landmark study by the U.S. Geological Survey provides yet another reason for being good stewards of our natural landscapes, as ecosystems play a critical role in removing harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that contributes to climate change.”
With today’s report on the eastern United States, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has completed the national biological carbon assessment for ecosystems in the lower 48 states – a national inventory of the capacity of land-based and aquatic ecosystems to naturally store, or sequester, carbon, which was called for by Congress in 2007.
Together, the ecosystems across the lower 48 states sequester about 474 million tons of carbon a year (1,738 million tons of CO2 equivalent), comparable to counter-balancing nearly two years of U.S. car emissions, or more than 20 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions EPA estimates the country emits each year.
The assessment shows that the East stores more carbon than all of the rest of the lower 48 states combined even though it has fewer than 40 percent of the land base. Under some scenarios, USGS scientists found that the rate of sequestration for the lower 48 states is projected to decline by more than 25 percent by 2050, due to disturbances such as wildfires, urban development and increased demand for timber products.
“What this means for the future is that ecosystems could store less carbon each year,” said USGS Acting Director Suzette Kimball. “Biological sequestration may not be able to offset greenhouse gas emissions nearly as effectively when these ecosystems are impaired.”
Forests accounted for more than 80 percent of the estimated carbon sequestered in the East annually, confirming the critical role of forests highlighted in the Administration’s climate action initiative.
USGS scientists have been building the national assessment since a 2007 congressional mandate in the Energy Independence and Security Act. The first report, on the Great Plains, was released in 2011, the second report, on the Western United States, was released in 2012. Reports on Alaska and Hawaii are expected to be completed in 2015.
Biological carbon storage – also known as carbon sequestration – is the process by which carbon dioxide (CO2) is removed from the atmosphere and stored as carbon in vegetation, soils and sediment. The USGS inventory estimates the ability of different ecosystems to store carbon now and in the future, providing vital information for land-use and land-management decisions. Management of carbon stored in our ecosystems and agricultural areas is relevant both for mitigation of climate change and for adaptation to such changes.
The area studied for the eastern U.S. carbon assessment was defined by similarities in ecology and land cover. The study area extends eastward from the western edge of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi floodplains, across the Appalachian Mountains, to the coastal plains of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The major ecosystems USGS researchers evaluated were terrestrial (forests, wetlands, agricultural lands, shrublands and grasslands), and aquatic (rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters).
MAJOR FINDINGS ON BIOLOGICAL CARBON STORAGE
IN THE EASTERN UNITED STATES
U.S. Geological Survey, June 2014
Major Findings: Current Eastern Carbon Storage (between 2001 and 2005)
● The eastern U.S., with just under 40 percent of the land in the lower 48 states, stores more carbon than the rest of the conterminous United States.
● Forests, which occupy about half the land in the East, accounted for more than 80 percent of the region’s estimated carbon sequestered annually. They are the largest carbon-storing pools, and have the highest rate of sequestration of the different ecosystem types.
● Wetlands, including coastal ones, which comprise only about 9 percent of the land cover in the region studied, account for nearly 13 percent of the region’s estimated annual carbon storage. They also have the second-highest rate of sequestration of all ecosystem types. Nutrients and sediments in rivers and streams flowing from terrestrial environments contribute significantly to the storage of carbon in eastern coastal sediments and deep ocean waters.
● In contrast, carbon dioxide is emitted from the surface of inland water bodies (rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs), equal to about 18 percent of the recent annual carbon sequestration rate of terrestrial ecosystems in the East.
● Agricultural areas cover about 31 percent of the East, and account for only 4 percent of the region’s annually sequestered carbon.
● Grasslands and shrublands, as well as other types of land, contained just 1.1 percent or less of the region’s carbon.
Major Findings: Projected Changes in Eastern Carbon by 2050
● The eastern United States is projected to continue to be a carbon sink (absorbs more carbon than it emits) through 2050, increasing the carbon stored by as much as 37 percent. However, the rate of sequestration is projected to slow by up to 20 percent, primarily because of decreases in the amount of forest cover.
● Land use is projected to continue to change in the future; landscape changes are projected to be between 17 and 23 percent by 2050 under different scenarios. These changes, primarily the result of demands for forest products, urban development and agriculture, could affect the future potential storage capacity of the region’s ecosystems and other lands because future carbon stocks are inextricably linked to land-use practices and changes.
● The area projected to experience the most change – about 30 percent -- is the southeastern United States, primarily because of conversion of land from forests to agricultural and urban land.
● By 2050, coastal carbon storage could increase by 18 to 56 percent. Land-use changes could increase nutrient and sediment flow from urban and agricultural lands (which presents a separate challenge), but this would also increase the amount of carbon stored in coastal areas.
For more information on the assessment, visit HERE. Watch a short video on the assessment HERE.
Visit the web tool HERE. Watch a tutorial on how to use the web tool HERE.
Read some FAQs on the Eastern Carbon Report
NOTE TO REPORTERS: A step-by-step video demonstration on using the tool is available online.
RESTON, Va.— Announced on the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan (310 KB PDF; page 16 - Providing a Toolkit for Climage Resilience), a new “Land Carbon Viewer” allows users to see the land carbon storage and change in their ecosystems between 2005 and 2050 in the lower 48 states.
The Land Carbon Viewer Website, developed by U.S. Geological Survey in collaboration with the University of California-Berkeley, is based on the national biological carbon assessment for ecosystems, completing the carbon inventory for the lower 48.
The new Land Carbon Viewer will give the public access to the national inventory of the capacity of land-based ecosystems to naturally store, or sequester, carbon. Researchers used the data on ecosystem carbon storage, or sequestration, in the national assessment to build maps, graphs and text for the land carbon viewer.
The resulting products will help land and resource planners and policy makers easily see how much carbon is sequestered in the different land types in their regions now, and up to 2050, under various land-use and climate scenarios. The tool also allows users to download data in their particular areas or ecosystems of interest.
“The new Land Carbon Viewer demonstrates how the Interior Department can significantly contribute to the U.S. effort to establish a national carbon inventory and tracking system as part of the President’s Climate Action Plan,” said Suzette Kimball, acting USGS director. “USGS is committed to taking the next step, which is to make this approach useful for specific sites and situations. Incorporating carbon science directly into management planning is critical to ensure sound land use and land management decisions that will affect future generations.”
The USGS mapped how much carbon is sequestered in ecosystems using streamgage, soil and natural-resource inventory data, remote sensing techniques, and computer models. Based on the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s ecoregion map, the USGS Land Carbon Viewer shows the lower 48 divided into 16 ecoregions defined by similarities in ecology and land cover. The ecosystems examined are terrestrial (forests, wetlands, agricultural lands, shrublands and grasslands), and aquatic (rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters).
For example, the Southeastern USA Plains Ecoregion is the largest ecoregion in the eastern United States, and users can explore the baseline (2001-2005) and future (2006-2050) carbon storage in different kinds of ecosystems using three different IPCC carbon emission scenarios combined with economic models:
● Moderate population growth, high economic growth, rapid technical innovation and balanced energy use,
● Continuous population growth, uneven economic and technical growth, and carbon emissions triple through the 21st century, and
● High economic growth, a population that peaks by mid-century and then declines, a rapid shift toward clean energy technologies, and a CO2 concentration that approximately doubles by 2100.
“The new USGS Land Carbon Viewer allows decision-makers to view and explore various ecoregions, and download data over their area of interest,” said Suzette Kimball. “The resulting products will help land and resource planners and policy makers easily see how much carbon is sequestered in the different land types in their regions now, and up to 2050, under various land-use and climate scenarios.”
Among the many benefits of ecosystems and farmlands to society, these areas also store, or sequester, biological carbon. Biological carbon sequestration is the process by which carbon dioxide (CO2) is removed from the atmosphere and stored as carbon in vegetation, soils and sediment. Such storage reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Since a 2007 congressional mandate in the Energy Independence and Security Act, USGS scientists have been building a national inventory of the capacity of land-based ecosystems to store carbon naturally, information vital for science-based land use and land management decisions are expected to be completed in 2015.
NOTE: Link to the Maryland Department of Natural Resourses was changed in the 10th paragraph. (6/25/14)
Scientists are expecting an average, but still large, hypoxic or "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico this year, and slightly above-average hypoxia in the Chesapeake Bay.
NOAA-supported modeling is forecasting this year's Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone to cover an area ranging from about 4,633 to 5,708 square miles (12,000 to 14,785 square kilometers) or about the size of the state of Connecticut.
While close to averages since the late 1990s, these hypoxic zones are many times larger than what research has shown them to be prior to the significant human influences that greatly expanded their sizes and effects.
The Gulf of Mexico prediction is based on models developed by NOAA-sponsored modeling teams and individual researchers at the University of Michigan, Louisiana State University, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences/College of William and Mary, Texas A&M University, and the U.S. Geological Survey, and relies on nutrient loading estimates from the USGS. The models also account for the influence of variable weather and oceanographic conditions, and predict that these can affect the dead zone area by as much as 38 percent.
A second NOAA-funded forecast, for the Chesapeake Bay, predicts a slightly larger than average dead zone in the nation's largest estuary. The forecast predicts a mid-summer low-oxygen hypoxic zone of 1.97 cubic miles, an early-summer oxygen-free anoxic zone of 0.51 cubic miles, with the late-summer oxygen-free anoxic area predicted to be 0.32 cubic miles. Because of the shallow nature of large areas of the estuary the focus is on water volume or cubic miles, instead of square mileage as used in the Gulf.
The Chesapeake Bay prediction is based on models developed by NOAA-sponsored researchers at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, University of Michigan, and again relies on nutrient loading estimates from USGS.
The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico affects nationally important commercial and recreational fisheries and threatens the region's economy. The Chesapeake Bay dead zones, which have been highly variable in recent years, threaten a multi-year effort to restore the water and habitat quality to enhance its production of crabs, oysters, and other important fisheries.
Hypoxic (very low oxygen) and anoxic (no oxygen) zones are caused by excessive nutrient pollution, primarily from human activities such as agriculture and wastewater, which results in insufficient oxygen to support most marine life and habitats in near-bottom waters. Aspects of weather, including wind speed, wind direction, precipitation and temperature, also affect the size of dead zones.
"We are making progress at reducing the pollution in our nation's waters that leads to 'dead zones,' but there is more work to be done," said Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "These ecological forecasts are good examples of the critical environmental intelligence products and tools that NOAA provides to interagency management bodies such as the Chesapeake Bay Program and Gulf Hypoxia Task Force. With this information, we can work collectively on ways to reduce pollution and protect our marine environments for future generations."
Later this year, researchers will measure oxygen levels in both bodies of water. The confirmed size of the 2014 Gulf hypoxic zone will be released in late July or early August, following a mid-July monitoring survey led by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. The final measurement in the Chesapeake will come in October following surveys by the Chesapeake Bay Program's partners from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
USGS nutrient-loading estimates for the Mississippi River and Chesapeake Bay are used in the hypoxia forecasts for the Gulf and Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake data are funded with a cooperative agreement between USGS and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. USGS also operates more than 65 real-time nitrate sensors in these two watersheds to track how nutrient conditions are changing over time.
For the Gulf of Mexico USGS estimates that 101,000 metric tons of nitrate flowed down the Mississippi River into the northern gulf in May 2014, which is less than the 182,000 metric tons in last May when stream flows were above average. In the Chesapeake Bay USGS estimates that 44,000 metric tons of nitrogen entered the bay from the Susquehanna and Potomac rivers between January and May of 2014, which is higher than the 36,600 metric tons delivered to the Bay during the same period in 2013.
"The USGS continues to conduct long-term nutrient monitoring and modeling" said William Werkheiser, USGS associate director for water. "This effort is key to tracking how nutrient conditions are changing in response to floods and droughts and nutrient management actions."
The research programs supporting this work are authorized under the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act, known as HABHRCA, which was recently amended and reauthorized earlier this month through 2018.