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Tuesday Midday Update on South Napa Earthquake

USGS Newsroom - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 19:52
Summary: This release of information serves as an updated summary of U.S. Geological Survey information as it relates to the current understanding of the South Napa earthquake. Yesterday’s more comprehensive news release can be found here.

Contact Information:

Justin  Pressfield ( Phone: 916-335-1211 ); Susan  Garcia ( Phone: 650-329-4668 );



This release of information serves as an updated summary of U.S. Geological Survey information as it relates to the current understanding of the South Napa earthquake. Yesterday’s more comprehensive news release can be found here.

The area surrounding the epicenter of the mainshock is continuing to experience a number of aftershocks. As of Tuesday Aug. 26, 4 PM PDT, there have been more than 80 aftershocks; only four of these have had magnitudes greater than 3. The greater-than-magnitude 3 aftershocks include:

  • M3.0 Tuesday 6:45 AM PDT
  • M3.9 (largest aftershock) Tuesday 5:33 AM PDT
  • M3.6 Sunday 5:47 AM PDT
  • M3.5 (4 minutes after mainshock) Sunday 3:24 AM PDT

There are also updated probabilities of additional aftershocks. These will continue to be updated on the USGS website for this event.

At this time (two days after the mainshock) the probability of a strong and possibly damaging aftershock (M5 or greater) in the next 7 days is approximately 12 percent.

Most likely, the recent mainshock will be the largest in the sequence. However, there is a small chance (approximately 2 percent) of an earthquake equal to or larger than this mainshock in the next 7 days.

In addition, USGS anticipates approximately 1 to 10 small (M3-M5) aftershocks in the next 7 days.

“Scientists from the USGS continue to work day and night to do careful field research in the area of the South Napa earthquake,” said Tom Brocher, Director of the USGS’s Earthquake Science Center. “The flow of new and refined information is allowing us to continue to inform the emergency managers and the public about this incident as well as to grow the knowledge about earthquakes to allow society to better prepare for future occurrences.”

The USGS is continuing to incorporate the new data into existing models to refine our estimates. While USGS publishes prompt approximations of economic losses based on real-time and later-arriving data, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services is expected to issue an official economic loss estimation after a comprehensive, and more accurate, damage assessment is completed.

The USGS is interested in finding volunteers willing to host seismic instruments so that scientists can obtain more records from aftershocks and learn more about this sequence of earthquakes.  Those interested, who are in the area of strong shaking, should go to http://earthquake.usgs.gov/monitoring/netquakes/ and complete the "sign up" page.

The Earthquake Early Warning test system functioned as designed in Sunday's earthquake.  Within five seconds of the earthquake it produced a warning (estimated at magnitude 5.7 within three seconds of its occurrence), sufficient to provide warning to Berkeley, San Francisco, and areas farther south. The EEW prototype was developed by the USGS in partnership with the UC Berkeley, California Institute of Technology, University of Washington, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Update on the Magnitude 6 South Napa Earthquake of August 24, 2014

USGS Newsroom - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 15:03
Summary: Yesterday at 3:20 AM local time, the northern San Francisco Bay Area was struck by the largest earthquake to impact the Bay Area since the 1989 M6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake

Contact Information:

Justin  Pressfield ( Phone: 916-335-1211 ); Susan  Garcia ( Phone: 650-329-4668 );



Yesterday at 3:20 AM local time, the northern San Francisco Bay Area was struck by the largest earthquake to impact the Bay Area since the 1989 M6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake. Yesterday’s earthquake appears to have ruptured on or just west of mapped traces of the West Napa Fault, the most seismically active of the faults mapped between the longer Rodgers Creek Fault on the west and the Concord-Green Valley Fault to the east. USGS has named the earthquake the “South Napa earthquake.”

Yesterday’s M6.0 earthquake caused significant damage in south Napa County.  It occurred in the broad zone of deformation that accommodates the relative motion of the North American and Pacific Plates.  The 2000 M5.0 Yountville earthquake occurred on the West Napa Fault and also damaged Napa.  The 1898 M6.3 Mare Island earthquake occurred in the vicinity of yesterday’s earthquake.

“USGS scientists are working around the clock to understand the earthquake and relay information to emergency managers and the public,” stated Tom Brocher, Director of the USGS’s Earthquake Science Center.  “In less than a day we made tremendous strides in understanding what happened and have crews of scientists continuing to investigate this event.”

Damage is localized in the region surrounding Napa due to the rupture directivity to the north-west. River valley sediments in Napa Valley likely contributed to the amplification of shaking around Napa.

Yesterday, USGS and California Geological Survey (CGS) geologists mapped surface rupture produced by the earthquake from the epicenter NNW at least 10 km (6 miles) on a previously mapped strand of the West Napa Fault.  At that point the surface rupture may have jumped eastward about half a mile toward Napa and extended NNW another few miles along a previously unmapped strand of the West Napa Fault.  USGS and CGS geologist continue to conduct field reconnaissance to refine these interpretations and to look for additional surface rupture.  The surface ruptures show a northward shift west of the West Napa fault of about two inches.

GPS receivers operated by the USGS and others also measured a shift of the earth of a few inches caused by the earthquake.  Yesterday, USGS geophysicists made additional measurements of the earth’s movement that will refine models for the earthquake movement.

USGS analysis of the seismic recordings indicates the earthquake rupture propagated to the NNW and upward, directing the brunt of the earthquake energy to the NNW towards Napa.  The dozens of aftershocks that have been recorded to date are also aligned on this NNW trend.  At this time (one day after the mainshock) the probability of a strong and possibly damaging aftershock in the next seven days is approximately 1 in 4.

Today, USGS technicians will be retrieving additional seismic data from several seismic stations that either do not automatically communicate their data to us or failed to do so.  They will also be deploying additional recorders in Napa.  These data should help refine the ShakeMap showing the intensity of shaking throughout the Bay Area and better understand the strong shaking experienced in Napa.

The Earthquake Early Warning test system functioned as designed in yesterday’s earthquake.  Within five seconds of the earthquake it produced a warning (estimated at magnitude 5.7 within three seconds of its occurrence), sufficient to provide warning to Berkeley, San Francisco, and areas farther south.  No warning would have been possible within 20 miles of the earthquake.  EEW prototype was developed by the USGS in partnership with the UC Berkeley, California Institute of Technology, University of Washington, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Natural Methane Seepage on U.S. Atlantic Ocean Margin Widespread

USGS Newsroom - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 09:10
Summary: Natural methane leakage from the seafloor is far more widespread on the U.S. Atlantic margin than previously thought, according to a study by researchers from Mississippi State University, the U.S. Geological Survey, and other institutions

Contact Information:

Carolyn Ruppel ( Phone: 617-806-6768 ); Adam  Skarke ( Phone: 662-268-1032 ext. 258 ); Hannah Hamilton ( Phone: 703-648-4356 );



Natural methane leakage from the seafloor is far more widespread on the U.S. Atlantic margin than previously thought, according to a study by researchers from Mississippi State University, the U.S. Geological Survey, and other institutions.

Methane plumes identified in the water column between Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and Georges Bank, Massachusetts, are emanating from at least 570 seafloor cold seeps on the outer continental shelf and the continental slope.  Taken together, these areas, which lie between the coastline and the deep ocean, constitute the continental margin.  Prior to this study, only three seep areas had been identified beyond the edge of the continental shelf, which occurs at approximately 180 meters (590 feet) water depth between Florida and Maine on the U.S. Atlantic seafloor.

Cold seeps are areas where gases and fluids leak into the overlying water from the sediments.  They are designated as cold to distinguish them from hydrothermal vents, which are sites where new oceanic crust is being formed and hot fluids are being emitted at the seafloor.  Cold seeps can occur in a much broader range of environments than hydrothermal vents.

“Widespread seepage had not been expected on the Atlantic margin. It is not near a plate tectonic boundary like the U.S. Pacific coast, nor associated with a petroleum basin like the northern Gulf of Mexico,” said Adam Skarke, the study’s lead author and a professor at Mississippi State University.

The gas being emitted by the seeps has not yet been sampled, but researchers believe that most of the leaking methane is produced by microbial processes in shallow sediments.  This interpretation is based primarily on the locations of the seeps and knowledge of the underlying geology.  Microbial methane is not the type found in deep-seated reservoirs and often tapped as a natural gas resource. 

Most of the newly discovered methane seeps lie at depths close to the shallowest conditions at which deepwater marine gas hydrate can exist on the continental slope.  Gas hydrate is a naturally occurring, ice-like combination of methane and water, and forms at temperature and pressure conditions commonly found in waters deeper than approximately 500 meters (1640 feet). 

“Warming of ocean temperatures on seasonal, decadal or much longer time scales can cause gas hydrate to release its methane, which may then be emitted at seep sites,” said Carolyn Ruppel, study co-author and chief of the USGS Gas Hydrates Project.  “Such continental slope seeps have previously been recognized in the Arctic, but not at mid-latitudes.  So this is a first.”

Most seeps described in the new study are too deep for the methane to directly reach the atmosphere, but the methane that remains in the water column can be oxidized to carbon dioxide. This in turn increases the acidity of ocean waters and reduces oxygen levels. 

Shallow-water seeps that may be related to offshore groundwater discharge were detected at the edge of the shelf and in the upper part of Hudson Canyon, an undersea gorge that represents the offshore extension of the Hudson River. Methane from these seeps could directly reach the atmosphere, contributing to increased concentrations of this potent greenhouse gas.  More extensive shallow-water surveys than described in this study will be required to document the extent of such seeps.

Some of the new methane seeps were discovered in 2012.  In summer 2013 a Brown University undergraduate and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hollings Scholar Mali’o Kodis worked with Skarke to analyze about 94,000 square kilometers (about 36,000 square miles) of water column imaging data to map the methane plumes.  The data had been collected by the vessel Okeanos Explorer between 2011 and 2013.  The Okeanos Explorer and the Deep Discoverer remotely operated vehicle, which has photographed the seafloor at some of the methane seeps, are managed by NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.

"This study continues the tradition of advancing U.S. marine science research through partnerships between federal agencies and the involvement of academic researchers,” said John Haines, coordinator of the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program “NOAA's Ocean Exploration program acquired state-of-the-art data at the scale of the entire margin, while academic and USGS scientists teamed to interpret these data in the context of a research problem of global significance."

The study, Widespread methane leakage from the sea floor on the northern US Atlantic Margin, by A, Skarke, C. Ruppel, M, Kodis, D. Brothers and E. Lobecker in Nature Geoscience is available on line.

USGS Gas Hydrates Project

The USGS has a globally recognized research effort studying natural gas hydrates in deepwater and permafrost settings worldwide.  USGS researchers focus on the potential of gas hydrates as an energy resource, the impact of climate change on gas hydrates, and seafloor stability issues.

For more information about the U.S. Geological Survey’s Gas Hydrates Project, visit the Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey Gas Hydrates Project website.

For more information, visit the Mississippi State University website.

Map of the northern US Atlantic margin showing the locations of newly-discovered methane seeps mapped by researchers from Mississippi State University, the US Geological Survey, and other partners. None of the seeps shown here was known to researchers before 2012. (High resolution image)

 

Two Recent Perspectives on USGS Water Information

USGS Newsroom Technical - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 12:56
Summary: USGS collects a wide range of hydrologic data, assures the quality of these data, and makes historical and continuing records of the nation’s water resources freely available in national databases

Contact Information:

Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 );



USGS collects a wide range of hydrologic data, assures the quality of these data, and makes historical and continuing records of the nation’s water resources freely available in national databases. USGS scientists have recently published two separate papers that provide national overviews of the status of USGS water resources information in the context of historical and technical developments in the last half-century.

Robert M. Hirsch and Gary T. Fisher (retired) point out in “Past, Present, and Future of Water Data Delivery from the U.S. Geological Survey” that USGS innovations, aided by rapidly improving technology, have enabled a transition in recent years from paper reports to online reports and from daily data to instantaneous data. An increasing emphasis on national and international data standards and web services makes it possible for users in the water management and research communities to quickly and easily import USGS water data into the operational and scientific software tools that they use. Further, distributing water data with applications on new mobile platforms brings value to new and nontraditional consumers of hydrologic information.

Writing in the May 2014 edition of Water Resources Impact, USGS Chief Scientist for Water Jerad D. Bales reviews (PDF) 1974 predictions of how water data would be collected in the future and notes how those predictions have been fulfilled or altered. He also describes factors, both technical and otherwise, affecting changes in water-resources data collection and management, as well as future challenges for water data collection.

References

Robert M. Hirsch and Gary T. Fisher. “Past, Present, and Future of Water Data Delivery from the U.S. Geological Survey” in Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education, Universities Council on Water Resources, Issue 153, April 2014, pp. 4-15.

Jerad D. Bales. “Progress in Data Collection and Dissemination in Water Resources – 1974-2014” (PDF) in Water Resources IMPACT, May 2014, v. 16, no. 3, pp. 18-23.

A Decade of Water Science: USGS Helps Assess Water Resources in Afghanistan

USGS Newsroom - Tue, 08/19/2014 - 08:37
Summary: For the past decade, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey have shared their expertise with the Afghanistan Geological Survey (AGS) in efforts to build an inventory of Afghanistan’s water resources

Contact Information:

Ethan Alpern ( Phone: 703-648-4406 ); THomas Mack ( Phone: 603-226-7805 );



For the past decade, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey have shared their expertise with the Afghanistan Geological Survey (AGS) in efforts to build an inventory of Afghanistan’s water resources. A new fact sheet details how these efforts help the country quantify and monitor its water resource.

“This partnership with the Afghanistan Geological Survey and other international agencies is extremely important for Afghanistan,” said Jack Medlin, USGS regional specialist, Asia and Pacific Region. “There’s a broad consensus that water availability is a global issue, and these collaborative efforts created the data collection networks necessary to help quantify water conditions in the region and manage future water supplies.”

A number of success stories were realized during this decade-long partnership.

In 2004, USGS and AGS initiated plans to rebuild Afghanistan’s capacity for various geologic sciences including hydrology. USGS accomplished the goal with teaching scientists from AGS to apply modern techniques for use of global positioning systems, field hydrology, water-quality sampling, and by developing water-resource databases.

The first efforts of the partnership were to inventory groundwater and surface water resources in Afghanistan’s capital city, Kabul. After inventorying about 150 wells in the first year, data from a subset of wells were monitored over ten years and indicated that water levels were decreasing in the city of Kabul. The water samples collected and analyzed for physical, chemical, and microbiological properties formed the basis of the first joint hydrologic investigation in Kabul.

“Now after 10 years of groundwater-level monitoring, recent analysis of the data shows an improved understanding of groundwater resources and its sustainability in Kabul,” said Thomas Mack, USGS hydrologist. “AGS engineers have established similar groundwater monitoring networks in other major cities across Afghanistan, which are critical for understanding current conditions and water availability at other population and economic centers.”

USGS assisted a World Bank effort to restore approximately 127 historical streamgages in Afghanistan with modern equipment and continues to monitor the country’s hydrologic network.

In the early days of the partnership, the USGS helped establish the Afghanistan Agrometerology Program. By 2014, the program had installed and was operating 102 stations recording precipitation amounts, snow cover, and other meteorological parameters that are crucial for calibrating and validating remote sensing models of Afghanistan.

A focus of the most recent research was to quantify and monitor water resources in the Chakari Basin, a watershed near Kabul and an area that contains considerable copper and other mineral resources.

“Understanding the water and mineral resources of the Chakari Basin is important for Afghanistan’s economic development and for balancing the needs of domestic and industrial water users,” said Michael Chornack, USGS hydrologist.

The hydrogeologic field investigations and water quality sampling conducted by AGS hydrologists provides valuable data needed for assessing water resources in Afghanistan’s mineral resource areas.

The USGS work in Afghanistan has been possible with assistance from other government agencies.

Recent Chilean Earthquakes Signal Potential for Similar Future Events

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 08/13/2014 - 13:30
Summary: Despite the magnitude 8.2 earthquake that hit northern Chile in April 2014, the plate boundary in that region is still capable of hosting shocks of the same size or even greater in the near future, according to new research presented in Nature. 

Contact Information:

Heidi  Koontz ( Phone: 303-202-4763 );



Despite the magnitude 8.2 earthquake that hit northern Chile in April 2014, the plate boundary in that region is still capable of hosting shocks of the same size or even greater in the near future, according to new research presented in Nature

The seismic gap theory, which can identify regions of elevated hazard based on a lack of recent seismic activity in comparison with other portions of a fault, had previously identified the northern Chile subduction zone as an area of concern for future magnitude 8.0+ (megathrust) earthquakes. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and partner agencies show that while the 2014 Iquique earthquake occurred within this gap in activity, it did not fill the entire spatial extent of the gap; thus the potential for a magnitude 8.0 or greater earthquake in northern Chile is still high. 

Significant sections of this subduction zone have not ruptured in almost 150 years, so it is likely that future megathrust earthquakes will occur to the south and potentially to the north of the 2014 Iquique sequence in the future. 

“As well as revealing interesting aspects of earthquake interactions in this subduction zone, our study indicates that the occurrence of the 2014 magnitude 8.2 event does not mean short-term hazard of large earthquakes in northern Chile has decreased – in fact, while we unfortunately cannot predict the timing of such events, similar-sized or indeed larger earthquakes are possible in the near future,” said USGS research geophysicist Gavin Hayes.

Arizona's Santa Cruz River Chronicled in New Environmental History

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 08/13/2014 - 09:22
Summary: The somber ecological consequences of human-caused landscape change and unsustainable water use in a western watershed are carefully examined in the recently published book, Requiem for the Santa Cruz: An Environmental History of an Arizona River (University of Arizona Press).

Contact Information:

Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 );



The somber ecological consequences of human-caused landscape change and unsustainable water use in a western watershed are carefully examined in the recently published book, Requiem for the Santa Cruz: An Environmental History of an Arizona River (University of Arizona Press).

Four authors from the U.S. Department of the Interior bring many combined years of cross-disciplinary and regional knowledge to the place-based investigation. Robert H. Webb (USGS hydrologist, retired), Julio L. Betancourt (USGS geoscientist), Roy R. Johnson (National Park Service ornithologist, retired) and Raymond M. Turner (USGS plant ecologist, retired) use field evidence and historical archives to track the evolution of water development and floodplain changes along the Santa Cruz River.

Historically, the Santa Cruz watershed is important in southern Arizona for settlement, ranching and economic development by Native Americans, especially the Tohono O’odham. Spaniards arriving in the late 1600s made this watershed the site of the first European colonization in what is now Arizona. Settlers from the United States and Mexico continued to arrive in the late nineteenth century. Because they depended on surface water in the river for irrigation and domestic supplies, these initial settlers and those who followed recorded and, in many cases, instigated floodplain changes along the reach of the Santa Cruz that today flows through the city of Tucson.

The authors marshal archival materials, repeat photography, and field evidence to document the many casualties of unsustainable water development as Tucson grew from a mud-walled village to a modern metropolis. In the late 1800s, groundwater levels were high enough to discharge as springs along the valley floor and sustain a forest of unusually tall and dense mesquite trees that provided rich habitat for birds and other wildlife. With increasing municipal water use in the 1930s enabled by the advent of the turbine pump, groundwater levels dropped precipitously, draining marshlands and killing the deep-rooted mesquite forest. Significant river habitat for migratory birds in southern Arizona was constricted to the San Pedro River, 30 miles to the east. 

Large floods in 1890, 1905 and 1915 cut a deep channel or arroyo in the historical course of the river, putting to ruin farmlands and waterworks, but incidentally opening up the floodplain for urbanization. Later in the twentieth century, Tucson’s attention turned to reducing the potential for large floods in an increasingly urban setting. Within the city limits, the unstable arroyo was confined to a cemented ditch that serves little ecological function. 

Requiem for the Santa Cruz is a cautionary tale for other southwestern rivers undergoing rapid urbanization and water development, including the neighboring San Pedro River, a still-viable refuge that nurtures high levels of migratory bird diversity. 

_______

Webb, R.H., Betancourt, J.L., Turner, R.M., and Johnson, R.R. 2014. Requiem for the Santa Cruz: An environmental history of an Arizona River. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 296 pp.

 

Pharmaceuticals and Other Chemicals Common in Landfill Waste

USGS Newsroom Technical - Mon, 08/11/2014 - 15:30
Summary: Pharmaceuticals, personal-care products, and other contaminants are widespread in water that has passed through landfill waste

Contact Information:

Alex Demas ( Phone: 703-648-4421 ); Dana  Kolpin ( Phone: 319-358-3614 );



Pharmaceuticals, personal-care products, and other contaminants are widespread in water that has passed through landfill waste. The samples of this liquid, also known as leachate, were collected from within each of the studied landfills. This study by the U.S. Geological Survey is the first national assessment of these chemicals of emerging concern in landfill leachate in the United States.

USGS scientists collected leachate from 19 active landfills and analyzed it for 202 chemicals across a wide range of uses, including pharmaceuticals, hygiene products, home-use chemicals, pesticides, plastics, etc. Of those 202 chemicals, 129 were found.

“This represents the first step in USGS efforts to quantify the contribution of contaminants of emerging concern in leachate from active landfills to the environment,” said Dana Kolpin, USGS, the research team leader. “Follow-up research will examine contaminant concentrations in treated and untreated leachate that is released to the environment.”

Of the chemicals found, concentrations varied. Steroid hormone concentrations generally ranged from 1 to 100’s nanograms per liter (ng/L, or parts per trillion); prescription and nonprescription pharmaceutical concentrations generally ranged from 100 to 10,000’s ng/L; and home-use and industrial chemical concentrations generally ranged from 1,000 to 1,000,000’s ng/L.

The 19 active landfills are located all across the United States and represent a snapshot of the various conditions that affect landfills.

“As expected, we found more chemicals and generally higher concentrations in landfills from wetter regions compared to those from drier regions,” said USGS scientist Jason Masoner, the primary author of this paper. “Overall, this study provides a better understanding of sources of contaminants of emerging concern in landfills.”

Chemicals commonly detected include:

  • bisphenol A—detected in 95 percent of samples, used to make plastics and resins
  • cotinine—detected in 95 percent of samples, a chemical formed from nicotine
  • N,N-diethyltoluamide—detected in 95 percent of samples, also known as DEET
  • lidocaine—detected in 89 percent of samples, used as anti-itching and local anesthetic
  • camphor—detected in 84 percent of samples, used in a variety of medicines and lotions

This study is part of a long-term effort to determine the fate and effects of contaminants of emerging concern and to provide water-resource managers with objective information that assists in the development of effective water management practices.

The paper is entitled “Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Fresh Leachate from Landfills in the Conterminous United States” and has been published in Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts. More information on this study and other studies on contaminants of emerging concern can be found here. To learn more about USGS environmental health science, please visit the USGS Environmental Health website and sign up for our GeoHealth Newsletter or our Environmental Health Headlines.

USGS Science at Ecological Society of America's Conference: From Climate Change to Fire, Drought, and Wind Energy

USGS Newsroom - Mon, 08/11/2014 - 10:27
Summary: From climate change to wind energy effects on birds and bats to wildlife disease, U.S. Geological Survey research will be presented at the annual Ecological Society of America (ESA) meetings from Aug. 10 to 14, 2014, in Sacramento

Contact Information:

Catherine Puckett ( Phone: 352-377-2469 ); Ben Landis ( Phone: 916-616-9468 );



From climate change to wind energy effects on birds and bats to wildlife disease, U.S. Geological Survey research will be presented at the annual Ecological Society of America (ESA) meetings from Aug. 10 to 14, 2014, in Sacramento. The theme of this year’s meeting is “From Oceans to Mountains: It’s All Ecology.”  ESA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of scientists founded in 1915 to promote ecological science.

This USGS tipsheet highlights some exciting USGS presentations at the ESA meeting. Information on news media attendance can be accessed on the 2011 ESA conference website.

A complete listing of USGS science at ESA 2014 can be downloaded here: http://bit.ly/usgsESA2014

MONDAY

Session: Ecological Drought in California Forests: Linking Climate Science and Resource Management (Monday, Aug. 11, 2014: 1:30 p.m.-5:00 p.m. / 307, Sacramento Convention Center / http://eco.confex.com/eco/2014/webprogram/Session9759.html /sjackson@usgs.gov)

Stephen Jackson, a newly appointed ESA Fellow and director of the Southwest Climate Science Center, is the moderator for this timely session. California is already enduring a serious drought, and climate projections for the next century uniformly indicate increasing growing-season water stress throughout the state. The region’s forests are in transition to a new normal under climate change. From the Sierras to the sea, California forests are under the triple stresses of increased fire hazard through heavy fuel loads, increasing ignition pressure because of proximity to people and increasing drought stress. Resource managers are faced with the difficult task of designing climate-smart adaptation strategies for forest management. This session covers a suite of topics. First, a climatologist will discuss the state of the art and uncertainties in climate downscaling. This will be followed with presentations by forest ecologists on various aspects and consequences of ecological drought. The session will end with perspectives on resource management, focusing on how researchers and managers can work closely together to develop information relevant to climate adaptation in forested lands. USGS presentations include:

  • The Importance of Climatic Extremes in Evaluating Effects of Climate Change on Ecosystems

To evaluate impacts of projected future climates on ecosystems at regional and local scales (downscaling), climatic extremes as well as mean or average climate change should be considered. Extreme events are often as important to ecosystems as long-term averages, and often, averages and the extremes are not tightly correlated. However, downscaling efforts thus far have focused mostly on averages rather than extremes. The overall deficit of precipitation during drought is a crucial measure, but other phenomena such as heat waves, fire-prone weather and the spatial variation that occur within a dry spell are also important. This presentation by USGS and Scripps Institution of Oceanography/UC San Diego scientist Daniel Cayan discusses how global and regional climate models represent climatic extremes in evaluating effects of climate change on ecosystems. (Monday, Aug. 11, 2014: 1:30 p.m./ 307, Sacramento Convention Center/ http://eco.confex.com/eco/2014/webprogram/Paper45890.html  / drcayan@usgs.gov)

  • A Dry Death: Drought and Recent Increases in Forest Mortality

The severe drought of 2014 across much of the southwestern U.S. provides a remarkable natural experiment to test the understanding of forest drought responses. Recent studies have already documented rapid increases in forest mortality rates and greater incidence of catastrophic forest die-back, and while these trends are often logically correlated with drought, USGS Western Ecological Research Center ecologist Phil van Mantgem will explain why we are still missing critical components in our understanding of drought impacts on forest deaths—and discuss what we might learn from the current drought. (Monday, Aug. 11, 2014: 2:30 p.m. / 307, Sacramento Convention Center / http://eco.confex.com/eco/2014/webprogram/Paper45893.html / pvanmantgem@usgs.gov)

  • The Vulnerability of Meadows in the Sierra Nevada

Against the august majesty of Half Dome and El Capitan, visitors can often overlook the lush meadows that carpet the valleys of Yosemite National Park and elsewhere in the Sierra Nevada. Yet meadows contribute disproportionately to hydrologic cycles, watershed services, ecosystem health, species diversity, and historical and cultural use, and information is needed to assess meadows and their vulnerability to climate change and land use factors. USGS Western Ecological Research Center ecologist Matt Brooks shares updates from a project using historical and satellite data to analyze more than 9,000 meadows in the Sierras—the first step to forecasting their fate. (Monday, Aug. 11, 2014: 4:20 p.m. / 307, Sacramento Convention Center / http://eco.confex.com/eco/2014/webprogram/Paper46292.html / mlbrooks@usgs.gov)

It's Getting Hotter Down South: Climate Change Effects in the Southeast

The U.S. southeastern states and Caribbean islands are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. This presentation by USGS scientist Virginia Burkett highlights the contents of the Southeast chapter of the Third National Climate Assessment (2014). Although the southeast experienced a cooling trend in the 1960s and 1970s, it has warmed at rates comparable to the national average since 1980, with the most recent decade the warmest on record. This increasing temperature and the associated increase in frequency, intensity and duration of extreme heat events will affect public health, agriculture, forestry, energy and natural and manufactured environments. The National Climate Assessment also addresses the widespread and continuing threats sea-level rise poses to coastal environments and the regional economy. Decreased water availability, which will also be highlighted in this presentation, is projected to be worsened by increased population growth and land-use change.  Together, these factors will increase competition for water and affect the region’s economy and unique biological networks. In addition, mosquitoes carrying malaria and yellow and dengue fevers may thrive, crop productivity is expected to dwindle, coral reef growth may decrease and billions of dollars of coastal land could be impacted by sea-level rise. (Monday, Aug. 11, 2014: 1:30 p.m. / 313, Sacramento Convention Center / http://eco.confex.com/eco/2014/webprogram/Paper46047.html / virginia_burkett@usgs.gov)

A History of Megafires and Extreme Droughts in California

As climate change considerations loom over California, a common question is how droughts will shift wildfire regimes in the Golden State. USGS Western Ecological Research Center fire ecologist and newly elected ESA Fellow Jon Keeley will present a sweeping overview of the historic fire and drought history in California, explaining how the vegetation communities and plant ecology have changed as fire regimes have changed—and offer perspectives on the future of fire and droughts in this state. (Monday, Aug. 11, 2014: 1:50 p.m. / 306, Sacramento Convention Center / http://eco.confex.com/eco/2014/webprogram/Paper45823.html / jon_keeley@usgs.gov / Keeley will also speak at the Tuesday Symposium “Extreme Weather and Climate Events: Understanding and Adapting to Ecosystem Responses”, 8:00 -11:30 a.m. in Gardenia Room/Sheraton Hotel.)

Climate Change and The Pacific Northwest

With craggy shorelines, volcanic mountains, and high sage deserts, the Northwest’s complex and varied topography contributes to the region’s rich climatic, geographic, social and ecologic diversity. Abundant natural resources – timber, fisheries, productive soils and plentiful water – remain important to the region’s economy. All these resources will be affected by climate change, and understanding the likely impacts is key to planning for and adapting to the Northwest and for understanding what climate change means for the region. In this presentation, USGS scientist Jeremy Littell will discuss the main climate changes and their expected impacts on Northwest hydrology, coasts, forests and agricultural systems.  (Monday, Aug. 11, 2014: 1:30-3:30 p.m. / 313, Sacramento Convention Center/ http://eco.confex.com/eco/2014/webprogram/Paper46051.html / jlittell@usgs.gov)

TUESDAY:

L.A. Story Part II: “I’ll Be Baaack,” Said the Stickleback?

You wouldn’t have known it was a river with its famously dry banks. But the concrete backdrop of chase scenes in films like “Terminator 2” and “Grease” is the Los Angeles River, where today 80 percent of it is channelized. Local communities are eager to restore this watershed, and USGS Western Ecological Research Center ecologist Adam Backlin will share results from biological surveys of three upstream tributaries of the L.A. River: Pacoima, Big Tujunga, and Arroyo Seco—still home to some native species, and maybe home again someday to endangered stickleback fishes and threatened frogs once found there. (Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014: 9:50 a.m. / 307, Sacramento Convention Center / http://eco.confex.com/eco/2014/webprogram/Paper45834.html / abacklin@usgs.gov)

L.A. Story Part I: How Does the Mountain Lion Cross the Road?

One of Hollywood’s biggest stars of late has been P-22, the Griffith Park mountain lion. But cougars are just one of many wildlife species that must navigate the confusing maze of disconnected habitats and urban barriers that crisscross the Los Angeles landscape. USGS Western Ecological Research Center ecologist Erin Boydston, whose research partnership discovered and first photographed P-22, will present insights from their Griffith Park Connectivity Study, using remote cameras to study how wildlife might be crossing between habitats over manic freeways like the 101 and I-5. (Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014: 10:10 a.m.  / 307, Sacramento Convention Center / http://eco.confex.com/eco/2014/webprogram/Paper45873.html / eboydston@usgs.gov)

At-Risk Columbia Spotted Frogs: Factors Influencing Conservation

Columbia spotted frogs in southeastern Oregon, southern Idaho and Nevada constitute a genetically distinct population segment (DPS). This Great Basin DPS has been a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act since 1993 because remaining populations are small, isolated and reside in habitats altered by water development, livestock use, mining and non-native species. Projected warmer, drier climate conditions could further stress and isolate already vulnerable populations in the region. USGS researchers, including scientist Robert Arkle, examined existing data on spotted frog occurrence, abundance and habitat to understand factors influencing habitat quality, habitat connectivity and climate suitability in the Great Basin.  Preliminary results suggest that the area of the Great Basin with suitable climates for spotted frogs has already decreased over the past 100 years and will continue to decrease substantially over the next 100 years. Genetic research suggests connectivity between adjacent occupied sites is currently low, while sub-populations are isolated from one another. USGS research suggests that management tools, such as beaver reintroduction, grazing management and non-native trout control efforts may promote conservation of the Columbia spotted frog in the Great Basin. (Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014: 10:30 a.m./ Regency Ballroom, Hyatt Regency Hotel/ http://eco.confex.com/eco/2014/webprogram/Paper49690.html / rarkle@usgs.gov)

Adapting to a Changing Climate: Identifying Shared Opportunities for Resource Managers and Planners

Northeastern headwater streams are important habitat for species such as the spring salamander and brook trout, but they are also important for water quality, angling, and recreation opportunities.  As the climate changes, effective conservation in landscapes managed by multiple decision makers will not only require active collaboration of conservation partners and partnerships, but it also will require explicitly including these multiple objectives, and identifying tradeoffs among objectives. USGS scientist Evan Grant will describe a framework being used to identify shared opportunities for decision making among multiple decision makers. The typical approach to large-scale conservation includes identifying and filling information gaps, though in the context of collaborative decision making, a focus on competing management objectives and incorporating individual values may be more efficient, especially when management responsibilities are fragmented among multiple agencies.(Tuesday, August 12, 2014: 3:20 p.m. / 203, Sacramento Convention Center / http://eco.confex.com/eco/2014/webprogram/Paper45666.html / ehgrant@usgs.gov)

Strategies to Help Address Climate Change Effects Along the Atlantic Coast

Coastal ecosystems and the services they provide to people are especially vulnerable to climate-related impacts from sea-level rise, coastal erosion and extreme weather events such as hurricanes, as well as other factors such as land-use change, habitat fragmentation and invasive species.  This presentation by Raye Nilius highlights management-research collaborations between the Interior Department’s Northeast and Southeast Climate Science Centers and National Wildlife Refuges from Maine to Puerto Rico to address questions on best ways to adapt to climate change and make climate-informed decisions.  Adaptation strategies that target high-priority resources including tidal marsh habitats, highly migratory waterbirds and cultural resources associated with coastal reserves, enhance the resilience of public trust resources, and assist management agencies in coping effectively with and anticipating the challenges of a changing and uncertain future.  (Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014: 4:40 p.m. / 203, Sacramento Convention Center/ http://eco.confex.com/eco/2014/webprogram/Paper45674.html /  mratnaswamy@usgs.gov or raye_nilius@fws.gov )

WEDNESDAY

Climate Change May Alter the Distribution of Iconic Trembling Aspen

Trembling aspens are the most widely distributed tree species in North America, providing numerous ecosystem services such as increased biodiversity, important wildlife habitat and food, and snow-water retention.  Yet many aspen-dominated systems are declining in the western United States due to drought conditions during the last decade.  Because phenological – or life-cycle – events such as flowering and leaf fall are sensitive to climate variations, they can help scientists detect the impacts of climate change on ecosystems. Scientist Gretchen Meier and her USGS colleagues examined the start of season of aspen over a 12-year period as well as the important climatological, geographic, and ecological influences on the seasonal phenology of aspen.  (Wednesday, Aug. 13, 1:50 p.m./ 311-312, Sacramento Convention Center / http://eco.confex.com/eco/2014/webprogram/Paper48879.html / gmeier@usgs.gov)

Landscape Threats to Migratory Bats: Does Mortality Location Matter? 

The endangered Indiana bat and the little brown bat populations, like most bat populations, are under stress from habitat loss, white-nose syndrome, climate change and impacts of wind turbines.  Despite these conservation concerns, few models exist that shed light on bat populations over time and geography.  Recent findings from a new model shed light on how bats with complex life cycles – migratory, overwintering in hibernacula, and roosting in trees during summer breeding seasons – can be affected by landscape threats.  Researcher Julie Beston will discuss how the loss of a single subpopulation or roost site (either breeding or overwinter) can alter the total population size and geographic dynamics.  This research suggests that resource managers should consider incremental population loss in a similar way as they consider incremental habitat loss, as well as considering the geographic location of the loss for correctly characterizing population risks.   Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014: 2:10 p.m./ Regency Ballroom F, Hyatt Regency Hotel/ http://eco.confex.com/eco/2014/webprogram/Paper47503.html / jbeston@usgs.gov or reickson@usgs.gov)

Retaining an Army of Citizen Scientists Critical to Success of USA National Phenology Network

Phenology is nature’s calendar—when bears hibernate in the winter, when a butterfly goes through metamorphosis, and when flowers bloom in the spring or leaves fall in autumn. Large-scale phenological monitoring is necessary for managers to have the information needed to understand and adapt to changes in seasonal climate and associated plant and animal responses. The USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN) aids in this monitoring through the founding of the National Phenology Database (NPDb), a storage record of plant and animal phenological data across the nation. Information in this database is contributed by both professionals and volunteers citizen scientists via an online phenology observing program called Nature’s Notebook. Even though over 3 million observation records for plants and animals have been obtained, the optimal dataset would consist of repeated, frequent observations of multiple individuals of the same species across its entire geographic distribution over multiple years. This presentation by USGS scientist Jake Weltzin will outline strategic approaches to maximize participant recruitment and retention and considers data needs over time and geography. The success of these monitoring efforts can serve as a worldwide fingerprint of climate-change impacts on plants, animals, ecosystems and people. (Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014: 2:30 p.m./ 304-305, Sacramento Convention Center/ http://eco.confex.com/eco/2014/webprogram/Paper45732.html / jweltzin@usgs.gov)

Types of Birds Most at Risk from Wind Energy

Conservationists, managers and industry professionals need to identify wildlife species that could be negatively impacted by wind energy development. This presentation by USGS scientist Julie Beston highlights a method developed for prioritizing bird species most at risk of harmful impacts from wind energy. Findings of this research include birds of prey being most vulnerable to turbine collision mortality, and wading and perching birds being most susceptible to habit degradation from wind energy development. The study highlights bird species that are most in need of resource manager planning, attention and monitoring in relation to wind energy development or sites.  (Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014: 3:40 p.m./ Regency Ballroom F, Hyatt Regency Hotel/ http://eco.confex.com/eco/2014/webprogram/Paper49936.html  / jbeston@usgs.gov)

Southwestern, National and Global Forest Changes Related to Climate

Climate warming is linked to large and historically new changes in forest disturbance regimes, driving forest ecosystem responses from incremental small adjustments to abrupt fundamental changes in ecosystem patterns and processes, according to preliminary USGS research. This presentation by USGS scientist Craig D. Allen addresses synergistic climate and disturbance drivers of major changes in forest ecosystems, focusing on relationships among drought, warm temperatures and tree mortality through combinations of forest dieback and die-offs, forest fires and insect outbreaks.  Allen will highlight recent trends of more extreme forest disturbances and associated ecosystem transitions from the southwestern U.S., as well as broader trends extending from western North America to emerging global-scale forest risks. If current mainstream climate projections of substantial global warming this century emerge as modeled, major re-organizations of forest ecosystems can be expected through the effects of novel climate-modulated disturbance processes. (Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014: 3:40 p.m. / 203, Sacramento Convention Center/ http://eco.confex.com/eco/2014/webprogram/Paper45288.html /  craig_allen@usgs.gov)

THURSDAY:

Amphibian Chytrid Fungus in Amphibian Habitats

According to one estimate, 40 percent of amphibian species are vulnerable to extinction. Although the chyrtrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is a major contributor to many amphibian population declines worldwide, most research on this fungus has focused on how it interacts with its amphibian hosts, with little research on free-living Bd outside of the host. USGS researcher Tara Chestnut and her colleagues investigated the occurrence and prevalence of Bd in surface waters of amphibian habitats of the United States. The research provides evidence that Bd occurs in the environment year round, that the fungus was found in 47 percent of sites sampled and that it was estimated to occur in 61 percent of sites.  The occurrence of Bd was highest at low-elevation sites and decreased as elevation increased. These findings advance the study of Bd disease ecology in temperate-zones, as well as the understanding of the likelihood of amphibian exposure to free-living Bd in aquatic habitats over time. (Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014: 10:30 a.m. /301, Sacramento Convention Center/ http://eco.confex.com/eco/2014/webprogram/Paper49556.html / chestnut@usgs.gov)

FRIDAY:

Biodiversity Information Serving Our Nation (BISON): Mapping Species Occurrence Data

The USGS's BISON mapping application (http://bison.usgs.ornl.gov) portrays 140+ million terrestrial and aquatic species locations throughout the United States and its territories. From the graphic user interface, BISON search results may be displayed on an interactive map, downloaded in a variety of formats or retrieved via Web services. Recent improvement in BISON's infrastructure now allows searching larger taxonomic groups (e.g., all birds within an area) and including taxonomic synonyms (alternative scientific names that are equivalent to the search term), using the features of the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) (http://www.itis.gov), and also includes the option to visualize species occurrence data on top of more than 30 map layers from the USGS National Map and other reliable sources. With its newly integrated taxonomic disambiguation using the ITIS platform for improved data retrieval, BISON provides a gateway for serving, searching, mapping, and downloading integrated species occurrence records from multiple data sources, and data modeling opportunities and solutions for ecologists and other resource managers. (Friday, Aug 15, 2014: 8:40 a.m. / Regency Ballroom A, Hyatt Regency Hotel/ http://eco.confex.com/eco/2014/webprogram/Paper47507.html / asimpson@usgs.gov)

Revised Arkansas and South Carolina Maps Feature New Design

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 08/06/2014 - 09:00
Summary: US Topo maps now have a crisper, cleaner design - enhancing readability of maps for online and printed use Newly designed US Topo maps covering Arkansas and South Carolina are now available online for free download

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Bob Davis ( Phone: 573-308-3554 );



US Topo maps now have a crisper, cleaner design - enhancing readability of maps for online and printed use. Map symbols are easier to read over the digital aerial photograph layer whether the imagery is turned on or off. Improvements to symbol definitions (color, line thickness, line symbols, area fills), layer order, and annotation fonts are additional features of this latest update. The maps also have transparency for some features and layers to increase visibility of multiple competing layers.

This new design was launched earlier this year and is now part of the new US Topo quadrangles for Arkansas (874 maps) and South Carolina (519 maps), replacing the first edition US Topo maps for those states. 

"Users in our state are very excited about the three year revision cycle of the US Topo maps," said Bill Sneed, the Geospatial Liaison for Arkansas and Tennessee.  "With the Fayetteville Shale activity, our maps are increasing in popularity outside the normal recreational/hunting community."  

US Topo maps are updated every three years. The initial round of the 48 conterminous states coverage was completed in September of 2012.  Hawaii and Puerto Rico maps have recently been added. More than 400 new US Topo maps for Alaska have been added to the USGS Map Locator & Downloader, but will take several years to complete.

Re-design enhancements and new features:

  • Crisper, cleaner design improves online and printed readability while retaining the look and feel of traditional USGS topographic maps
  • New functional road classification schema has been applied
  • A slight screening (transparency) has been applied to some features to enhance visibility of multiple competing layers
  • Updated free fonts that support diacritics
  • New PDF Legend attachment
  • Metadata formatted to support multiple browsers
  • New shaded relief layer for enhanced view of the terrain
  • Military installation boundaries, post offices and cemeteries
  • The railroad dataset is much more complete

The previous versions of US Topo maps for these states, published in 2011, can still be downloaded from USGS web sites. Also, scanned images of older topographic maps from the period 1884-2006 can be downloaded from the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection. These scanned images of legacy paper maps are available for free download from The National Map and the USGS Map Locator & Downloader website.

US Topo maps are created from geographic datasets in The National Map, and deliver visible content such as high-resolution aerial photography, which was not available on older paper-based topographic maps. The new US Topo maps also provide modern technical advantages that support wider and faster public distribution and on-screen geographic analysis tools for users. The new digital electronic topographic maps are delivered in GeoPDF ® image software format and may be viewed using Adobe Reader, available as a no-cost download.

For more information, go to: http://nationalmap.gov/ustopo/

2014 US Topo map of the North Little Rock, Arkansas, area with image layer turned on (1:24,000 scale). (high resolution image 1.4 MB) Scan of the 1891 USGS topographic map of the Little Rock, Arkansas, area from the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection (1:125,000 scale). (high resolution image 1.8 MB)

Earthquake Plot Thickens in Pacific Northwest

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 15:00
Summary: Nearly forgotten research from decades ago complicates the task of quantifying earthquake hazards in the Pacific Northwest, according to a new report from scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Washington, and other universities

Contact Information:

Leslie  Gordon, USGS ( Phone: 650-329-4006 ); Hannah Hickey, UW ( Phone: 206-543-2580 );



SEATTLE, Wash. — Nearly forgotten research from decades ago complicates the task of quantifying earthquake hazards in the Pacific Northwest, according to a new report from scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Washington, and other universities.

The report focuses on the Cascadia subduction zone—a giant active fault that slants eastward beneath the Pacific coast of southern British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and northern California. Geologic studies in the past three decades have provided increasingly specific estimates of Cascadia earthquake sizes and repeat times. The estimates affect public safety through seismic provisions in building design and tsunami limits on evacuation maps.

The new report does not question whether the Cascadia subduction zone repeatedly produces enormous earthquakes. What the report asks instead is how much geologists can say, with confidence, about the history of those earthquake going back thousands of years. How big was each of the earthquakes? Did they occur twice as often along one part of the subduction zone as another? The report concludes that extracting such details from deep-sea sediments is more complicated than was previously thought.

The report reappraises sediment cores that were collected near the foot of the continental slope offshore Washington. A subset of cores from this area underpins influential estimates of Cascadia earthquake size and recurrence that were published in 2012. The new report points to confounding evidence from a much larger suite of cores that were collected and first analyzed by University of Washington and Oregon State University scientists in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Those Nixon-era cores were the work of researchers unconcerned with earthquakes. Plate tectonics was then such a new idea that scientists were just beginning to recognize the Cascadia subduction zone as a tectonic plate boundary. The sediment cores were collected to learn about turbidites—beds of sand and mud laid down by bottom-hugging, sediment-driven currents that infrequently emerged from submarine canyons onto the deep ocean floor. Not until a 1990 report would turbidites be reinterpreted as clues to Cascadia earthquake history.

“Rethinking turbidite paleoseismology along the Cascadia subduction zone” is freely available online in Geology, a leading Earth-science journal. The authors are Brian Atwater (U.S. Geological Survey), Bobb Carson (Lehigh University), Gary Griggs (University of California Santa Cruz), and Paul Johnson and Marie Salmi (University of Washington).

Nesting Gulf Sea Turtles Feed in Waters Filled With Threats

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 14:29
Summary: Nesting loggerhead sea turtles in the northern Gulf of Mexico feed among areas that were oiled by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill and where human activities occur, several of which are known to pose threats to sea turtles, a new U.S Geological study showed

Contact Information:

Kristen Hart ( Phone: 954-650-0336 ); Christian Quintero ( Phone: 813-498-5019 );



DAVIE, Fla.— Nesting loggerhead sea turtles in the northern Gulf of Mexico feed among areas that were oiled by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill and where human activities occur, several of which are known to pose threats to sea turtles, a new U.S Geological study showed.

The feeding areas for 10 turtles overlapped with an area that experienced surface oiling during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. These sites, and others, also overlapped with areas trawled by commercial fishing operations and used for oil and gas extraction.

The study, which is the largest to date on Northern Gulf loggerheads, examined 59 nesting females, which scientists believe could be 15 percent of the breeding females in the Northern Gulf of Mexico—a small and declining subpopulation of loggerheads that is federally classified as threatened.

“With such a large sample of the nesting females, we’re finally getting the big picture of when, where and how females that nest in the northern Gulf of Mexico rely on off-shore waters to survive. This information is critical for halting and reversing their declines,” said USGS research ecologist Kristen Hart, the lead author of the study.

The study began in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill as a means to better understand how sea turtles used habitat in the Northern Gulf of Mexico by analyzing the movements of turtles tagged between 2010 and 2013.

All of the turtles tracked in the study remained in the Gulf of Mexico to feed, and a third remained in the northern part of the Gulf. This differs from reports in other parts of the world, where some loggerheads have been shown to migrate across ocean basins after nesting.

“These results show how important the Gulf of Mexico is to this group of loggerheads – they stay here throughout the year, not just during the nesting season,” said USGS research biologist Meg Lamont, a co-author on the study.

The study also revealed specific parts of the Gulf where females feed and spend most of their time.  It is believed that an individual turtle will return to these specific feeding areas throughout her life, a trait scientists call “foraging site fidelity.”

“With this study, we essentially discovered their homes – the waters where these loggerheads spend most of the year,” Lamont said. “People think of nesting beaches as their homes, but they don’t really spend much time there. They only migrate to the nesting beaches to lay eggs. The rest of their adult life is spent foraging at sea.”

The next step for USGS scientists Hart and Lamont is to track these nesting Gulf loggerheads long enough to test whether they do indeed re-visit the same feeding areas throughout their life, as they suspect. This would help pinpoint important feeding sites of long-term and high traffic use – in essence, their home ranges.

“Locating long-term feeding areas will really open up new possibilities for the conservation and management of these amazing creatures,” said Hart.

The study, “Migration, foraging, and residency patterns for Northern Gulf of Mexico loggerheads: Implications of local threats and international movements” was recently published in the journal PLOS ONE. 

Take a Trip to the Islands

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 09:00
Summary: Since August 2013, all 50 states have been available for editing with the USGS The National Map Corps (TNMCorps) volunteered geographic information project. Starting this month, TNMCorps is pleased to add the United States Virgin Islands to that list The U.S. Virgin Islands are now available for structure updates with The National Map Corps crowd-sourcing volunteers

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Erin Korris ( Phone: 303-202-4503 ); Elizabeth McCartney ( Phone: 573-308-3696 );



Since August 2013, all 50 states have been available for editing with the USGS The National Map Corps (TNMCorps) volunteered geographic information project. Starting this month, TNMCorps is pleased to add the United States Virgin Islands 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 images 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 the U.S. Virgin Islands quite challenging, as some source data points shown in the map editor may be out of date, and some structure types are missing entirely.

One of many younger volunteers has found that contributing to The National Map Corps has been a rewarding summer activity.  “I’ve only been working for a month and already I’ve discovered interesting facts, like where Sacagawea is buried, and all of the unique names for places around the country,” said user “crazeyme,” who is also one of the top producing participants. 

To recognize 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 Surveyor's Chain (25 – 50 points) to the Theodolite Assemblage (2000+ points). Additionally, volunteers are publically recognized (with user 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 and give it a try.

Screen shot of The National Map Corps editor webpage showing the capitol city of Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, St. Thomas. Within this image lies the governmental center, public schools, and more– which is why The National Map Corps needs your help! (high resolution image 3.3 MB) 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+). New awards for volunteers exceeding 2,000 points are under review. (high resolution image 114.7KB)

Streamflow Increasing in Eastern Missouri River Basin, Decreasing Elsewhere

USGS Newsroom - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 13:06
Summary: Streamflow in the eastern portions of the Missouri River watershed has increased over the past 52 years, whereas other parts have seen downward trends

Contact Information:

Parker Norton ( Phone: 605-394-3220 ); Marisa Lubeck ( Phone: 303-202-4765 );



Reporters: Video footage of an interview with lead USGS scientist Parker Norton is available online.

Streamflow in the eastern portions of the Missouri River watershed has increased over the past 52 years, whereas other parts have seen downward trends. 

U.S. Geological Survey scientists recently studied data from 227 streamgages in the Missouri River watershed that had continuous records for 1960 through 2011. The scientists found that almost half of the streamgages showed either an upward or downward trend in mean annual flow since 1960, while the rest showed no trend.

The study is relevant on a large scale because the Missouri River is the longest river in the United States, with a watershed that includes mountainous to prairie topography in all or parts of 10 states and small parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada. 

“The Missouri River and its tributaries are valuable for agriculture, energy, recreation and municipal water supplies,” said USGS hydrologist Parker Norton. “Understanding streamflow throughout the watershed can help guide management of these critical water resources.” 

According to the study, streamflow has increased in the eastern part of the watershed, including eastern North Dakota, eastern South Dakota, western Iowa and eastern Nebraska. Annual flows have decreased in the western headwaters area of the Missouri River in Montana and Wyoming, and in the southern part of the basin associated with the Kansas River watershed.

Climate changes that affect how and where moisture is delivered to the continent may be causing some of these trends in the Missouri River Basin. Although the USGS scientists did not conduct a complete analysis of the causes, they noted that increased streamflow over broad regions occurred despite the increasing use of water. Decreased streamflow in some areas could also be related to climate change factors, or to groundwater pumping. 

The USGS report can be accessed online

For more than 125 years, the USGS has monitored flow in selected streams and rivers across the United States. The information is routinely used for water supply and management, monitoring floods and droughts, bridge and road design, determination of flood risk and for many recreational activities. 

Access current flood and high flow conditions across the country by visiting the USGS WaterWatch website. Receive instant, customized updates about water conditions in your area via text message or email by signing up for USGS WaterAlert

Scientists Predict Massive Urban Growth, Creation of 'Megalopolis' in Southeast in Next 45 Years

USGS Newsroom - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 10:10
Summary: Urban areas in the Southeastern United States will double in size by 2060 unless there are significant changes to land development, according to a new study by the Department of Interior’s Southeast Climate Science Center and North Carolina State University

Contact Information:

Adam Terando ( Phone: 919-515-4448 ); Christian Quintero ( Phone: 813-498-5019 );



RALEIGH, N.C.—Urban areas in the Southeastern United States will double in size by 2060 unless there are significant changes to land development, according to a new study by the Department of Interior’s Southeast Climate Science Center and North Carolina State University.

The predicted growth would come at the expense of agricultural and forest lands, creating an urban “megalopolis” stretching from Raleigh to Atlanta, which also raises a number of ecological concerns.

“If we continue to develop urban areas in the Southeast the way we have for the past 60 years, we can expect natural areas will become increasingly fragmented,” said Adam Terando, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, adjunct assistant professor at NC State, and lead author of the study.  “We could be looking at a seamless corridor of urban development running from Raleigh to Atlanta, and possibly as far as Birmingham, within the next 50 years.”

To understand how urban and natural environments could change, the researchers used NC State’s High Performance Computing services to simulate urban development between now and 2060 across the Southeastern United States.  

Among the expected impacts of such expansive urban growth, the fragmentation of natural areas would significantly limit the mobility of wildlife, making it more difficult for them to find mates, raise young, find food and respond to environmental changes.

“This, in turn, increases the likelihood that we’ll see more conflicts between people and wildlife, such as the increasing interactions with bears we’re seeing in our suburban areas,” Terando said.

An increase in urbanization would also make urban heat islands—the warming of cities due to human activities and development—more common, favoring species that can take advantage of the hotter conditions in cities. For example, previous studies have found that insect pests – such as scale insects – thrive in urban environments.

“Unless we change course, over the next 50 years urbanization will have a more pronounced ecological impact in many non-coastal areas of the Southeast than climate change, said Jennifer Costanza, a research associate at NC State and a co-author of the study. “It’s impossible to predict precisely what the specific ecological outcomes would be, but so far, the projections are not good in terms of biodiversity and ecosystem health.”

This research emphasizes how decision makers involved in community planning will need a well-thought out strategy for future development, Costanza said. 

“Given that urbanization poses significant challenges to this region, decision makers will need to begin serious, long-term discussions about economic development, ecological impacts and the value of non-urban spaces,” she added.

The paper, “The southern megalopolis: using the past to predict the future of urban sprawl in the Southeast U.S.,” is published in PLOS ONE. The paper was co-authored by Adam Terando, Alexa McKerrow and Jaime A. Collazo of the USGS; and Jennifer Costanza, Curtis Belyea and Rob Dunn of NC State. The work was supported by the DOI Southeast Climate Science Center based at NC State. The center provides scientific information to help natural resource managers respond effectively to climate change.

Climate Change Could Alter Range of Caribou and May Impact Hunters' Access

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 13:00
Summary: Due to climate change, some communities in rural Alaska and the Yukon Territory of Canada may face a future with fewer caribou according to new research published by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks in the recent issue of PLoS ONE

Contact Information:

Yvette Gillies ( Phone: 907-786-7039 ); Dave Gustine ( Phone: 907-786-7435 ); Todd Brinkman ( Phone: 907-474-7139 );



Caribou from the Central Arctic herd along the Sagavanirktok River in northern Alaska. (High resolution image)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Due to climate change, some communities in rural Alaska and the Yukon Territory of Canada may face a future with fewer caribou according to new research published by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks in the recent issue of PLoS ONE. Scientists examined the future effects of fires on winter habitats of caribou herds and determined that wildfires will reduce the amount of winter habitat for caribou, thus caribou may need to shift their wintering grounds

Warming temperatures will increase the flammability of lichen-producing boreal forests, which are important winter habitat for caribou herds. Caribou serve as nutritional as well as cultural sustenance for certain communities. Caribou avoid burned areas in winter and the changes in their distribution can persist across multiple generations of hunters. Those who rely on caribou in fire-prone areas may therefore have fewer available as climate change increases the number and sizes of fires in the boreal forests.

“We project that the Porcupine caribou herd will lose 21% of winter habitat to fire by the end of this century, with the majority of this loss driven by increased flammability in spruce forests in the Yukon," said Dr. Dave Gustine, a Research Wildlife Biologist with the USGS and lead author of the study.

The study examines how increasing temperatures will influence flammability of boreal forest areas used by the Central Arctic and Porcupine caribou herds during winter. Understanding possible changes to forest flammability allows forecasting of future winter distributions of caribou that will impact subsistence harvest and land, wildlife and fire management programs.

Climate change is global in scope and scale; however, its impacts are sometimes most visible in remote locations of the planet. Like climate change itself, migratory animals such as caribou do not recognize international geo-political borders and the research needed to study the relationship between climate change and animals crosses many countries.

The potential changes in caribou distribution will affect communities that have a cultural and nutritional reliance on caribou. Arctic Village, Alaska and Old Crow Yukon Territory, are within the traditional boreal forest winter range of the Porcupine herd, while hunters from the Alaskan villages of Fort Yukon, Venetie and Chalkyitsik, travel north each year to harvest animals from this herd.

“Fires were less numerous and smaller in tundra habitats compared to spruce habitats and given the more likely climate trajectory, we projected that the Porcupine caribou herd, which winters primarily in the boreal forest, could be expected to experience a greater reduction in lichen-producing winter habitats than the Central Arctic herd that wintered primarily in the arctic tundra,” said Dr. Todd Brinkman a co-author of the study and member of the Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Future work by the USGS and collaborators will examine how fire-driven changes to winter habitat and temperature-driven changes to spring and summer forages will influence the habitats of caribou across the Alaskan Arctic.

This work is part of the USGS Changing Arctic Ecosystems Initiative.

Simulation domain and winter ranges of the Central Arctic and Porcupine caribou herds, Alaska and Yukon. (High resolution image)

Insecticides Similar to Nicotine Widespread in Midwest

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 10:00
Summary: Insecticides similar to nicotine, known as neonicotinoids, were found commonly in streams throughout the Midwest, according to a new USGS study

Contact Information:

Alex Demas ( Phone: 703-648-4421 ); Kathy Kuivila ( Phone: 503-251-3257 );



Insecticides similar to nicotine, known as neonicotinoids, were found commonly in streams throughout the Midwest, according to a new USGS study. This is the first broad-scale investigation of neonicotinoid insecticides in the Midwestern United States and one of the first conducted within the United States.

Effective in killing a broad range of insect pests, use of neonicotinoid insecticides has dramatically increased over the last decade across the United States, particularly in the Midwest.  The use of clothianidin, one of the chemicals studied, on corn in Iowa alone has almost doubled between 2011 and 2013.

 “Neonicotinoid insecticides are receiving increased attention by scientists as we explore the possible links between pesticides, nutrition, infectious disease, and other stress factors in the environment possibly associated with honeybee dieoffs.” said USGS scientist Kathryn Kuivila, the research team leader.

Neonicotinoid insecticides dissolve easily in water, but do not break down quickly in the environment. This means they are likely to be transported away in runoff from the fields where they were first applied to nearby surface water and groundwater bodies.

In all, nine rivers and streams, including the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, were included in the study. The rivers studied drain most of Iowa, and parts of Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. These states have the highest use of neonicotinoid insecticides in the Nation, and the chemicals were found in all nine rivers and streams.

Of the three most often found chemicals, clothianidin was the most commonly detected, showing up in 75 percent of the sites and at the highest concentration. Thiamethoxam was found at 47 percent of the sites, and imidacloprid was found at 23 percent. Two, acetamiprid and dinotefuran, were only found once, and the sixth, thiacloprid, was never detected.

Instead of being sprayed on growing or full-grown crops, neonicotinoids can be applied to the seed before planting. The use of treated seeds in the United States has increased to the point where most corn and soybeans planted in the United States have a seed treatment (i.e., coating), many of which include neonicotinoid insecticides.

“We noticed higher levels of these insecticides after rain storms during crop planting, which is similar to the spring flushing of herbicides that has been documented in Midwestern U.S. rivers and streams,” said USGS scientist Michelle Hladik, the report’s lead author. “In fact, the insecticides also were detected prior to their first use during the growing season, which indicates that they can persist from applications in prior years.”

One of the chemicals, imidacloprid, is known to be toxic to aquatic organisms at 10-100 nanograms per liter if the aquatic organisms are exposed to it for an extended period of time. Clothianidin and thiamethoxam behave similarly to imidacloprid, and are therefore anticipated to have similar effect levels. Maximum concentrations of clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid measured in this study were 257, 185, and 42.7 nanograms per liter, respectively.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified all detected neonicotinoids as not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.

The paper, “Widespread occurrence of neonicotinoid insecticides in streams in a high corn and soybean producing region, USA” and has been published in Environmental Pollution. Learn more about the study and the long-term USGS effort to gather information on the environmental occurrence of new pesticides in different geographic, climatic, and use settings here. To learn more about USGS environmental health science, please visit the USGS Environmental Health website and sign up for our GeoHealth Newsletter.

Locations of sites in Iowa sampled for neonicotinoids in 2013. Watersheds for the Mississippi River and Missouri River sites are shown in the inset.

Media Advisory: USGS to Host Congressional Briefing: Safer Communities, Stronger Economies - in 3D

USGS Newsroom - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 13:00
Summary: 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

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Kathleen  Gohn ( Phone: 703-648-4242 );



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.

Speakers:
  • Douglas Bausch – Region VIII Earthquake Program Manager and Senior Physical Scientist, Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • John Dorman – Assistant State Emergency Management Director for Geospatial & Technology Management, North Carolina
  • Jonathan Godt- Landslide Hazards Program Coordinator, U.S. Geological Survey

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.

What's the Deal with 3DEP?

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 10:00
Summary: 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. Replacing outdated and inconsistent elevation data will save lives and improve prosperity across our Nation

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Vicki Lukas ( Phone: 703-648-4646 );



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).

USGS Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Water Resources Research Act

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 07:00
Summary: 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 Vital research on water flows from 1964 law

Contact Information:

Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 ); Earl  Greene ( Phone: 443-498-5505 );



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.

Learn more