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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 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.


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:


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 / /

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/  /

  • 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 / /

  • 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 / /

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 / /

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 / / / 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/ /


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 / /

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 / /

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/ /

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 / /

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/ / or )


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 / /

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/ / or

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/ /

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/  /

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/ /


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/ /


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

The USGS's BISON mapping application ( 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) (, 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/ /

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:

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)