TRENTON, N.J. -- While the vast majority of people who have registered and received FEMA assistance have genuine needs, the rush to get millions in disaster assistance to those affected by Superstorm Sandy, sadly, presents opportunities for dishonest people to defraud taxpayers.
Fraud increases the cost of recovery after a disaster and gives money to those without disaster-related losses, emergency management officials warn.Language English
SEATTLE, Wash -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Pacifica Fire burning in Josephine County, Oregon.
FEMA Regional Administrator Kenneth D. Murphy approved the state’s request for a federal Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) on July 19, 2013 at 8:26 PM PDT.Language English
SEATTLE, Wash -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Colockum Tarps Fire burning in Chelan and Kittitas Counties, Washington.
FEMA Region X Administrator Kenneth D. Murphy approved the state’s request for a federal Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) on July 29, 2013 at 9:31 PM PDT.Language English
PORTLAND, Ore. — Tasul, an Oregon Zoo polar bear, recently landed her first white-collar job: research assistant for the U.S. Geological Survey. Her assignment: wearing a high-tech collar to help solve a climate change mystery.
"Scientists and wildlife managers need to understand how polar bears are responding as sea ice retreats," said Amy Cutting, Oregon Zoo curator. "But polar bears are notoriously difficult to study in the wild. Direct behavioral observations are nearly impossible."
Within her USGS-issued collar is an accelerometer — a device found in most smart phones — that detects minute changes in motion and direction of movement. The device turns Tasul’s everyday behaviors like walking, eating, sleeping and swimming into electronic signals. By recording video of her wearing the collar and matching the behavior to the signal, researchers will create a sort of digital fingerprint for polar bear behavior.
Once the signals are calibrated, similar collars can be placed on free-roaming bears in the Arctic, allowing researchers to monitor their behavior without having to observe them directly. These collars will be equipped with quick-release mechanisms so scientists can open them remotely and let them drop off the bears after the necessary data has been obtained.
"Our research shows that polar bears are being displaced from sea ice habitats they formerly used," said Anthony Pagano, a wildlife biologist with the USGS Alaska Science Center leading this study. "This collaborative project with the Oregon Zoo will help us understand the implications between going to land or staying with the ice as it retreats hundreds of kilometers north into the Arctic Basin."
To train Tasul to wear her "techcessory," keepers slowly acclimated the bear to different types of neckwear over several months, using a special training module that allows close — but safe — access. Zoo visitors may see Tasul wearing the collar periodically throughout the summer.
"Tasul was the perfect candidate for this study because she already participates in many health-care behaviors voluntarily, as opposed to requiring tranquilization," Cutting said. "She doesn’t mind wearing the collar and actively cooperates. She is a very curious bear and seems interested in all the extra attention from keepers."
The training sessions also gave zoo staffers a chance to get a bear's-eye view of Tasul's daily activities by attaching a small GoPro camera to her training collar. Footage from the "Tasul-cam," is available on the Oregon Zoo website.
"There's a lot we need to learn about how climate change is affecting polar bears,” Cutting said, "so it's very rewarding to see Tasul offering researchers a chance to study this threatened species in a new way."
This project is part of the U.S. Geological Survey's Changing Arctic Ecosystems initiative, which includes research on the effects of climate change on polar bears.
The zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Oregon silverspot and Taylor's checkerspot butterflies, western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on Asian elephants, polar bears, orangutans and giant pandas. Celebrating 125 years of community support, the zoo relies in part on donations through the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs.
The zoo opens at 9 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26.
SEATTLE, Wash -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Douglas Fire Complex burning in Douglas County, Oregon.
FEMA Region X Administrator Kenneth D. Murphy approved the state’s request for a federal Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) on July 28, 2013 at 11:40 PM PDT.Language English
To keep pace with a rapid schedule and increasing demand, the USGS has posted new US Topo quadrangles covering Indiana(640 maps), Iowa (1,011 maps), North Carolina (833 maps), Pennsylvania (798 maps) and Virginia (596 maps). These new quads replace the first edition US Topo maps for those states. The replaced maps will be added to the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection and are also available for free download from The National Map and the USGS Map Locator & Downloader website.
"The newly redesigned US Topo maps are visually appealing, especially with the addition of the shaded relief layer", explained Bob Davis, the new US Topo Project Manager. "The addition of shaded relief and other design components demonstrate our commitment to improving the product to meet our users’ needs. I encourage you to download these maps, compare them against previous US Topo maps and drop us your comments. We value your input."
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 supplemental release. Users can now adjust the transparency for some features and layers to increase visibility of multiple competing layers.
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
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 provide modern technical advantages that support wider and faster public distribution and on-screen geographic analysis tools for users.
For more information, go to: http://nationalmap.gov/ustopo/Proposed US Topo map production graphic showing; states that were updated in 2012, in yellow; states that have, or will be updated in 2013, in red; and states are scheduled to be updated in 2014, in blue. (High resolution image)
TRENTON, N.J. -- Disaster assistance to New Jersey survivors of Superstorm Sandy by the numbers as of July 29:
Total Federal Assistance: $5.4 billionLanguage English
NEW YORK — The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration have approved more than $7.8 billion in direct assistance to homeowners, renters, businesses, government agencies and nonprofits that were affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Individual AssistanceLanguage English
OKLAHOMA CITY – State and federal disaster assistance for Oklahoma topped $50 million this week as recovery continues following the devastating May severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding. The figure includes funding from Individual Assistance, Public Assistance, and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).Language English
AURORA, Ill. – Federal assistance in Illinois has reached more than $144 million, distributed among more than 58,000 individuals and households, since a major disaster was declared for storms and flooding that occurred April 16 through May 5.
The latest summary of federal assistance includes:Language English
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A study on frogs in remote Sierra Nevada mountain habitats including Yosemite National Park and Giant Sequoia National Monument, detected concentrations of pesticides in frog tissue that potentially came from California's Central Valley sources.
"Our results show that current-use pesticides, particularly fungicides, are accumulating in the bodies of Pacific chorus frogs in the Sierra Nevada," says Kelly Smalling, a research hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and lead author of the study. "This is the first time we’ve detected many of these compounds, including fungicides, in the Sierra Nevada. The data generated by this study support past research on the potential of pesticides to be transported by wind or rain from the Central Valley to the Sierras."
"Having experts such as hydrologists, chemists, and biologists working together on our staff is part of what USGS can uniquely bring to address complex environmental problems," said USGS Pacific Region Director, Mark Sogge.
Researchers sampled seven sites across Lassen Volcanic National Park, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, Stanislaus National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument. They collected and analyzed water and sediment samples and frogs for more than 90 different types of pesticides. The Pacific chorus frog (Pseudacris regilla) was chosen because it is commonly found in water bodies across the Sierra Nevada, allowing researchers to compare results across locations.
Two fungicides, commonly used in agriculture, pyraclostrobin and tebuconazole, and one herbicide, simazine, were the most frequently detected compounds, and this is the first time these compounds have ever been reported in wild frog tissue. DDE, a byproduct of the pesticide DDT, was another compound frequently found in frogs collected — though this is not surprising since DDE is one of the most widely detected compounds globally, even decades after DDT was banned in the United States.
"One notable finding was that among sites where pesticides were detected in frog tissue, none of those compounds were detected in the water samples and only a few were detected in the sediment samples," adds Smalling. "This suggests that frogs might be a more reliable indicator of environmental accumulation for these types of pesticides, than either water or soil."
Pesticides continue to be a suspected factor in the decline of amphibian species across the U.S. and the world, but much remains to be learned about how pesticides impact amphibians, and whether pesticide exposure could influence other amphibian decline factors like the deadly chytrid fungus.
"Documenting the presence of environmental contaminants in amphibians found in our protected federal lands is an important first step in finding out whether the frogs are experiencing health consequences from such exposure," says Patrick Kleeman, a USGS amphibian ecologist who collected the frog samples. "Unfortunately, these animals are often exposed to a cocktail of multiple contaminants, making it difficult to parse out the effects of individual contaminants."
The research was conducted by the USGS California Water Science Center and USGS Western Ecological Research Center and was published today in the journal “Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.” A PDF version of this report along with additional information on this and similar research is available online.
Select Pesticide Types Detected in Study
CompoundPesticide TypeLassen Volcanic NP – Reading PeakLake Tahoe Page MeadowStanislaus NF – Spicer Sno-ParkStanislaus NF – Ebbetts PassYosemite NP – Summit Meadow*Yosemite NP – Tioga Pass*Giant Sequoia NM – Rabbit Meadow Tebucanoazole Fungicide Detected Detected Detected Detected Not Detected Detected Detected Simazine Herbicide Not Detected Detected Not Detected Detected Not Detected Not Detected Detected Pyraclostrobin Fungicide Detected Detected Detected Detected Not Detected Detected Detected DDE Insecticide degradate Detected Detected Detected Detected Detected Not Detected Detected Data collected during 2009 and 2010 sampling. Asterisk denotes sampling only took place in 2010.
Shale and other clay-rich rock formations might offer permanent disposal solutions for spent nuclear fuel, according to a new paper by the U.S. Geological Survey. There is currently about 70,000 metric tons of this spent fuel in temporary storage across the United States.
While no specific sites have been evaluated for storage potential in the United States, USGS scientists have looked at several research efforts, including projects that are underway in France, Belgium and Switzerland to confirm that shale formations in those countries are favorable for hosting nuclear waste repositories.
"Deciding how to safely dispose of spent nuclear fuel and other high-level nuclear waste is a very important issue that is not going to go away," said Chris Neuzil, the article's author. "Although shales and similar rocks have not been considered for hosting nuclear waste in the United States, recent research points to them as a very promising option."
Shale formations are attractive for nuclear waste storage for several reasons. First and foremost, they have extremely low permeability, meaning groundwater cannot easily flow through them. Most shale formations and similar rocks containing abundant clay are millions to tens of billions of times less permeable than aquifers that are used to supply water.
The primary concern with radioactive waste underground is to prevent any groundwater that contacts it from carrying contaminants out of the repository. Formations with very low permeability significantly reduce the potential for that contamination to occur. It is also important to ensure that water-transmitting fractures are absent over large areas, and in many shales it appears possible to do this.
Some shale formations are marked by groundwater pressures that are unusually low, which causes the rock to act something like an absorbent sponge. Groundwater is being slowly but constantly drawn into the formation, further reducing the chance of contaminants escaping.
Clay-rich formations also function as filters and are absorptive. Contaminants in groundwater that flows through them are held back and many bind to the clay.
Potentially usable shale formations in the United States—those without extractable energy resources or other prohibitive circumstances—are distributed widely across the country and many are in tectonically stable areas. Geologically and geographically, potential choices for a repository are many.
The article is entitled "Can Shale Safely Host U.S. Nuclear Waste?" and is published in EOS, a journal by the American Geophysical Union. More information on this article and other water research can be found at the USGS Water National Research Program website.
On June 5, 2013, the U.S. Geological Survey Flight Operations Team transmitted the last command to the Landsat 5 satellite, effectively terminating the mission 29 years, 3 months and 4 days after its launch by NASA from Vandenberg Air Force Base on March 1, 1984. The Landsat program is a joint effort between USGS and NASA.
Landsat 5 had orbited the planet over 150,000 times while transmitting over 2.5 million images of land surface conditions around the world, long outliving its original three-year design life. In December 2012, USGS announced that Landsat 5 would be decommissioned. The durable satellite is recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-operating Earth-observing satellite mission in history.
Landsat 5 beamed its last image down to the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center in Sioux Falls, SD, on January 6, 2013. Nine days later, Mission Operations began the methodical process of maneuvering the satellite from its 438 mile-high operational orbit into a lower disposal orbit. With Landsat 5's fuel reserve completely depleted, the Operations team issued commands on June 5 to shut off all moving mechanisms and hobble the spacecraft’s ability to generate and store power from its solar arrays. The final command shut down Landsat 5’s transmitter, silencing the mission permanently.
For nearly a year the USGS team methodically planned a complex series of steps that were necessary to ensure that the satellite's decommissioning would meet the requirements set under international agreements. When the planning began, a date for decommissioning had not yet been set, but the failure of a critical component last November forced USGS managers to direct that the mission be ended as soon as practicable.
Landsat 5 recorded many significant events. It was the first satellite to image the nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986; it documented the massive rainforest deforestation occurring in tropical regions; and it captured the devastating tsunami in southeast Asia in 2004.
Seemingly right on cue, the newest remote sensing mission, Landsat 8 — launched by NASA on February 11 and then checked out in orbit — was transferred to the USGS on May 30 to begin operations in the orbital slot previously held by Landsat 5.
Landsat 8 orbits Earth once every 99 minutes at an average altitude of 438 miles, repeating the same ground track every 16 days. As Landsat 8 joins Landsat 7 in imaging the Earth, researchers and natural resource managers will once again be able to receive Landsat data every eight days for any given location. Many Landsat users depend on a short repeat cycle for prompt data on resources such as agricultural crops, forests, and water.
Current and historical data from the entire series of Landsat satellites (since 1972) is available from the USGS-EROS Earth observation archive free of charge.
- USGS Landsat Missions (latest satellite status, how to obtain data)
- NASA Landsat information (selected imagery, feature articles)
- What is the Economic Value of Satellite Imagery? (USGS Professional Paper)
- NASA-USGS 40th Anniversary of Landsat