AURORA, Ill. – Federal assistance continues to flow to Illinois as the state recovers from storms and flooding that occurred April 16 through May 5. More than $148 million has now been distributed among more than 83,000 individuals and households.
The latest summary of federal assistance includes:Language English
NEW YORK – The Federal Emergency Management Agency, at the request of the State of New York, has approved an extension to the Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program, which allows eligible Hurricane Sandy survivors who cannot return to their homes to stay in participating hotels.
Based on extensive applicant casework, two extensions were granted on a case-by-case basis.
Some applicants will be extended until Aug. 16, 2013. A second group of households will be extended until Sept. 1, 2013.Language English
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The State/Federal Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) in Galena and Fairbanks will close August 9 and transition to weekly visits to Galena and Fairbanks by FEMA caseworkers to meet the disaster-assistance needs of survivors of the 2013 Spring Floods.
Both Disaster Recovery Centers will cease operations at noon Friday, Aug. 9, 2013.
Until then, the centers will continue to provide face-to-face help from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.Language English
LINCROFT, N.J. -- Disaster assistance to New Jersey survivors of Superstorm Sandy by the numbers as of August 5:
Total Federal Assistance: $5.5 billionLanguage English
Key factors have been identified that help determine the vulnerability of public-supply wells to contamination. A new USGS report describes these factors, providing insight into which contaminants in an aquifer might reach a well and when, how and at what concentration they might arrive.
About one-third of the U.S. population gets their drinking water from public-supply wells.
"Improving the understanding of the vulnerability of public-supply wells to contamination is needed to safeguard public health and prevent future contamination," said Suzette Kimball, acting USGS Director. "By examining ten different aquifers across the nation, we have a more thorough and robust understanding of the complexities and factors affecting water quality in our public supplies."
The study explored factors affecting public-supply-well vulnerability to contamination in ten study areas across the Nation. The study areas include Modesto, Calif., Woodbury, Conn., near Tampa, Fla., York, Nebr., near Carson City and Sparks, Nev., Glassboro, N. J., Albuquerque, N. Mex., Dayton, Ohio, San Antonio, Tex., and Salt Lake City, Utah.
Measures that are crucial for understanding public-supply-well vulnerability include: 1) the sources of the water and contaminants in the water that infiltrate the ground and are drawn into a well; 2) the geochemical conditions encountered by the groundwater; and 3) the range of ages of the groundwater that enters a well.
"Common sense might say that wells located near known contaminant sources would be the most vulnerable, but this study found that even where contaminant sources are similar, there are differences in public-supply-well vulnerability to contamination," said Sandra Eberts, the study team leader.
The study found that conditions in some aquifers enable contaminants to remain in the groundwater longer or travel more rapidly to wells than conditions in other aquifers. Direct pathways, such as fractures in rock aquifers or wellbores of non-pumping wells, frequently affect groundwater and contaminant movement, making it difficult to identify which areas at land surface are the most important to protect from contamination. An unexpected finding is that human-induced changes in recharge and groundwater flow caused by irrigation and high-volume pumping for public supply changed aquifer geochemical conditions in numerous study areas. Changes in geochemical conditions often release naturally occurring drinking-water contaminants such as arsenic and uranium into the groundwater, increasing concentrations in public-supply wells.
Knowledge of how human activities change aquifer conditions that control which contaminants are released to groundwater and how persistent those contaminants are once in the groundwater can be used by water managers to anticipate future water quality and associated treatment costs.
The quality of drinking water from the Nation's public water systems is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The USGS studies are intended to complement drinking water monitoring required by federal, state and local programs.
This new report, Factors affecting public-supply-well vulnerability to contamination: understanding observed water quality and anticipating future water quality, was done by the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program. NAWQA conducts regional and national assessments of the Nation's water quality to provide an understanding of water-quality conditions, where conditions are getting better or worse over time, and how natural features and human activities affect those conditions.
Learn more about the transport of contaminants to public-supply wells:
About 4,000 people are expected to attend the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Minneapolis from Aug. 4 to 9, 2013. The theme of this year’s conference is Sustainable Pathways: Learning from the Past and Shaping the Future.
Forest Drought Stress in Southwest May Exceed Most Severe Droughts in Last Thousand Years: Severe wildfires and drought-induced tree deaths have increased greatly over the past two decades in the southwestern United States. Historical ecological sources about Southwest fire regimes and forest patterns over the past 10,000 years provide context for recent fire and vegetation trends. Specifically, these sources show that regional forest landscapes are greatly affected by interactive changes among human land management, climate and disturbances. Such linkages are further emphasized through the newly developed forest drought-stress index (FDSI) for the Southwest, which uses extremely robust relationships among historical tree-ring growth, warm-season temperature and cold-season precipitation to reconstruct the FDSI back to AD 1000 from a massive archive of tree-ring growth data. This research by USGS, Los Alamos National Laboratory, University of Arizona, and other university partners shows very strong relationships between FDSI and regional forest productivity, tree mortality, bark-beetle outbreaks and wildfire. Moving forward, if temperatures increase as projected, background levels of southwestern forest drought-stress by the 2050s will exceed that of the most severe droughts in the past 1,000 years, which almost certainly means imminent changes in forest structure and composition. Overall, interactions among climate, land-use history and disturbance processes are driving the current pulse of major forest transitions in the Southwest. In the face of such rapid changes, it is imperative to explore adaptation strategies to foster ecosystem resilience. This work is addressed in two presentations: 1) Land cover change in the Southwest: wildfire risk, drought-induced tree mortality, and the convergence of climate, land management, and disturbance trends in regional forests and woodlands, will be in room 101c on Aug. 9 at 8:40 a.m. Contact Craig Allen, firstname.lastname@example.org, 505-795-1571; and 2) A forest is not a pan of water: temperature and vapor-pressure deficit as potent drivers of regional forest drought stress, will be in room 101A on Aug. 6 at 9:50 a.m. Contact Park Williams, email@example.com, 505-667-6551.
Response of North American Desert Plants to Climate Change: Forecasts for Management and Planning: Forecasted climate warming and changes in precipitation patterns in North American deserts can have a strong impact on plant species already stressed by low water availability. Accurate forecasts of climate-induced changes to desert plant assemblages are needed by managers because dryland ecosystems are prone to abrupt and potentially irreversible degradation and reductions in productivity. To help managers mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts, USGS researchers have synthesized over a century (1906-2012) of climate and vegetation monitoring results from more than 1,500 vegetation plots across the Colorado Plateau, and the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave deserts. In all of these deserts, dominant plant species and plant diversity responded to drought and elevated temperature.
On the Colorado Plateau, large declines of cool-season perennial bunchgrasses occurred, primarily driven by high temperatures. In the Sonoran Desert, increases in cacti occurred with hotter temperatures, and decreases in warm-season perennial grasses and sub-shrubs occurred with less annual precipitation. Tree and shrub species in the Sonoran Desert were less responsive to changing climatic conditions than other species, but some woody species were sensitive to warmer temperatures and less winter precipitation, especially on south-facing slopes. In the Chihuahuan Desert, many grasses and forbs had large responses to summer precipitation, whereas most woody vegetation showed small responses to winter precipitation. In the Mojave Desert, winter drought was related to declines of shrubs at some sites. USGS research also highlights “climate pivot points” that mark important shifts from increases to decreases in plant abundance along climatic gradients. These results are being used to assist with management decisions, improve monitoring protocols and inform climate change vulnerability assessments for land managers. This presentation (OOS 16-4), Regional signatures of plant response to climate across North American deserts: Forecasts for management and planning, will take place in room 101B on Aug. 7 at 9 a.m. Contact Seth Munson, firstname.lastname@example.org, work cell, 303-810-4896.
Large, Invasive Rodents: Are They Heading Your Way? The nutria is a large, prolific and water-loving invasive rodent that has become established in many parts of the world after being introduced for the fur industry, including in the Southeast and the Pacific Northwest regions of the United States. In the Southeast and elsewhere, they wreak havoc in coastal marshes and bald cypress swamps by feeding on the tender roots of plants, seedlings and saplings, completely stripping vegetation in areas where the animals are concentrated. Historically nutria ranges have expanded regionally northward following milder winters and contracted southward following more severe winters. This USGS study examined the current and potential distribution of nutria in the Pacific Northwest. Due to a string of relatively mild winters nutria populations have been expanding northward in the United States, suggesting that nutria populations could extend their range substantially both in the Pacific Northwest, the Mississippi Valley and the Eastern Seaboard in the future since climate change models predict milder winter temperatures though the USA. Large-scale management of the species requires knowledge of its current and potential distribution. This presentation, Using a combined hydrologic network-climate model of the invasive nutria (Myocastor coypus) to understand current distributions and range expansion potential under climate change scenarios, will be in room 101H on Aug. 9 at 10:50 a.m. Contact Catherine Jarnevich, email@example.com, 970-226-9439.
In a related study, USGS scientists investigated the activity patterns of urban nutria populations in Lafayette, La., and Portland, Ore., since little is known about this subject. The study found that daily as well as seasonal activity patterns differed in the two geographic areas, leading to current efforts to explore the role that alternative factors might play in the differing activity patterns. This presentation, Comparison of activity patterns of nutria (Myocastor coypus) between urban pond complexes in Lafayette, Louisiana, USA and Portland, Oregon, USA, will be in Room L100B on Aug. 5 at 1:30 p.m. Contact Jacoby Carter, firstname.lastname@example.org, 337-266-8620.
People, Cameras, and Action! Teaming Up to Better Understand Phenology: The implications and impacts of climate change on the earth’s phenology – the timing of plant and animal life-cycle events – are increasingly well documented. Two continental-scale observation networks, PhenoCam and the USA National Phenology Network, which is managed by the USGS, are collaborating with the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) to develop more refined phenological monitoring processes and to explore new opportunities for collaborative research. While PhenoCam quantifies plant phenology by using high-frequency camera monitoring of plant canopies, the USA-NPN contributes ground-based plant and animal data through its crowd-sourcing phenology program, Nature’s Notebook. Both organizations are collaborating with NEON, a continental-scale ecological observing system, to enhance and codify best practices for phenological data collection and to collect and integrate phenological data across multiple spatial scales. The joint efforts of these programs will bridge major knowledge gaps in the field of phenology: not only will cameras provide new techniques for validating satellite-derived land-surface phenology products, but multi-faceted phenology datasets will aid in investigations of the feedback between ecosystem phenology and carbon/water/energy fluxes between the biosphere and atmosphere. This presentation, Integrating Phenocam and USA National Phenology Network continental-scale approaches into NEON phenology data products, will be in room L100I on Aug. 6 at 4:30 p.m. Contact Jake Weltzin, email@example.com (cell: 703-485-5138) or the lead author Michael Toomey, firstname.lastname@example.org, 860-986-3804.
Crowd-Sourcing Needed to Take the Pulse of Our Planet: The USA National Phenology Network serves science and society by collecting and organizing valuable data on plant and animal activity across the United States, and by setting global standards for integrated monitoring of plant and animal seasonal activity to understand impacts of climate change on ecological systems. Most data entered into the Network’s national database are submitted by citizen scientists through the national-scale, multi-taxa phenology observation program, Nature’s Notebook. With 2,500 active participants and more than 2.3 million contributions since the program went live in 2008, volunteers and professional scientists work side by side to observe and record the important phases in the annual life cycles of plants and animals. This presentation will provide a broad overview of the Network and its partners and participants, but will focus on recent successes embodied in local- to national-scale projects including detection of invasive species, recent and historical trends in phenology, and potential future changes in phenology in the eastern deciduous forest. This presentation, The National Phenology Database: A multi-taxa, continental-scale dataset for scientific inquiry, will be in room LL101 on Aug. 8 at 4 p.m. Contact Jake Weltzin, email@example.com, 703-485-5138.
Climate Science Centers: Sparking Collaboration through Research & Resource Management: This special session will introduce participants to the Department of Interior Climate Science Centers (CSCs) and their unique position to unite researchers with cultural and natural resource managers to facilitate a full-cycle approach to the use of research in support of management decisions. A panel composed of leaders from the CSCs, members of the University Consortia and Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, and other collaborators/clients will provide an overview of the approaches used to support the CSC mission: to serve the scientific needs of managers of fish, wildlife, habitats, and ecosystems as they plan for a changing climate by providing scientific support for climate-adaptation identification and implementation of climate-adaptation strategies across a full range of natural and cultural resources. Participants will benefit from an overview of the CSC support capacities, research solicitation and funding processes with hopes to spark future collaborations. This presentation, Climate Science Centers: now supporting resource management with science at a location near you!, will be in room 101A on Aug. 5 at 10:15 a.m. Contact Stephen Gray (firstname.lastname@example.org), 907-301-7830.
Actionable Climate Change Science Strategically Tying Research to Management and Policy Needs: Prompt access to climate adaptation science for policymakers and managers is vital to effectively plan for climate change in a timely manner. Up until this point, the scientific community has employed a largely ineffective “conveyor-belt” approach to this process, in which managers both define scientific needs and assign projects to scientists. To streamline this process, the Department of the Interior Climate Science Centers have designed a new approach in which this procedure is executed in a more integrated and promptly actionable method. Using strategic decision-based approaches, the CSCs are creating a series of pilot projects that will focus on developing science outcomes that are tied to strategic management decisions. Unlike previous models, these teams, consisting of scientists, managers, decision-makers and stakeholders, will work collaboratively throughout the project to assure science outputs are consistent with management needs. These CSC pilot projects will form the basis for a national science agenda that will support climate adaptation decision-making processes. This presentation, Actionable science in an era of rapid climate change, tying observations and predictions to policies and action, will be in Auditorium room 3 on Aug. 8 at 4:10 p.m. Contact Doug Beard,email@example.com, 571-265-4623
Bridging the Gap between Science and Decisions: Climate-science researchers and resource-management decision-makers inhabit different professional worlds, but those worlds must come together to ensure scientifically informed management decisions. Effective cooperation and interaction between these groups are essential, yet hampered by professional and institutional barriers. Despite these disconnects, numerous case studies exist in which research has been applied effectively to climate-change management decisions. These case studies provide a foundation for identifying best practices for both researchers and decision-makers. These best practices include patient, persistent engagement among relevant parties. If climate-change research is to be used effectively in decision-making, researchers will need to step outside traditional comfort zones, listen carefully to decision-makers, and maintain continuing dialogue. New professional models must be encouraged, in which effective engagement and actionable science become part of the professional reward structure in research institutions. This presentation, Seeking Leopold's Quadrant: how do we foster research that addresses needs of resource-management decision-makers?, will be in room 101C on Aug. 9 at 9:50 a.m. Contact Stephen T. Jackson, firstname.lastname@example.org, 307-760- 0750.
U.S. Engagement in the Global Shift in Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is in full swing with 109 member countries; its first IPBES plenary conference took place in Bonn, Germany (also the site of its Secretariat), in January 2013. The United States scientific community should be engaged as full participants in the IPDS process. The session speakers will discuss the changing landscape in global environmental science initiatives, present the latest updates in the IPBES process, share current and future opportunities for input, and discuss ways to broadly engage the U.S scientific community and other stakeholders in preparation for the December 2013 second IPBES plenary. This presentation, Biodiversity and ecosystem services on the global stage: IPBES and you, will be in room L100F on Aug. 7 at 8:00 p.m. Contact Doug Beard, email@example.com, 571-265-4623.
SEATTLE, Wash -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Brimstone Fire burning in Josephine County, Oregon.
FEMA Region X Administrator Kenneth D. Murphy approved the state’s request for a federal Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) on August 1, 2013 at 11:01 PM PDT.Language English
Following is a summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Obama's disaster declaration issued for the State of Vermont.
Assistance for the State and Affected Local Governments Can Include as Required:Language English
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to the State of Vermont to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms and flooding during the period of June 25 to July 11, 2013.Language English
Following is a summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Obama's disaster declaration issued for the State of New Hampshire.
Assistance for the State and Affected Local Governments Can Include as Required:Language English
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to the State of New Hampshire to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms, flooding, and landslides during the period of June 26 to July 3, 2013.Language English
Following is a summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Obama's disaster declaration issued for the State of Florida.
Assistance for the State and Affected Local Governments Can Include as Required:Language English
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to the State of Florida to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms and flooding during the period of July 2-7, 2013.Language English
The U.S. Geological Survey has developed analysis software to facilitate research of chemical mixtures. The new software consists of four computer programs to help hydrologists, toxicologists, and other professionals investigate chemical mixtures in the environment.
The study of mixtures is difficult due to the enormous number of environmental mixtures. The number of mixtures increases rapidly with the number of co-occurring chemicals.
"Studying chemical mixtures is important because most organisms, including people, are exposed to mixtures in their environments, and little is known about their potential health effects," said Jon Scott, a retired USGS scientist and primary author. "The software includes tools for investigating which chemicals are found in mixtures, how often the mixtures occur in the environment, and the concentrations of mixture components relative to various health benchmarks."
The new tool is documented in the on-line report, Software for Analysis of Chemical Mixtures—Composition, Occurrence, Distribution, and Possible Toxicity, by Jonathon Scott, Kenneth Skach, and Patricia Toccalino. The software described in the report, along with other USGS programs, can be obtained online.
The mixture-analysis software was developed by the USGS National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program to document methods for mixture analysis and serve as a foundation for future studies. The NAWQA Program conducts regional and national assessments of the Nation’s water quality to provide an understanding of water-quality conditions, whether conditions are getting better or worse over time, and how natural features and human activities affect those conditions.
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