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New Tool Can Determine the Sources of Mercury Found in the Great Lakes

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 12/10/2015 - 10:00
Summary: For the first time, land and resource managers in the Great Lakes will be able to distinguish between the various sources of mercury in the environment, a toxic chemical of significant concern in the region

Contact Information:

David  Krabbenhoft ( Phone: 608-821-3843 ); Alex Demas ( Phone: 703-648-4421 );



For the first time, land and resource managers in the Great Lakes will be able to distinguish between the various sources of mercury in the environment, a toxic chemical of significant concern in the region. This is thanks to a new tool that “fingerprints” the mercury, developed by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

For Lakes Superior and Huron, atmospheric mercury is the dominant form, while in Lakes Erie and Ontario, most mercury comes from industrial activity or runoff from the watersheds of the lakes. Lake Michigan is dominated in some areas by atmospheric mercury, in other areas by industrial activity and in still others by watershed contributions.

A map showing the relative concentrations of mercury sources as identified by the fingerprinting tool. (High resolution image)

“I’ve been involved in mercury research for nearly 28 years,” said USGS scientist Dave Krabbenhoft, the project chief. “Back in the 1980’s, when I first got into this area of research, I dreamed of a tool that could provide geochemical markers of mercury sources.  That dream has now become reality.”

Determining where the mercury comes from is important, because it informs decisions designed to minimize it.  For example, minimizing industrial sources of mercury alone will not be effective if the majority of mercury entering the Great Lakes is from atmospheric mercury.

“One of the surprising things we saw was just how much of the mercury building up in fish was due to atmospheric mercury,” said Krabbenhoft. “This shows that atmospheric mercury needs to be emphasized, even when the sediments in the Lakes show relatively little atmospheric mercury accumulation.”

Although this fingerprinting tool was pioneered for the Great Lakes, it can be applied elsewhere. A very common situation across the United States and elsewhere is the presence of large amounts of mercury that was released during industrialization, so-called legacy mercury. At these sites, resource managers often lack a tool to help them understand whether it is legacy or other sources that substantively contribute to exposures in fish, wildlife and humans today.

“We are very excited to explore the capability of this new tool to inform resource managers and decision makers responsible for managing these challenging situations,” said Krabbenhoft.

Mercury is a naturally occurring element that can have toxic effects on people’s brains, kidneys and lungs. In certain environments, it can also bind with carbon and hydrogen to become methylmercury, which is far more toxic than elemental mercury. In addition, methylmercury can build up in the tissues of fish and other aquatic organisms, resulting in higher doses when people or other animals eat them.

More information about this new tool can be found online. USGS provides information on mercury sources; mercury cycling in the atmosphere, land surface, lakes, streams and oceans; and bioaccumulation and toxicity of mercury. This information helps land and resource managers understand and reduce mercury hazards to people and wildlife.

Holly Hill Disaster Recovery Center Transitions to Disaster Loan Outreach Center

FEMA Press Releases - Wed, 12/09/2015 - 18:33

COLUMBIA, S.C.  – The Holly Hill disaster recovery center will transition to a disaster loan outreach center beginning Monday, Dec. 14 to accommodate the needs of South Carolina flood survivors.

Representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration will be available to meet with homeowners, renters and business owners who had disaster-related damage to answer questions, explain SBA’s disaster loan program, help them complete their applications and close approved disaster loans.

The center is located at:

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Categories: Federal News

Contact FEMA if Insurance for Living Expenses Expires

FEMA Press Releases - Wed, 12/09/2015 - 18:18

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Disaster survivors whose insurance provided Additional Living Expenses (ALE) that are expiring are encouraged to contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency if they registered with the agency and still have a temporary housing need.

This temporary housing assistance is available to eligible FEMA applicants who lost or sustained damage to their homes due to the wildfires in Calaveras and Lake counties from Sept. 9 through Oct. 30, 2015.

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Categories: Federal News

Disaster Recovery Centers Open in Hidalgo, Willacy Counties for Texans

FEMA Press Releases - Wed, 12/09/2015 - 10:28

AUSTIN, Texas – State/FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) are now open in Hidalgo and Willacy Counties for homeowners, renters and business owners who sustained damage as a result of the ongoing severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding from Oct. 22 to Oct. 31.

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Categories: Federal News

Applicants Who Want Continued Rental Assistance Must Make Request

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 12/08/2015 - 12:28

COLUMBIA, S.C. –South Carolina flood survivors who have a continued need for temporary housing assistance must complete and submit paperwork that demonstrates a disaster-related and financial need.

Applicants need to submit several documents each time they want to ask FEMA for continued temporary housing assistance including:

  • A completed form that came with the continued temporary housing assistance letter

  • A copy of their lease

  • Receipts showing proper use of previous rental assistance

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Categories: Federal News

Disaster Recovery Center Opens in Navarro County for Texans

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 12/08/2015 - 10:21

AUSTIN, Texas – A State/FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) is now open in Navarro County for homeowners, renters and business owners who sustained damage as a result of the ongoing severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding from Oct. 22 to Oct. 31.

Specialists from the State of Texas, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), nongovernmental organizations and the local community are on hand to answer questions and provide information on the types of assistance available to survivors.

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Categories: Federal News

Disaster Recovery Centers Open in Central Texas

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 12/08/2015 - 10:17

AUSTIN, Texas – Three State/FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) are now open in Bastrop and Travis Counties for homeowners, renters and business owners who sustained damage as a result of the ongoing severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding from Oct. 22 to Oct. 31.

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Restoration Handbook for Sagebrush Steppe Ecosystems, Part 2

USGS Newsroom Technical - Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:00
Summary: Ecosystem restoration is complex and requires an understanding of how the land, plants, and animals all interact with each other over large areas and over time Landscape Level Restoration Decisions

Contact Information:

Susan Kemp ( Phone: 541-750-1047 ); Paul Laustsen ( Phone: 650-328-4046 );



CORVALLIS, Ore. — Ecosystem restoration is complex and requires an understanding of how the land, plants, and animals all interact with each other over large areas and over time. Today, the U.S. Geological Survey published part two of a three-part handbook addressing restoration of sagebrush ecosystems from the landscape to the site level.

“Land managers do not have resources to restore all locations because of the extent of the restoration needed and are challenged to meet multiple management objectives, including restoring habitat for wildlife,” said David Pyke, USGS ecologist and lead author of the new USGS Circular. “Focusing restoration efforts on enhancing goals of a functioning landscape is necessary to gain the greatest benefit for sagebrush-steppe ecosystems.”

Part two of the handbook introduces habitat managers and restoration practitioners to a landscape restoration decision tool to assist them in determining landscape objectives, identifying and prioritizing landscape areas where sites for restoration projects might be located, and ultimately selecting restoration sites guided by criteria used to define the landscape objectives.

The tool is structured in five sections, addressed sequentially. Each section has related questions or statements to assist the user in addressing the primary question or statement:

  • Am I dealing with landscape-related restoration issues?
  • What are regional or landscape objectives for restoration?
  • Where are priority landscapes and sites within landscapes for restoration?
  • Prioritize landscapes using a resilience and resistance matrix
  • Monitor and report information on your measurable landscape objectives

“Most restoration projects are conducted at the site or local level,” said Pyke. “But where restoration projects occur influences whether benefits from those projects can be seen at a landscape level. This is especially important for species, such as the greater sage-grouse, whose home range can extend beyond the boundaries of an individual restoration site.”

Pyke noted that greater sage-grouse and sagebrush-steppe habitat is used in the handbook only as an example of landscape restoration. The process presented by this series can be modified and used for other landscape-related restoration issues as well.

Part one of the handbook introduced basic concepts about sagebrush ecosystems, landscape ecology and restoration ecology. Part two helps guide selection of potential sites for restoration from a landscape perspective. Part three will help guide restoration decisions at a selected site.

The handbook was funded by the U.S. Joint Fire Science Program and National Interagency Fire Center, Bureau of Land Management, Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative, USGS and Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, with authors from the USGS, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon State University, Utah State University and Brigham Young University.

Greater sage-grouse occur in parts of 11 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces in western North America.  Implementation of effective management actions for the benefit of sage-grouse continues to be a focus of Department of the Interior agencies following the decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the species is not warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act. 

Renters with Storm Damage May Apply for Disaster Assistance

FEMA Press Releases - Mon, 12/07/2015 - 11:26

AUSTIN, Texas – Renters displaced from their homes or apartments by the October storms may be eligible for federal disaster assistance, which may include grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

FEMA grants for eligible renters may include funds to cover the cost of renting another place to live.

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Categories: Federal News

FEMA Mitigation Advisers Offer Guidance to Flood Survivors in Columbia, Charleston, Lexington, North Myrtle Beach, Orangeburg and Summerville

FEMA Press Releases - Thu, 12/03/2015 - 15:43

COLUMBIA, S.C. – As South Carolinians rebuild and repair after the recent historic floods, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and local home improvement stores have teamed up to provide free information, tips and literature on making homes stronger and safer.

FEMA mitigation specialists will be on hand to answer questions and offer home improvement tips to prevent and lessen damage from future disasters. Most of the information is geared towards do-it-yourself work and general contractors.

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Categories: Federal News

Help Remains Available After Disaster Recovery Centers Close in Elgin, Huger and Newberry

FEMA Press Releases - Thu, 12/03/2015 - 01:00

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Three disaster recovery centers will close Saturday, Dec. 5 at 3 p.m.:

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Categories: Federal News

Long-Term Recovery Groups Provide Safety Net for Calaveras and Lake County Wildfire Survivors

FEMA Press Releases - Wed, 12/02/2015 - 19:30

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – To date, $27 million in total federal assistance has made a large impact on helping survivors of the Butte and Valley wildfires repair and rebuild. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) know it takes a whole community effort to recover.

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Categories: Federal News

Return SBA Application Now Because Flood Damage May Show Up Later

FEMA Press Releases - Wed, 12/02/2015 - 17:09

COLUMBIA, S.C. –Expensive flood-related damage is not always evident immediately.

Survivors of South Carolina’s October heavy rains and severe floods may be unaware of issues that might show up in their homes or businesses in the weeks or months after the flood. These include:

  • Malfunctions to furnaces or other expensive appliances not in use during the flood

  • Home foundation settling

  • Unknown structure damage

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Categories: Federal News

Estimates of Potential Uranium in South Texas Could Equal Five Years of U.S. Needs

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 12/02/2015 - 13:00
Summary: The potential for almost five years of annual domestic U.S. nuclear fuel requirements may exist in south Texas, according to a new USGS assessment of both identified and undiscovered uranium oxide resources

Contact Information:

Alex Demas ( Phone: 703-648-4421 ); Susan Hall ( Phone: 303-236-1656 ); Mark Mihalasky ( Phone: 509-368-3118 );



A map of the assessed area in Texas. (High resolution image)

DENVER, CO. — The potential for almost five years of annual domestic U.S. nuclear fuel requirements may exist in south Texas, according to a new USGS assessment of both identified and undiscovered uranium oxide resources. This assessment estimates 60 million pounds of identified, but unmined, uranium resources, and more than 200 million pounds of newly estimated undiscovered resources.

The uranium oxide is located in sandstone formations throughout the South Texas Coastal Plain, which borders the Gulf of Mexico. The area has long been known to contain uranium, and two mines are currently in operation, with a number of companies actively exploring for uranium.

“As the world’s leader in nuclear power, uranium is both a critically and strategically important resource,” said Larry Meinert, program coordinator of the USGS Mineral Resources Program. “Identifying and understanding our domestic mineral wealth is a vital part of ensuring the security of our supply chain for these resources.”

The 60 million pounds of identified uranium resources could, if mined, provide up to one year’s worth of domestic nuclear fuel requirements, based on 2014 requirements. The 200 million pounds of undiscovered resources could, if proven and produced, add another four years of nuclear fuel for the United States, bringing the total potential to about five years of domestic supply.

U.S. nuclear power plants generate about 19 percent of the Nation’s electricity. In 2014 alone, these plants purchased 53 million pounds of uranium oxide to meet their needs, and U.S. nuclear capacity is expected to increase.

The United States has more nuclear plants than any other country, but imports more than 90 percent of the uranium used in those plants.

“This study highlights the breadth of USGS science related to complex issues associated with the mineral and energy resources lifecycle,” said Jon Kolak, acting program coordinator for the USGS Energy Resources Program.  “The USGS provides impartial information to help resource managers, policymakers, the public, and others balance the need for adequate and reliable mineral and energy supplies against the potential effects of resource development and use on the landscape.” 

This new study is part of a larger USGS effort to update knowledge of the geologic setting, occurrence, and amount of the Nation’s uranium resources. 

The USGS collaborated with the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology on the South Texas assessment. Nuclear power requirements and electricity production are tabulated by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

A fact sheet describing this assessment is online.  The USGS provides both energy resource assessments and mineral resource assessments. To stay up to date on all of our energy and mineral resources research, follow us here:

Preliminary Flood Maps in Tarrant County, Texas Ready for Public View

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 12/01/2015 - 17:51

DENTON, Texas –Residents of Arlington, Grand Prairie and the rest of Tarrant County have new preliminary flood maps to review.

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Categories: Federal News

New Remote Sensing Handbook Published

USGS Newsroom Technical - Tue, 12/01/2015 - 12:20
Summary: A newly published, three-volume “Remote Sensing Handbook” is a comprehensive coverage of all remote sensing topics written by over 300 leading global experts.

Contact Information:

Prasad Thenkabail ( Phone: 928-556-7221 ); Leslie  Gordon ( Phone: 650-329-4006 );



A newly published, three-volume “Remote Sensing Handbook” is a comprehensive coverage of all remote sensing topics written by over 300 leading global experts. With 82 chapters, and more than 2000 pages, the handbook is a reference for every remote sensing student, professor, scientist, professional practitioner and expert. The technical handbook includes up-to-date examples of successful projects and case studies, and explains in detail, state-of-the-art space-borne, air-borne and ground-based remote-sensing systems.

The “Remote Sensing Handbook” was edited by Dr. Prasad S. Thenkabail of the U.S. Geological Survey. Thenkabail, an international expert in remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems, described the handbook as, “a complete knowledge base about the evolution and history of remote-sensing science over last 50 years, the current state-of-the-art of its science and technology, and a future vision for the field.”

Volume one of the Remote Sensing Handbook, “Remotely Sensed Data Characterization, Classification, and Accuracies” describes the utility, methods and models used in analyzing a wide array of remotely-sensed data from a wide array of space-borne to ground-based platforms, and discusses various applications in depth. Leading experts on global geographic coverage, study areas, and various satellites and sensors contributed to this handbook.

Volume two of the Handbook, “Land Resources Monitoring, Modeling, and Mapping with Remote Sensing” provides a comprehensive theoretical and practical coverage of remote sensing applied to land resources, including vegetation and biomass, croplands, rangelands, phenology and food security, forests, biodiversity, ecology, habitats, land use/land cover, carbon, and soils.

Volume three, “Remote Sensing of Water Resources, Disasters, and Urban Studies” is an extensive and comprehensive coverage of myriad topics pertaining to water resources, disasters, and urban areas such as hydrology, water resources, water use, water productivity, floods, wetlands, snow and ice, nightlights, geomorphology, droughts and drylands, disasters, volcanoes, fire, and smart cities.

The three-volume Remote Sensing Handbook is available from the publisher or your local bookseller.

FEMA Extends South Carolina’s Disaster Assistance Application Deadline

FEMA Press Releases - Mon, 11/30/2015 - 19:59

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The deadline for survivors of South Carolina’s historic floods to register for Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance has been extended an additional 30 days to Jan. 3, 2016.

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Categories: Federal News

What Texans Should Expect after FEMA Registration

FEMA Press Releases - Mon, 11/30/2015 - 19:13

AUSTIN, Texas—After disaster survivors have registered for federal disaster assistance, FEMA will ask them to provide information on disaster damage, proof of identity and residence, insurance and other documentation, to determine eligibility.

As a first step, a FEMA contract inspector will contact applicants to make an appointment to view disaster damage. It is important to provide good contact information at the time of registration and keep the appointment to keep the application moving forward.

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Categories: Federal News

USGS Projects Large Loss of Alaska Permafrost by 2100

USGS Newsroom - Mon, 11/30/2015 - 13:35
Summary: Using statistically modeled maps drawn from satellite data and other sources, U.S. Geological Survey scientists have projected that the near-surface permafrost that presently underlies 38 percent of boreal and arctic Alaska would be reduced by 16 to 24 percent by the end of the 21st century under widely accepted climate scenarios

Contact Information:

Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 ); Bruce  Wylie ( Phone: 605-594-6078 );



Using statistically modeled maps drawn from satellite data and other sources, U.S. Geological Survey scientists have projected that the near-surface permafrost that presently underlies 38 percent of boreal and arctic Alaska would be reduced by 16 to 24 percent by the end of the 21st century under widely accepted climate scenarios. Permafrost declines are more likely in central Alaska than northern Alaska. 

Northern latitude tundra and boreal forests are experiencing an accelerated warming trend that is greater than in other parts of the world.  This warming trend degrades permafrost, defined as ground that stays below freezing for at least two consecutive years. Some of the adverse impacts of melting permafrost are changing pathways of ground and surface water, interruptions of regional transportation, and the release to the atmosphere of previously stored carbon. 

“A warming climate is affecting the Arctic in the most complex ways,” said Virginia Burkett, USGS Associate Director for Climate and Land Use Change. “Understanding the current distribution of permafrost and estimating where it is likely to disappear are key factors in predicting the future responses of northern ecosystems to climate change.” 

In addition to developing maps of near-surface permafrost distributions, the researchers developed maps of maximum thaw depth, or active-layer depth, and provided uncertainty estimates.  Future permafrost distribution probabilities, based on future climate scenarios produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), were also estimated by the USGS scientists.  Widely used IPCC climate scenarios anticipate varied levels of climate mitigation action by the global community. 

These future projections of permafrost distribution, however, did not include other possible future disturbances in the future, such as wildland fires. In general, the results support concerns about permafrost carbon becoming available to decomposition and greenhouse gas emission. 

The research has been published in Remote Sensing of Environment.  The current near-surface permafrost map is available via ScienceBase.

Current probability of near-surface permafrost in Alaska. Future scenarios. (High resolution image)

Storm Survivors in Texas Encouraged to Register for Disaster Assistance

FEMA Press Releases - Sat, 11/28/2015 - 13:20

AUSTIN, Texas—Texans who sustained damage or losses from the severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding that occurred Oct. 22 through Oct. 31 can now register for disaster assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The presidential disaster declaration of Nov. 25 makes federal assistance available to eligible individuals and business owners in 15 counties: Bastrop, Brazoria, Caldwell, Comal, Galveston, Guadalupe, Hardin, Harris, Hays, Hidalgo, Liberty, Navarro, Travis, Willacy and Wilson.

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Categories: Federal News