Earlier spring nesting related to climate change could negatively affect the survival of pelican chicks at Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge, N.D., according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report.
USGS scientists found that American white pelicans are migrating north to a large nesting colony at Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge about 16 days earlier in the springtime than they did 45 years ago. The earlier migration is likely spurred by warmer spring temperatures on the pelicans’ wintering grounds and along their migration route, but ideal post-hatching weather conditions have not advanced at the nesting colony. Now, vulnerable pelican chicks face a higher risk of encountering life-threatening wet and cold conditions.
Chase Lake is a refuge for the largest American white pelican colony in North America, so declining chick survival rates at this refuge could be especially damaging. On average, over 26,000 adult pelicans nested annually at Chase Lake between 2004 and 2008.
"Given that nearly half of the entire pelican breeding population nests at fewer than 10 colonies in the northern plains, maintaining good productivity at these colonies is important to the health of the species," said Marsha Sovada, USGS scientist and lead author of the study. "Increased mortality of chicks at Chase Lake is a conservation concern."
The study found that while spring temperatures in the northern plains have progressively increased since 1965, the timing of severe weather in the Chase Lake area has not changed during this period. Because pelican eggs are hatching earlier than in the past, the chicks are at their most vulnerable stage of growth—between two and three weeks old—during a time when extreme cold and wet weather is more likely.
Researchers observed significant loss of chicks to exposure in four of five years (2004–2008) of field study. For example, at Chase Lake in June 2008, about 80 percent of the pelican chicks between two and three weeks old died of exposure during a period of severe weather.
The study was published today in the journal PLOS ONE, and is available online.
For more information on pelican population dynamics in the Northern Plains, please visit the USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center website.
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Heidi Koontz ( Phone: 303-202-4763 );
Several significant earthquakes occurred in 2013, including two magnitude 8.0 or greater temblors according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Seventeen earthquakes reached magnitude 7.0-7.9 and two in the range of 8.0-8.9.
The USGS measured 1194 quakes magnitude 5.0 or larger in 2013. This is a number that changes annually; in 2012, 1558 quakes magnitude 5.0 or larger were measured, and in 2011, 2495.
Earthquakes were responsible for about 1400 deaths in 2013, with 825 having perished in the magnitude 7.7 Pakistan event on Sept. 24, as reported by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Deadly quakes also occurred in the Philippines, Iran, China, Indonesia, the Santa Cruz Islands and Afghanistan.
The biggest earthquake in the United States and the 6th largest quake of 2013 was a magnitude 7.5 in Craig, Alaska on Jan. 5. Several quakes below magnitude 5.0 rattled Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Arkansas throughout the year. An unusual seismic event happened near Chicago, Ill. on Nov. 4; a magnitude 3.2 rockburst that occurred within seconds after a routine explosion at a quarry.
The USGS estimates that several million earthquakes occur throughout the world each year, although most go undetected because they hit remote areas or have very small magnitudes. On average, the USGS National Earthquake Information Center publishes the locations for about 40 earthquakes per day, or about 14,500 annually. USGS publishes worldwide earthquakes with a magnitude of 4.5 or greater or U.S. earthquakes of 2.5 or greater. On average, 18 of these earthquakes have a magnitude of 7.0 or higher each year.
To monitor earthquakes worldwide, the USGS National Earthquake Information Center receives data in real-time from about 1,000 stations in 85 countries, including the 150-station Global Seismographic Network, which is jointly supported by the USGS and the National Science Foundation and operated by the USGS in partnership with the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) consortium of universities. Domestically, the USGS partners with 13 regional seismic networks operated by universities; these networks provide detailed coverage for the areas of the country with the highest seismic risk.
Earthquakes pose significant risk to 75 million Americans in 39 States. The USGS and its partners in the multi-agency National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program are working to improve earthquake monitoring and reporting capabilities via the USGS Advanced National Seismic System. More information about ANSS can be found on the ANSS website.
Editor’s note: Reporters interested in accompanying the scientists as they install the seismic arrays between Jan. 9 and 13 should call Thomas Pratt at 206-919-8773 or Martin Chapman at 540-392-5396 to coordinate opportunities.
Reston, Va. – Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and Virginia Tech will install a 20-station seismic network in the central Virginia area beginning Jan. 8. The new sensors – each about the size of a soda can – will provide information to help the researchers study the background seismicity in the area and any continuing aftershocks of the Aug. 23, 2011 earthquake near Louisa and Mineral, Va.
More than 450 aftershocks have been recorded since that magnitude 5.8 earthquake, which was felt from central Georgia to central Maine, and west to Detroit and Chicago. It is estimated that approximately one-third of the U.S. population could have felt the earthquake, which damaged the Washington National Cathedral and the Washington Monument.
The 20-station network will be placed in locations from Charlottesville in the west, to east of Richmond, and for about 40 miles in a north-south direction centered along Interstate 64.
During the installations, USGS and Virginia Tech crews will place a seismometer and
electronic data logger at each site; at some sites a solar panel will be installed to power the equipment. In locations where sensors are being installed on private property, the landowners have volunteered their sites. The installations are expected to be completed by Jan. 13.
The seismic network will record tiny ground vibrations caused by earthquakes, and the science team will use the data to better understand earthquakes in the Central Virginia Seismic Zone. Network sensors will also help determine if the earthquakes align with specific faults by increasing the number of earthquakes detected and improving the accuracy of the locations.
Additional information about the earthquakes in Virginia is available online.
For more information about the USGS earthquake hazard program please visit http://earthquake.usgs.gov/.
Heidi Koontz ( Phone: 303-202-4763 );
Enough strain may be currently stored in an earthquake zone near the island of Guadeloupe to cause a magnitude 8 or larger earthquake and subsequent tsunami in the Caribbean, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.
USGS and French researchers studying the plate boundary in the Lesser Antilles region—the area where 20 of the 26 Caribbean islands are located—estimate that enough unreleased strain may have accumulated offshore of Guadeloupe to potentially create a magnitude 8.0-8.4 earthquake. A magnitude 7.5-8.5 quake in 1843 killed several thousand people in Guadeloupe, and a similar quake in the future could cause several tens to several hundreds of fatalities, and hundreds of millions to billions of U.S. dollars in damages. The paper was recently published in the Geophysical Journal International.
"Perception that a mega quake can occur in the Caribbean is low because none have been observed over the past century, and the rate at which the tectonic plates converge is fairly slow," said USGS scientist Gavin Hayes, lead author of the paper. "Nevertheless, we show that enough unreleased strain may have accumulated on the subduction zone since the 19th century to generate a mega quake in the future."
The impacted areas in Guadeloupe are of concern because these islands are popular with tourists.
The shaking hazard from the scenario earthquake is predominantly limited to Guadeloupe, though other islands could be affected by earthquake hazards from more local sources. Because of the thrusting style of the earthquake modeled, a tsunami could result, which would significantly impact Guadeloupe and would be hazardous in other areas around the Caribbean. The impact of the tsunami would likely be fairly minimal on the east coast of the U.S.
Based on historic strain release computations and previous research, the research team modeled several scenario earthquakes in the 7.5-8.5 magnitude range, using a variety of potential earthquake rupture areas and utilizing the USGS ShakeMap and PAGER software packages. Strong ground shaking during the scenario earthquake would likely cause loss of life and costly damages.
By using the Earth's magnetic field, combined with new innovative technology, oil and gas drilling companies are increasing oilfield productivity while reducing development costs and environmental impacts.
An article in the fall 2013 issue of Oilfield Review highlights this technology and its applications across the world. It also discusses the public-private collaboration between the U.S. Geological Survey and partners to successfully implement the technology.
These days, multiple reservoirs of oil and gas can be accessed from a single platform by drilling vertically and then horizontally. Drill operators need to know which way their drill bits are going to maximize oil production and avoid collisions with other wells. One way to accomplish this important task is to install a magnetometer—a sort of modern-day "compass"—in a drill-string instrument package that follows the drill bit.
The USGS plays a unique role by monitoring the geomagnetic field every single second at magnetic observatories throughout the country. Through a process called geomagnetic referencing, simultaneous measurements of the magnetic field in the drill hole are combined with those from magnetic observatories at the Earth’s surface to produce a highly accurate estimate of the drill bit position and direction.
The Earth's magnetic field changes all the time across the world as a result of factors like periodic daily tides or rapid magnetic storms that are related to the 11-year sunspot solar cycle. And at high latitudes, such as in northern Alaska or the North Sea, the geomagnetic field can be very active and can change dramatically during magnetic storms.
"Drill-bit positioning requires directional accuracy of a fraction of a degree, and this can be accomplished with advanced technology and expert understanding of the Earth's dynamic magnetic field," said Carol A. Finn, USGS Geomagnetism Group Leader. "USGS operational systems measure the magnetic field on a continuous basis. These data are provided as a service to research scientists, civilian and defense government agencies, and to customers in the private sector, including the oil and gas drilling industry."
The USGS Geomagnetism Program monitors variations in the Earth's magnetic field through a network of 14 ground-based observatories around the United States and its territories. There are many customers for geomagnetism data, since the variable conditions of space weather can interfere with radio communication, GPS systems, electric power grids, the operation and orientation of satellites, and even air travel as high altitude pilots and astronauts can be subjected to enhanced levels of radiation.
Internationally, the USGS magnetic observatory network is part of the global INTERMAGNET network. Domestically, the USGS Geomagnetism Program works cooperatively with government partners within the U.S. National Space Weather Program, including NOAA and the Air Force Weather Agency, and with private companies that are affected by space weather and geomagnetic activity.
Read the Oilfield Review article: Geomagnetic referencing - The real-time compass for directional drillers.
Watch a 7 minute video about the USGS Geomagnetism Program.
Read a USGS factsheet: Monitoring the Earth’s dynamic magnetic field.
Civilian volunteers are making significant additions to the U.S. Geological Survey's ability to provide accurate mapping information to the public. Using crowd-sourcing techniques, the USGS' Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) project known as The National Map Corps (TNMCorps) encourages citizen volunteers to collect manmade structures data in an effort to provide accurate and authoritative spatial map data for the National Geospatial Program’s web-based The National Map.
Structures being updated include schools, hospitals, post offices, police stations and other important public buildings.
Starting as a series of pilot projects in 2011, nearly 400 volunteers edited structures in the state of Colorado and contributed more than 6,800 edits. With approval to expand the project, the USGS began releasing the rest of the United States for editing in a phased approach in April 2013. By August of this year, volunteers were editing in every state in the country. To date, the numbers of volunteers has more than tripled, and the number of submitted edits has exceeded 25,000.The first available virtual badge, The Order of the Surveyor’s Chain, awarded to TNMCorps volunteers who collect more than 25 points. (High resolution image)
"The number of points contributed and edited by volunteers is incredible," said Kari Craun, the director of the National Geospatial Technical Operations Center. "Our challenge going forward will be to keep volunteers motivated and to make sure we have coverage in all areas of the United States. We think at least part of that motivation will come from letting volunteers -- and potential volunteers -- know how valuable the information they contribute is to the USGS and to the users of the data. So to all of those who have contributed, thank you for your time and energy!
To show appreciation of the volunteers' efforts, The National Map Corps has instituted a recognition program that awards "virtual" badges to volunteers. Each edit that is submitted is worth one point towards the badge level. The badges consist of a series of antique surveying instruments ranging from the Order of the Surveyor's Chain (25 – 50 points) to the Theodolite Assemblage (2000+ points). Additionally, volunteers are publically acknowledged (with permission) via Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
Tools on TNMCorps web site explain how a volunteer can edit any area, regardless of their familiarity with the selected structures, and becoming a volunteer for TNMCorps is easy; go to The National Map Corps web site to learn more and to sign up as a volunteer. If you have access to the Internet and are willing to dedicate some time to editing map data, we hope you will consider participating.
Status map of the U.S. showing volunteer contributions after the first set of states were authorized, April 1 – June 18, 2013.(Larger image)
Status map of the U.S. showing the progression of volunteer contributions through all 50 states, April 1 - December 15, 2013.(Larger image)
Cortland, N.Y.— Brown trout introductions could hamper the conservation of declining native brook trout populations, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.
Brook and brown trout are valuable sport fish that co-exist in many parts of the world due to stocking introductions. USGS researchers found that, in New York State, direct interactions between the two species, such as competition for food, have minor effects on diminishing brook trout populations compared to human-caused habitat disturbances. However, repeated, disproportionate stocking of brown trout in brook trout habitats could drastically decrease brook trout numbers.
"There is great potential for brown trout stocking to reduce native brook trout populations," said James McKenna, USGS scientist and lead author of the study. "But brown trout aren’t necessarily causing the current brook trout declines, and managers may be able to develop sustainable scenarios to support both fisheries."
The USGS study found that human-induced degradation (from dams and roads, among other causes) of the habitats of both species can affect the populations of either. However, because brook trout do better in forested watersheds, whereas brown trout can thrive in more agricultural environments, degraded watersheds and/or the elimination of forests may affect brook more than brown trout. Improper brown trout management could further threaten vulnerable brook trout populations.
Fisheries managers in New York use stocking to maintain brook trout—a native species—and/or brown trout—a non-native species stocked in New York for over 100 years—in some streams. Brook trout have been declining within its native range in recent decades, and there has been concern that the stocking of brown trout has caused these declines.
The report is published in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management and is available online.
For more information on USGS Great Lakes ecosystem research, please visit the USGS Great Lakes Science Center website.
Interior Announces Funding for New Scientific Studies as Part of President Obama's Climate Action Plan
WASHINGTON, DC—Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced today that Interior’s eight regional Climate Science Centers are awarding nearly $7 million to universities and other partners for research as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon pollution, move our economy toward clean energy sources and begin to prepare our communities for the impacts of climate change.
A new resource about Fire Island, N.Y. is now at the fingertips of coastal managers, planners and the public that will be useful for understanding and predicting future change on the island.
The United States Geological Survey created the public website that details a decade's worth of research that focuses on changes to the beaches and dunes of the barrier island and understanding what affects their change.
Fire Island was severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. More than a year later, the USGS continues to study the changes left behind in its devastating path and generating critical information to aid the recovery process and help communities become more resilient against future storms.
"The website is intended to provide our federal, state and local partners and stakeholders with an access point to the large body of science we have produced, including the findings of the research that has been conducted at Fire Island," said Cheryl Hapke, a USGS research geologist who is a principal investigator of the Fire Island Research.
In addition to understanding the impacts of the storm, USGS scientists are integrating analyses of short- and long-term coastal change to better understand what factors affect coastal shorelines and how geologic controls, sea-level rise and human activities contribute to their vulnerability. Results of the research at Fire Island are applicable to other barrier systems.
"Barrier islands are dynamic systems that also provide protection from future storms to the built environment," Hapke said. "A thorough understanding of the long-term and short-term evolution of barrier islands can lead to models that better predict future changes to the coastal system at Fire Island."
Fire Island is the longest of the barrier islands that lie along the south shore of Long Island, N.Y. The majority of the island is part of Fire Island National Seashore and is a unique and important recreational and ecosystem resource.
As a result of Hurricane Sandy, beaches and dunes on Fire Island lost more than half of their pre-storm volume. Field surveys conducted immediately after Sandy documented low, flat beaches and extensive dune erosion. Assessment of overwash deposits -- the material that was carried to the interior of the island -- indicates that most of the sand lost from the beaches and dunes during Hurricane Sandy was moved offshore or down the coast.
This website is one of several planned products to connect people with USGS research related to Hurricane Sandy recovery, restoration and rebuilding efforts, many of which are funded by Disaster Relief Appropriations Act 2013, also known as Sandy Supplemental.
Recent U.S. Geological Survey research has found that natural biochemical processes in water moving back and forth between a stream and its underlying sediment were significant in removing nitrate from streams in the Illinois River basin, one of the world’s most intensively farmed regions.
The USGS study in a nitrogen-polluted stream found that the flow of streamwater through a very thin zone of sediment enhances chemical reactions that decrease nitrate delivery to coastal areas where nitrogen fuels formation of hypoxic "dead zones."
"One of the thorniest issues in the overall quality of our Nation's waters is relatively high levels of nitrates and other nutrients in many of our streams and rivers,” said Lori Caramanian, Department of the Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science. "A better understanding of the natural processes that reduce nutrients in our streams and rivers will help us mange our waterways in a more effective manner."
Beneath all streams and rivers is a shallow layer of sediment that is permeated by water exchange across the sediment surface. This boundary between the world of earth and water in streams is referred to by scientists as the "hyporheic" zone, from Greek words meaning "under the flow." The hyporheic zone can be thought of as the stream's "skin," since it serves vital functions such as the removal of dissolved and particulate contaminants being transported by the stream.
Previous research has established under laboratory conditions that hyporheic flow should be critical to sparking reactions that improve stream water quality, but field studies have generally been unable to reveal the contribution of hyporheic flow to decreasing the flow of contaminants to sensitive downstream waters.
This field study determined that a very thin skin, a mere four centimeters (1.6 in.) of sediment, was effective in removing nitrate from streams of the Illinois River basin during late summer. The crucial investigative approach was labeling in-stream nitrate with an isotopic tracer that could be followed at very fine scales in the sediment and simultaneously tracked for kilometers downstream.
The study scientists found that hyporheic flow increased nitrate removal by renewing the supply of dissolved organic carbon and nitrate to specialized bacteria in the sediment that performed denitrification, a reaction that converts dissolved nitrate to gaseous nitrogen and so removes nitrate permanently from flowing water.
The top four centimeters of sediment had the greatest abundance of denitrifying bacteria, in addition to the highest levels of hyporheic flow. Sediment properties in this thin layer were also conducive to the formation of oxygen-free micro zones that are required for the reaction to take place.
"USGS hydrologic research is focused on, among other things, improving our understanding of the biochemical processes at work in our waterways so that we can provide policy makers with information that will lead to better informed decisions." observed Jerad Bales, USGS Acting Associate Director for Water. "This work is an excellent example of how science is critically important for effectively addressing the one of the important environmental issues of our time."
Stream restoration is a billion dollar industry in the U.S., although its water quality benefits are not widely proven. Most restoration structures are designed in a manner that creates relatively deep hyporheic flow, which adds, this study demonstrated, only minimally to additional hyporheic flow and nitrogen removal in comparison to shallow hyporheic flow operating alone.
The study suggests how restoration structures might be modified to protect naturally functioning hyporheic zones and how hyporheic flow could be increased in order to stimulate greater removal of stream nitrate by denitrification.
These findings have immediate importance to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ongoing effort to evaluate federal jurisdiction in headwater streams, ponds, and wetlands where processes such as hyporheic flow may positively influence water quality and deliver additional benefits to downstream ecological health and recreational values of rivers and estuaries.
The study was published in the October 2013 edition of Water Resources Research. The findings were presented December 11 at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
Correction, 12/18/2013. The original text of this release incorrectly stated Dr. Chelton's academic background.
The Department of the Interior's U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and NASA presented the 2013 William T. Pecora Award for achievement in Earth remote sensing to Dudley B. Chelton, distinguished professor of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University, Corvallis.
Chelton was recognized for his contributions to ocean remote-sensing science, education, and applications. The award was presented Wednesday by Suzette Kimball, USGS acting director, and Michael Freilich, director of the Earth Science Division in NASA's Science Mission Directorate, at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.
The Department of the Interior and NASA present the Pecora Awards to honor outstanding contributions in the field of remote sensing and its application to understanding Earth. The award was established in 1974 to honor the memory of William T. Pecora, former USGS director and Interior undersecretary. Pecora was influential in the establishment of the Landsat satellite program, which created a continuous, 40-plus-year record of Earth's land areas.
"Every year the Pecora Award signifies the very high value that both the USGS and NASA place in observing Earth from space," said Kimball. "As our natural resources around the world continue to be stressed by a growing population and changing climate, it is more critical than ever that we have an objective, comprehensive view of the changes happening to our planet."
Chelton is a pioneer in the oceanographic use of satellite data to explore the role of the ocean in the Earth's climate system. His work has led to new hypotheses in ocean studies and has inspired many follow-up investigations by the ocean remote-sensing community, increasing the practice and appreciation of ocean remote-sensing.
"Throughout his career, Dudley has been known for developing statistical methods to analyze existing satellite data while preparing for the next generation of remote-sensing instruments," said Freilich.
After receiving a Ph.D. in oceanography from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, Chelton realized the potential of satellite-based observations and moved to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1980 to analyze the newly available Seasat data. His 1981 paper in Nature demonstrated the ability of satellite instruments to make global observations of the ocean. Chelton moved to Oregon State University in 1983 where he established an ocean remote-sensing program that has grown into national prominence.
The comprehensive understanding of the technical and statistical aspects of ocean remote-sensing serves as the foundation of Chelton's major scientific discoveries. For over thirty years, he has led efforts to improve satellite-derived measurements of the four primary ocean variables that can be sensed remotely: sea surface height, surface winds, sea surface temperature, and ocean surface biological productivity.
Chelton is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society and received a NASA Public Service Medal. Many of his 110 papers and book chapters have become standard references in his field.
Reporters: An example map (Yellowstone National Park summer temperature data) from the viewer is available at the end of this release, but you can also find your county's data here.
For the first time, maps and summaries of historical and projected temperature and precipitation changes for the 21st century for the continental U.S. are accessible at a county-by-county level on a website developed by the U.S. Geological Survey in collaboration with the College of Earth, Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University.
The maps and summaries are based on NASA downscaling of the 33 climate models used in the 5th Climate Model Intercomparison Project and the current Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report. The resulting NASA dataset is on an 800-meter grid with national coverage.
The USGS leveraged this massive dataset and distilled the information into easily understood maps, 3-page summaries and spreadsheet compatible data files for each state and county in the United States. A similar implementation for the USGS nested hydrologic units will be available in the next month.
"This product is innovative, user-friendly and invaluable for assessing and understanding climate model simulations of local and regional climate and climate change whether you’re a policy maker, a manager, a planner, an educator or another engaged U.S. citizen," said Matthew Larsen, associate director for the USGS Climate and Land Use Program. "The maps and summaries at the county level condense a huge volume of data into formats that are informative for planning, teaching, adaptation and mitigation purposes."
USGS scientists Jay Alder and Steve Hostetler, who designed and implemented the project as part of their other efforts at visualizing climate models, noted that users can not only view the county average of all the 30 climate models, but they can also select individual models to see how they compare or differ.
To make the number of permutations more manageable for the viewer, Alder and Hostetler averaged the data for the historical period and two future IPCC climate scenarios into 25-year periods (1980-2004, 2025-2049, 2050-2074 and 2075-2099) that span the 21st century. Absolute values and changes in temperature and precipitation for these periods are accessible through the viewer. Other useful tools for characterizing climate change include plots of monthly averages of temperature and precipitation, time-series spanning 1950-2099, and tables that summarize possible changes in the extremes of temperature and precipitation.
"We believe that this product will be useful for a variety of purposes," Alder said. "For example," he said, "farmers and land managers can use the information to help them think about adaptation and mitigation strategies, or educators can use it to teach students about aspects of climate model simulations that underpin IPCC Assessment Reports."
The maps and summaries are available here.
More information about USGS Climate and Land-Use Research is available here.Example of the web application displaying changes in maximum summer (July) temperature for Park County, WY (home of Yellowstone National Park). The time-series chart below the map displays two emission scenarios: RCP8.5 (“business as usual”) and RCP 4.5 (“greenhouse gas reduction/remediation”) from 1950-2100. By the end of the century, the maximum temperature in Park County is projected to warm by 7.5 °C (13.5 °F) under the RCP 8.5 (business as usual) scenario and 3.9 °C (7.0 °F) under RCP 4.5 (greenhouse gas reduction/remediation).
Communities and coastal habitats in the southern Chesapeake Bay region face increased flooding because, as seawater levels are rising in the bay, the land surface is also sinking._ A new USGS report released today concludes that intensive groundwater withdrawals are a major cause of the sinking land, or 'land subsidence', that contributes to flooding risks in the region.
"From a practical viewpoint, sea level is relative to the land surface," said Jerad Bales, Acting Associate Director for Water at USGS. “Whether the water is rising or the land is sinking, or both, the effect is the same: greater vulnerability to coastal storms and loss of important coastal habitat, both of which result in economic losses."
The new study presents a variety of data and findings from previous studies to examine land subsidence in the southern Chesapeake Bay region.
Previous USGS studies have r established that the Chesapeake Bay region has the highest rates of relative sea-level rise on the East Coast. The sea-level rise rates around the Chesapeake Bay range from 3.2 to 4.7mm/per year with 4.4 mm/yr in Norfolk. (A penny is about 1 mm thick.) Land subsidence alone causes more than half of the observed relative sea-level rise in the southern Chesapeake Bay.
While there are several factors influencing land subsidence, aquifer system compaction, caused by extensive groundwater pumping in the Virginia Coastal Plain, is a major cause in the Norfolk area. Land subsidence has occurred around Norfolk at an average rate of 3 mm/year since 1940.
Low-lying communities and critical habitats in the Chesapeake Bay region are especially vulnerable to damage from the relative sea-level rise caused by land subsidence. Communities in the southern Bay can experience increased flooding. The loss of coastal marsh and wetlands decreases the extent of specific habitat that waterfowl need to winter in the Bay region.
The report suggests that changing groundwater management practices could slow or mitigate land subsidence and relative sea-level rise. Moving groundwater pumping away from high-risk areas or decreasing groundwater withdrawal rates can reduce subsidence in low-lying areas prone to flooding. These results will be used by federal and state managers to consider adaptation strategies in their efforts to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay.
Continued monitoring, mapping, and modeling are scientific tools needed to help natural resource managers and urban planners understand and reduce or mitigate land subsidence.
Changing resource management practices in response to rising seas and sinking land will require sustained public commitment.
Sea Level Rise Accelerating in U.S. Atlantic Coast (USGS release, 6/24/2012)
SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Geological Survey participates in the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting with hundreds of technical presentations. Below are some highlights of USGS science at AGU this year. Highlights about the technical sessions are presented in chronological order with session numbers, and room numbers in San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center (either Moscone South, MS, or Moscone West, MW). For more information, visit the AGU Fall meeting website.
News media representatives are invited to visit the USGS booth in the AGU Exhibit Hall. This is an easy place to connect with USGS data, publications, and information. Please contact Leslie Gordon to arrange for an interview with the USGS scientists.
News Conferences – Moscone West, Room 3000, Level 3
Dynamic Mars from Long–Term Observations
Tuesday, 12/10, 11:30 a.m. – Participating USGS Scientist Colin Dundas
Associated oral session with USGS Scientist Colin Dundas
Observations of Ice-Exposing Impacts on Mars over Three Mars Years
Wednesday, 12/11, 9:20 a.m., MW 2022/P31C-07
Titan as You've Never Seen it Before
Thursday, 12/12, 11:30 a.m. – Participating USGS Scientist Randolph Kirk
Associated oral session with USGS Scientist Randolph Kirk
Cassini RADAR Observes Titan’s Kraken Mare, The Largest Extraterrestrial Sea
Friday, 12/13, 11:05 a.m., MW 2007/P52B-04
Public Lecture --Sunday
Sunday, 12/8, 12:00 p.m. – MS 102
Free Public Lecture - Imagine an America without Los Angeles: Natural Hazards and the Complexity of Urban America
USGS Scientist: Lucy Jones
Lucy Jones will discuss how science can improve society’s resiliency to earthquakes. Free and open to the public.
Technical Sessions --Monday
Monday, 12/9, 8:00 a.m. – MS Poster Hall
Influence of Older Structure on Quaternary Faulting in Northeastern California
USGS Scientist: Vicki Langenheim
Geologically young faulting and volcanism may be influenced by a concealed crustal structure between Mt. Shasta and Lassen Peak. This structure is revealed by tiny perturbations in the Earth's gravity and magnetic fields caused by differences in rock density and magnetization.
Monday, 12/9, 8:15 a.m. – MW 2004
Deep Soil Carbon and Vulnerabilities to Anthropogenic Change
USGS Scientist: Jennifer Harden
Soils store large amounts of organic carbon (C), thus have helped regulate greenhouse gases and temperatures of the earth’s atmosphere. Land use change and rapid warming now influence the capacity for soils to actively store carbon. Scientists explore basic principles of soil formation and C cycling in order to understand how soils will respond to anthropogenic change.
Monday, 12/9, 1:40 p.m. – MS Poster Hall
Science For Decision-Makers: Climate Change Indicators For The North-Central California Coast And Ocean
USGS Scientist: Tom Suchanek
Ocean climate indicators were developed in a project based at NOAA’s Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary for the North-central California coast and ocean, from Año Nuevo to Point Arena, including the Pacific coastline of the San Francisco Bay Area. These represent the first regional ocean climate indicators in the National Marine Sanctuary System. The indicators were developed in collaboration with over 50 regional research scientists and resource managers representing federal and state agencies, research universities and institutions, and non-governmental organizations.
Monday, 12/9,1:40 p.m. – MS Poster Hall
Comparison of Nutrient Sources in a Former Salt Pond Under Restoration
USGS Scientist: Brent Topping
Nutrient level fluctuations can disturb an ecosystem, and a key monitoring question during wetland restoration efforts is nutrient flux and transport. With the implementation of the South Bay Restoration Program in 2008, water quality in the Alviso Salt Ponds, California, has been monitored to document the effects of changing hydrologic connections among the ponds and the adjacent pond, slough and estuary. Ongoing research is shedding light on how bottom transport may be an important movement mechanism for both nutrients and toxicants in a rebuilding ecosystem.
Tuesday, 12/10, 9:15 a.m. – MW 3016
Multi-Scale Simulations of Past and Future Projections of Hydrology in Lake Tahoe Basin, California-Nevada
USGS Scientist: Richard Niswonger
Using a new-generation, linked surface- and groundwater-flow model, we examine impacts of climate changes and extremes in the Lake Tahoe basin. Climatic impacts are simulated in terms of water-availability and flood responses to selected climate-change projections and to an extreme ("ARkStorm") storm scenario and its resulting floods.
Tuesday, 12/10, 9:45 a.m. – MW 2003
Predicting Barrier Island Evolution Through Numerical-Model Scenarios
USGS Scientist: Nathaniel Plant
Prediction of barrier island evolution using numerical models can explain which processes, natural or human, are most important to long-term changes that affect future vulnerability to storms, sea-level rise, and human modification. Scientists will show numerical simulations of processes that transport sand along and across a barrier island during storms.
Tuesday, 12/10, 11:05 a.m. – MW 2000
A Global Perspective on Warmer Droughts as a Key Driver of Forest Disturbances and Tree Mortality
USGS Scientist: Craig Allen
Global warming and droughts are causing greater forest-water stress across large regions, and amplifying forest disturbances, particularly drought-induced tree mortality, wildfire, and insect outbreaks. Emerging global-scale patterns of drought- and heat-induced forest die-off are presented, including a newly updated map overview of documented die-off events from around the world, demonstrating the vulnerability of all major forest types to forest drought stress, even in typically wet environments.
Tuesday, 12/10, 1:40 p.m. – MS 103
Recent Microscopic Imager Results from Opportunity
USGS Scientist: Ken Herkenhoff
Exploration of Endeavour crater by the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity continues, with the rover approaching more exposures of clay minerals detected from orbit; the latest Microscopic Imager results will be presented.
Tuesday, 12/10, 1:40 p.m. – MS Poster Hall
Magnetic Tides of Honolulu
USGS Scientists: Jeffrey Love, E. Joshua Rigler
Geomagnetic tides are time-periodic variations in the Earth’s magnetic field. Using almost a century of magnetic observatory data collected at the USGS in Honolulu Hawaii, we analyze magnetic tides caused by the relative motion and interaction of the Earth, Moon, and Sun, and the sunspot solar cycle.
Tuesday, 12/10, 1:40 p.m. – MS 103
Limits of Statistical Climate-fire Modeling: What Goes Up Must Come Down
USGS Scientist: Jeremy Littell
Climate affects wildfires, but “how” varies across ecosystems. Water balance (water surplus and drought) characterizes these effects, and scientists used it to project how fire could change under climate change. Will the whole West burn up? In some forests, it might appear so, but the whole story is more nuanced.
Tuesday, 12/10, 2:10 p.m. – MS 103
Different Climate–Fire Relationships on Forested and Non-Forested Landscapes in California
GC23G-03/ Oral presentation
USGS Scientist: Jon Keeley
Although wildfire activity is expected to increase due to global warming and other climate changes in the future, this study shows it is more complicated than a simple increase in fires with increased temperature. While climate will likely play an important role in determining fire regimes in the high elevation mountain forests, there is less evidence that it will alter fires at lower elevations. Future fires in California’s foothill and coastal environments will be affected by many global changes, particularly increases in human populations.
Tuesday, 12/10, 2:55 p.m. – MS 103
Can climate change increase fire severity independent of fire intensity?
USGS Scientist: Phillip van Mantgem
Regional warming may be linked to increasing fire size and frequency in forests of the western United States. Recent studies have also suggested that warming temperatures are correlated with increased fire severity (post-fire tree mortality), though the precise mechanism is unclear. Our research presents evidence that trees subject to environmental stress are more sensitive to subsequent fire damage. (see related news: http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=3649)
Tuesday, 12/10, 3:25 p.m. – MW 3002
Are Large-scale Manipulations of Streamflow for Ecological Outcomes Effective Either as Experiments or Management Actions?
USGS Scientist: Chris Konrad
Water managers increasingly address ecological sustainability as part of dam operations. Dam releases for ecological outcomes have been practiced for over half a century to improve ecological conditions in rivers and estuaries. A review of more than 100 large-scale flow experiments evaluates their effectiveness for learning how to achieve sustainable water management.
Wednesday, 12/11, 8:00 a.m. – MS Poster Hall
Surprise and Opportunity for Learning in Grand Canyon: The Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program
USGS Scientist: Ted Melis
Flow experiments from Glen Canyon Dam since 1990, have informed federal managers trying to mitigate peak water flow impacts on Colorado River resources. Results were not predicted, but were "surprise" learning opportunities for adaptive river managers. Major uncertainties remain about the influence of global warming on the river’s native fish and beaches.
Wednesday, 12/11, 11:20 a.m. – MS 307
Missing Great Earthquakes
USGS Scientist: Susan Hough
The past decade has witnessed an apparent bumper crop of great earthquakes, with a total of six events above M8.5. Best available historical catalogs reveal only seven M≥8.5 earthquakes during the entire 19th century. Although the average long-term rate of global great earthquakes remains uncertain, one can show that great earthquakes are missing and/or estimated in best-available historical catalogs. Since the largest known earthquakes in many regions occurred before seismometers were developed around 1900, some of our estimates of largest possible magnitudes are likely too low. This suggests that so-called black swan events like the 2011 Tohoku, Japan, earthquake, while still not commonplace events, are not such rare beasts after all.
Wednesday, 12/11, 11:20 a.m. – MW 3003
An Integrated, Indicator Framework for Assessing Large-Scale Variations and Change in Seasonal Timing and Phenology
USGS Scientist: Julio Betancourt
As part of the National Climate Assessment's Indicator System, the Seasonality and Phenology Indicators Technical Team proposed a framework for tracking variations and trends in seasonal timing of surface climate, snow and ice, vegetation green-up and flammability, and bird migration across the U.S. These national indicators are measured by day-of-year, number of days, or latitude of observation at a given date.
Wednesday, 12/11, 1:40 p.m. – MS Poster Hall
Tracking Hydrothermal Feature Changes in Response to Seismicity and Deformation at Mud Volcano Thermal Area, Yellowstone
USGS Scientist: Angie Diefenbach
Mapping surficial change over 50 years at Mud Volcano thermal area in Yellowstone using readily accessible archives of aerial photographs from several federal agencies, gives scientists a better understanding of the links between seismicity and deformation episodes to increased heat and gas emissions at thermal areas.
Wednesday, 12/11, 1:55 p.m. – MW 3009
Influences on the Morphologic Response to Hurricane Sandy: Fire Island, NY
USGS Scientist: Cheryl Hapke
Hurricane Sandy fundamentally altered the geomorphology of Fire Island, NY. Changes included severe beach erosion, razing of the dunes, extensive overwash and breaching of the island. The response during Sandy varied considerably along the island and appears to be largely controlled by the local geology (associated poster session Monday, 12/9 at 1:40 p.m. – MS Poster Hall).
Wednesday, 12/11, 3:10 p.m. – MW 3009
Sandy-related Morphologic Changes in Barnegat Bay, NJ
USGS Scientist: Jennifer Miselis
Estuaries are some of the most productive habitats in the world. Biological, chemical, and physical estuarine processes are influenced by changes in depth and sediment composition, but storm-related changes are rarely measured. Our study integrates airborne and boat-based sensors and sampling to understand estuarine changes caused by Superstorm Sandy.
Thursday, 12/12, 8:00 a.m. – MS Poster Hall
Fog as an ecosystem service in northern California
USGS Scientist: Alicia Torregrosa
Humans can greatly benefit from temperature cooling derived from coastal fog such as reducing the number of hospital visits/emergency response requests from heat stress-vulnerable population sectors or decreased energy consumption during periods when summer maximum temperatures are lower than normal. The thermal relief provided by summertime fog and low clouds is equivalent in magnitude to the temperature increase projected by the driest and hottest of regional downscaled climate models using the A2 (“worst”) IPCC scenario. Extrapolating these thermal calculations can facilitate future quantifications of the ecosystem service provided by summertime low clouds and fog.
Thursday, 12/12, 8:00 a.m. – MS Poster Hall
SAFRR Tsunami Scenario: Economic Impacts and Resilience
USGS Scientists: Anne Wein
The SAFRR Tsunami Scenario models a hypothetical but plausible tsunami, created by an M9.1 earthquake occurring offshore from the Alaskan peninsula, and its impacts on the California coast. We provide an overview of the likely inundation areas, current velocities in key ports and harbors, physical damage and repair costs, economic consequences, environmental impacts, social vulnerability, emergency management, and policy implications for California associated with the tsunami scenario. Scenario users are those who must make mitigation decisions before, response decisions during, and recovery decisions after future tsunamis.
(associated oral presentations on Friday, 12/13 starting at 5:30 p.m. – MS 309)
Thursday, 12/12, 8:00 a.m. – MS Poster Hall
Multi-Temporal Harmonization of Independent Land-Use/Land-Cover Datasets for the Conterminous United States
USGS Scientist: Chris Soulard
USGS Land Change research aims to extend LULC change monitoring beyond 1973-2000 to more recent dates, without resource-intensive manual interpretation. We leveraged a range of existing LULC products and improved LULC classification by identifying agreement between datasets. This process, termed harmonization, has proven to be a cost efficient way to create reliable LULC maps.
Thursday, 12/12, 8:00 a.m. – MS Poster Hall
Megasplash at Lake Tahoe
USGS Scientist: Jim Moore, Richard Schweickert (Univ. of Nevada)
One of the largest landslides on the continent occurred in Lake Tahoe 12,000 to 21,000 years ago. Backwash from the gigantic splash caused by the 2.5 cubic-mile landslide formed major tsunamis. This backwash was equivalent to 15 major rivers flowing into the lake at the same time, and would have decimated life in the splash zone surrounding the lake.
Thursday, 12/12, 8:45 a.m. – MW 3001
Integrated Climate/Land Use/Hydrological Change Scenarios for Assessing Threats to Ecosystem Services on California Rangelands
USGS Scientist: Kristin Byrd
Scientists have developed integrated climate/land use/hydrological change scenarios for assessing threats to ecosystem services on California rangelands. Model outputs quantify the impact of urbanization on water supply and show the importance of soil storage capacity. Scenarios have applications for climate-smart conservation and land use planning.
Thursday, 12/12, 9:15 a.m. – MS 307
Understanding the Largest Deep Earthquake Ever Recorded
USGS Scientist: Robert Graves, Shengji Wei (Caltech)
In May 2013 a M8.3 earthquake ruptured beneath the Sea of Okhotsk at a depth of 610 kilometers, far below the Earth's crust. The entire earthquake sequence took just 30 seconds with energy released in four major shocks. This suggests that deep earthquakes are more efficient in dissipating stress than shallow earthquakes.
Thursday, 12/12, 11:20 a.m. – MW 3007
High Resolution Space-Time Analysis of Ice Motion at a Rapidly Retreating Tidewater Glacier
USGS Scientist: Shad O’Neel
Rapid changes to rates of sea level rise are forced in large part by tidewater glacier dynamics. With unprecedented detail, we analyze discharge from Alaska’s Columbia Glacier supporting other lines of evidence that the retreat has peaked and is now declining, suggesting regional ice mass loss rates may also decrease.
Thursday, 12/12, 3:25 p.m. – MS 308
Detecting Deep Crustal Magma Movement: Exploring Linkages Between Increased Gas Emission, Deep Seismicity, and Deformation Prior to Recent Volcanic Activity
USGS Scientist: Cynthia Werner
In 2003, deep long-period earthquakes, CO2 emissions, and surface uplift were described as three ‘promising indicators’ of deep magmatic processes. Now, ten years later, new data suggests that indeed that combination of very subtle changes in these parameters can help understand and predict changes in volcanic activity months in advance.
Thursday, 12/12, 5:00 p.m. – MS 307
Megacity Megaquakes: Two Near Misses, and the Clues they Leave for Earthquake Interaction
USGS Scientist: Ross Stein
Two recent mega-earthquakes, a M8.8 earthquake off the Chilean coast and a M9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan, resulted in a large number of fatalities. Even though the capital cities of Santiago and Tokyo escaped severe damage, the rate of lesser shocks beneath each city jumped by a factor of about 10 following each megaquake. What does this portend for the likelihood of future large earthquakes? Are these really aftershocks, and are large shocks more probable now than before the mega-earthquakes?
Thursday, 12/12, 5:30 p.m. – MS 305
Crowd-Sourcing for Earthquake Monitoring and Rapid Response
USGS Scientist: Sarah Minson
Earthquake early warning systems are being implemented in select locations. Expansion to high-risk regions lacking seismic infrastructure, however, is cost-limited. Scientists demonstrate that a stand-alone system comprising cell-phone quality GPS stations is inexpensive enough to be implemented globally and accurate enough to provide early warning of large earthquakes and tsunami.
Thursday, 12/12, 5:45 p.m. – MS 309
Six Large Tsunamis in the Past ~1700 years at Stardust Bay, Sedanka Island, Alaska
USGS Scientist: Robert Witter
On a small island facing the Aleutian-Alaska subduction zone, the 1957 Andreanof Islands tsunami deposited beach sand and stranded drift logs 18 meters above sea level. Five older sand sheets suggest great earthquakes along this part of the Aleutian megathrust generate Pacific-wide tsunamis on average every 325 years. Intriguingly, the age of the predecessor of the 1957 tsunami overlaps the time of unusual marine flooding on Kaua'i about 400 years ago.
Friday, 12/13, 8:00 a.m. – MS Poster Hall
Recent Applications of Continental-Scale Phenology Data for Science, Conservation, and Resource Management
USGS Scientist: Jake Weltzin
Professional and “citizen” scientists are contributing data on seasonal plant and animal activity across the United States – as part of a national project called Nature’s Notebook – to inform science and natural resource management. Featured applications include a national index of Spring and tools to support detection and eradication of invasive plants.
Friday, 12/13, 11:05 a.m. – MS 309
Community Vulnerability to Tsunami Threats in the U.S. Pacific Northwest
USGS Scientist: Nathan Wood
Coastal communities in northern California, Oregon, and Washington are classified based on similar characteristics of vulnerability to tsunamis associated with Cascadia subduction zone earthquakes. Research focuses on the number and type of at-risk individuals in hazard zones, including estimates of needed evacuation time. Results can be used to prioritize risk-reduction efforts that address common issues across multiple communities.
Friday, 12/13, 2:10 p.m. – MS 307
The Effect of Porosity on Fault Slip Mechanisms at East Pacific Rise Transform Faults: Insight From Observations and Models at the Gofar Fault
USGS Scientist: Emily Roland
East Pacific Rise transform (strike-slip) faults demonstrate significant variability along their length in their ability to generate large earthquakes. Using observations and models, scientists consider how changes in fault zone material properties, specifically porosity of fault zone rocks and pore fluid pressure, may influence rupture segmentation.
Friday, 12/12, 5:30 p.m. – MS 309
The SAFRR Tsunami Scenario: Improving Resilience for California from a Plausible M9 Earthquake near the Alaska Peninsula
USGS Scientist: Stephanie Ross
The SAFRR Tsunami Scenario models a hypothetical but plausible tsunami, created by an M9.1 earthquake occurring offshore from the Alaskan peninsula, and its impacts on the California coast. The scenario includes the likely inundation areas, current velocities in key ports and harbors, physical damage and repair costs, economic consequences, environmental impacts, social vulnerability, emergency management, and policy implications for California, providing the basis for improving preparedness, mitigation, and continuity planning for tsunamis, which can reduce damage and economic impacts and enhance recovery efforts.
Friday, 12/12, 5:45 p.m. – MS 309
Environmental and Environmental-Health Implications of the USGS SAFRR California Tsunami Scenario
USGS Scientist: Geoffrey Plumlee
The SAFRR Tsunami Scenario models a hypothetical but plausible tsunami, created by an M9.1 earthquake occurring offshore from the Alaskan peninsula, and its impacts on the California coast. Environmental impacts from contamination and potential for human exposures to contaminants and hazardous materials, are an underappreciated hazard from tsunamis. Inundation-related damages to major ports, boat yards, and many marinas could release complex debris, crude oil, various fuel types, other petroleum products, some liquid bulk cargo and dry bulk cargo, and diverse other pollutants into nearby coastal marine environments and onshore in the inundation zone.
Rising water temperatures as a result of climate change may harm already endangered or threatened native freshwater mussels in North America, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report.
During laboratory tests, USGS scientists and partners found that the heart and growth rates of some species of young freshwater mussels declined as a result of elevated water temperatures, and many died. Freshwater mussels have been compared to the "canary in the coal mine" in that they are indicators of good water and sediment quality in U.S. rivers. They are also important in the aquatic food web, filter large amounts of water and suspended particles, and serve as food for other organisms. The study is published in the December issue of the journal Freshwater Science.
"Native freshwater mussels may be especially sensitive to climate change because of their patchy distribution, limited mobility, and dependence on host fish for their larval stage, as well as fragmentation of their ranges by habitat alteration," said Teresa Newton, USGS scientist and an author of the report. "Many species are currently in danger of extinction."
The scientists studied the effects of high water temperatures, ranging from 20-35 degrees Celsius (68-95 degrees Fahrenheit), on three species of two-month-old freshwater mussels: pink mucket, fat mucket and washboard. Temperatures at which at least 50 percent of the populations died after 28 days ranged from 25.3-30.3 degrees Celsius (about 78-87 degrees Fahrenheit). Heart rates in the pink mucket and washboard mussels declined significantly with increasing water temperature.
The observed effects may ultimately decrease biodiversity and cause a shift to more temperature-tolerant mussel species.
"Freshwater mussels are the most endangered group of organisms in the U.S. and in the world," Newton said. "More estimates of the upper thermal limits in native mussels are urgently needed to assess the potential effects of global climate change on native mussel populations."
Over 70 percent of North America’s 302 mussel species are imperiled or extinct. Declines in the abundance and diversity of these mussels have been attributed to a wide array of human activities that cause pollution, water-quality degradation and habitat destruction.
This research was supported by the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center which provides scientific information to help land managers effectively respond to climate change.
Additional information on native freshwater mussels in the midwestern U.S. is available at the USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center website.
The Alum Shale in Denmark contains an estimated mean of 6.9 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas, according to a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey. This estimate comes from the first-ever USGS assessment of shale gas resources in Denmark.
The geological foundation that underpins the assessment was facilitated by data provided by the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. USGS released the assessment to the GSDG in a meeting earlier this morning.
"This is a potential resource for Denmark, although there is no current production there," said USGS Acting Director Suzette Kimball. "The complicated geology in Denmark and the difficulty involved in assessing it really demonstrates how important it is to have a robust geologic model underpinning all of our assessments."
The Alum Shale is part of the Baltic Basin and is made up of two assessment units, the onshore portion and the offshore portion. The offshore area was estimated to contain a mean of 4.4 trillion cubic feet of gas and the onshore area was estimated to contain 2.5 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Using its geology-based methodology, the USGS team estimated recoverable gas resources to range from 0 to 13.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Alum Shale. The wide range in the estimate reflects the geological uncertainty inherent in this as-yet largely untested resource. A complicated geological history of burial, uplift, and erosion may have led to the loss of the natural gas over time, which contributes to the large uncertainty.
In most areas of Denmark, the burial history of the Alum Shale resulted in temperatures consistent with the formation of oil; however, subsequent additional heating transformed the oil into natural gas. Thus shale oil is not expected from the Alum Shale.
Areas of the Alum Shale with potential for gas production are found beneath Jutland and the Island of Zealand, including the City of Copenhagen, and beneath parts of the North Sea, the Kattegat and the Baltic Sea near Bornholm.
This assessment is part of the USGS World Petroleum Project, in which the USGS is assessing conventional and unconventional formations to determine undiscovered, technically recoverable resource potential. Previously published USGS assessments of unconventional resources have included areas in Poland, India, China, and several countries in South America.
Continuous oil and gas, also sometimes referred to as unconventional, remains in or near the original source rock, and, instead of escaping the source rock and collecting in distinct accumulations like conventional oil and gas, is dispersed unevenly over large geographic areas.
Technically recoverable oil resources are those producible using currently available technology and industry practices. USGS is the only provider of publicly available estimates of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas resources of the world.
To learn more about this or other geologic assessments, please visit the USGS Energy Resources Program website. Stay up to date with USGS energy science by subscribing to our newsletter or by following us on Twitter.
Since 1972, the Landsat program has allowed scientists and analysts to observe the world beyond the power of human sight, monitor changes to the land, and detect critical trends in the conditions of natural resources.
To learn more about who uses Landsat imagery and the value these users see in Landsat imagery, the U.S. Geological Survey analyzed responses to a survey of more than 40,000 individuals who accessed free Landsat images from the archive at the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. Over 11,000 users responded to the survey.
Recently published in a USGS report, the survey findings demonstrate that a very wide range of customers use Landsat — from educators to Earth scientists, foresters to urban planners, agricultural managers and water users, and many more. These diverse users were surveyed about their specific utilization of Landsat imagery, as well as the impacts of doing without Landsat imagery and its value to each group.
"The value of Landsat's unique 40-year archive of Earth imagery is incalculable," said Anne Castle, Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, who welcomed publication of the survey. "But with this study, we can begin to quantify the benefits of Landsat to the national economy and to its many users."
Respondents used Landsat imagery in 38 different primary applications, ranging from environmental sciences to agriculture to planning, administration of natural resources, and humanitarian aid. Three-quarters of respondents said the imagery is somewhat or very important to their work and stated that they were moderately or very dependent on Landsat imagery to do their jobs. Almost two-thirds of users reported that they would have to discontinue half of their work, on average, if new and archived Landsat imagery were unavailable.
The value of Landsat imagery was quantified through a contingent valuation method that estimates the aggregated annual economic benefits derived from the imagery. Based on the survey results, economists estimated the benefits from Landsat imagery distributed directly by the USGS in 2011 to be just over $1.79 billion for U.S. users and almost $400 million for international users, resulting in a total annual economic benefit of $2.19 billion. This estimate does not include benefits from further distribution and reuse of the imagery after it has been obtained from the USGS or from the use of value-added products derived from Landsat imagery.
Landsat images are unique in that they provide complete global coverage, they span over 41 years of continuous Earth observation, and they are available for free to anyone in the world. No other satellite provides that combination of attributes.
The USGS report, "Users, Uses, and Value of Landsat Satellite Imagery—Results from the 2012 Survey of Users," is available online. The survey was the second completed as part of a larger study, which also includes a survey conducted in 2009. The Landsat program is jointly managed by USGS and NASA.