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Technical Announcements
Updated: 1 hour 49 min ago

USGS Welcomes European Space Agency’s New Land Observing Satellite

Fri, 06/26/2015 - 14:18
Summary: The U.S. Geological Survey salutes the European Space Agency (ESA) on the successful June 23 launch of its Sentinel-2A satellite, the second satellite to be launched in Europe’s Copernicus environment monitoring program.&nbsp ESA Sentinel-2A to collaborate with USGS-NASA Landsat mission

Contact Information:

Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 );



The U.S. Geological Survey salutes the European Space Agency (ESA) on the successful June 23 launch of its Sentinel-2A satellite, the second satellite to be launched in Europe’s Copernicus environment monitoring program. 

"We are very pleased to have such a talented new player join the team in watching Earth from space,” said Suzette Kimball, acting USGS Director. “The aptly named Sentinel mission will help sharpen our focus on changes in Earth systems and contribute further insight to a great many global challenges at international to local scales, including food security, forest and wildlife conservation, and disaster response."  

Sentinel-2 imagery is expected to supply valuable parallels and counterparts to Landsat imagery provided by the United States. Before Sentinel-2A launched, USGS and ESA staff worked together at length to ensure that Sentinel-2 data would be as compatible as possible with Landsat data. 

First launched by NASA in 1972, the Landsat series of satellites has produced the longest, continuous record of Earth’s land surface as seen from space. Landsat images have been used by scientists and resource managers to monitor water quality, glacier recession, coral reef health, land use change, deforestation rates, and population growth.

Landsat is a joint effort of USGS and NASA. NASA develops remote-sensing instruments and spacecraft, launches the satellites, and validates their performance. USGS develops the associated ground systems, then takes ownership and operates the satellites (since 2000), as well as managing data reception, archiving, and distribution. Landsat data were made available to all users free of charge under a policy change by the U.S. Department of the Interior and USGS in late 2008.

"We are also pleased that a free and open data policy has been adopted for users of Sentinel data,"Kimball added. “Free, open access to Landsat and Sentinel-2 data together will create remarkable economic and scientific benefits for people around the globe."

Designed as a two-satellite constellation – Sentinel-2A and -2B – the Sentinel-2 mission carries an innovative wide swath high-resolution multispectral imager with 13 spectral bands. However, it will not fully duplicate the Landsat data stream, which includes thermal measurements. Sentinel-1A, a satellite with radar-based instruments, was launched April 3, 2014. 

Once it is fully operational following several months of on-orbit testing, Sentinel-2A alone could provide 10-day repeat coverage of Earth’s land areas. With Sentinel-2A data added to the 8-day coverage from Landsat 7/8 combined, users can look forward to better-than-weekly coverage at moderate resolution. Repeat coverage capabilities will further increase with the planned launch of a second Sentinel-2 satellite (Sentinel-2B) next year. 

NASA has published an online comparison of Sentinel-2A and Landsat bandwidths.

Learn more:

  Sentinel 2A liftoff (video - 4:32)
  USGS Landsat
  NASA Landsat
  Landsat: Continuing to Improve Everyday Life

USGS Releases New Estimate of Copper Potential for Northeast Asia

Fri, 06/19/2015 - 12:23
Summary: Significant amounts of undiscovered copper may be present in northeast Asia according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report

Contact Information:

Mark Mihalasky ( Phone: 509-368-3118 ); Leslie  Gordon ( Phone: 650-329-4006 );



SPOKANE, Wash. — Significant amounts of undiscovered copper may be present in northeast Asia according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report. USGS scientists evaluated the potential for copper in undiscovered porphyry copper deposits in Russia and northeastern China as part of a global mineral resource assessment. The estimate of undiscovered copper is about 260 million metric tons, which is nearly 30 times the amount of copper identified in the two known porphyry deposits in northeast Asia.

Porphyry copper deposits are the main source of copper globally. Russia is an important source of copper, consistently ranking as sixth, seventh, or eighth in world production since 2000, and ranked seventh in 2014. The study area includes only two known porphyry copper deposits: 1), the world class Peschanka deposit in the Kolyma area of interior northeastern Russia that contains more than 7 million metric tons of identified copper resources, and 2), the Lora deposit in the Magadan area along the Pacific margin of Russia with about 1 million metric tons of identified copper.

Five mineral resource assessment regions with geology known to be conducive to hosting porphyry-type deposits (known as permissive tracts) are delineated in the new report. The largest tract evaluated, the Pacific Margin, extends across the entire Pacific Ocean margin of Russia (inboard of the Kamchatka Peninsula), and in addition to the known Lora deposit, contains 53 significant porphyry copper prospects, including the recently discovered Malmyzh prospect in the western Sikhote-Alin region of southeastern Russia, and at least 50 other smaller copper prospects. The geologically youngest tract, the Kamchatka-Kuril, extends from the mainland area of the Kamchatka Peninsula through the Kuril island chain, and encompasses 10 significant porphyry copper prospects, in addition to at least 17 other copper occurrences. The Pacific Margin tract is similar in tectonic setting, dimensions, geologic ages, and rock types to the rocks in the North American Cordillera that host numerous world-class porphyry copper deposits.

The Kolyma tract, located in the interior regions of northeast Russia, contains the known Peschanka deposit, and hosts five significant porphyry copper prospects and at least 19 other copper occurrences. The Chukotka tract, extending along the Arctic Ocean margin of northeasternmost Russia, is extremely remote, not well explored, and best known for hosting deposit types other than porphyry copper, such as mercury and tin-tungsten deposits. The geologically oldest region, the Kedon tract, a small region located in the interior of northeast Russia, is deeply eroded and metamorphosed and hosts few porphyry copper prospects compared with most of the geologically younger regions evaluated.

The full report, USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2010-5090-W, “Porphyry Copper Assessment of Northeast Asia—Far East Russia and Northeasternmost China,” is available online and includes a summary of the data used in the assessment, a brief overview of the geologic framework of the area, descriptions of the mineral resource assessment tracts and known deposits, maps, and tables. A GIS database that accompanies this report includes the tract boundaries and known porphyry copper deposits, significant prospects, and other prospects. Assessments of adjacent areas are included in separate reports, which are also available online.

This report is part of a cooperative international effort to assess the world’s undiscovered mineral resources. In response to the growing demand for information on the global mineral-resource base, the USGS conducts national and global assessments of renewable and nonrenewable resources to support decision making. Mineral resource assessments provide a synthesis of available information about where mineral deposits are known and suspected to occur in the Earth’s crust, what commodities may be present, and how much undiscovered resource could be present.

A New Era of Space Collaboration between Australia and U.S.

Thu, 06/18/2015 - 08:00
Summary: On June 18, 2015 in Canberra, Australia, the U.S. Geological Survey and Geoscience Australia signed a comprehensive new partnership to maximize land remote sensing operations and data that can help to address issues of national and international significance

Contact Information:

Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 ); Tom Holm ( Phone: 605-594-6127 );



On June 18, 2015 in Canberra, Australia, the U.S. Geological Survey and Geoscience Australia signed a comprehensive new partnership to maximize land remote sensing operations and data that can help to address issues of national and international significance.

"This partnership builds on a long history of collaboration between the USGS and Geoscience Australia and creates an exciting opportunity for us to pool resources across our organizations,” said Dr. Frank Kelly, USGS Space Policy Advisor and Director of the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science Center. “We will work collaboratively to implement a shared vision for continental-scale monitoring of land surface change using time-series of Earth observations to detect change as it happens.”

Dr. Chris Pigram, Geoscience Australia’s Chief Executive Officer, also welcomed the agreement. “This new partnership elevates an already very strong relationship to a new level, and will see both organizations harness their respective skillsets to further unlock the deep understanding of our planet that the Landsat program provides.”

Dr. Kelly and Dr. Pigram both observed, “Our shared vision is to develop systems that enable us to monitor the Earth and detect change as it happens.  The ability to do this will be critical to our ability to engage with major challenges like water security, agricultural productivity, and environmental sustainability.”

A key element of the partnership involves a major upgrade to Geoscience Australia’s Alice Springs satellite antenna which will see the station play a much more significant role in the international Landsat ground-station network. Following this $3 million (AUD) upgrade committed to by the Australian Government, the Alice Springs antenna will transmit command-and-control signals to the Landsat satellites and support downloading of satellite imagery for the broader South East-Asia and Pacific region. Alice Springs will be one of only three international collaborator ground stations worldwide playing such a vital role in the Landsat program.

Dr. Kelly noted, “We are very pleased to see such a commitment from Australia to the future success and sustainability of the Landsat program.  We appreciate the essential role that Australia continues to play in ensuring that Landsat data for this region is collected and then made available for societal benefit.”

The partnership will also include a strong focus on applying new science and ‘big data’ techniques, such as Geoscience Australia’s Geoscience Data Cube and the USGS’s land change monitoring, assessment, and projection capability, to help users unlock the full value of the data from the Landsat program.

Dr. Suzette Kimball, acting Director of the USGS, recently noted, “We are now beginning to see that the combination of high performance computing, data storage facilities, data preparation techniques, and advanced systems can materially accelerate the value of Landsat data.”

Dr. Kimball added, “By lowering barriers to this technology, we can enable government, research and industry users in the United States and Australia, as well as the broader world, to realize the full benefits of this open-access and freely available data.”

USGS Webinar: Using The National Map Services to Enable Your Web and Mobile Mapping Efforts

Wed, 06/10/2015 - 09:30
Summary: Are you a developer, firm, or organization using mobile or web applications to enable your users

Contact Information:

Brian Fox ( Phone: 303-202-4140 ); Rob Dollison ( Phone: 703-648-5724 ); Mark Newell ( Phone: 573-308-3850 );



Are you a developer, firm, or organization using mobile or web applications to enable your users?  The USGS has publicly available geospatial services and data to help your application development and enhancement.

The USGS’ National Geospatial Technical Operations Center (NGTOC) will be hosting a 30- minute webinar on “Using The National Map services to enable your web and mobile mapping efforts” on June 16 at 9am Mountain Time.

This webinar will feature a brief overview of services, data and products that are publicly available, a quick overview on how AlpineQuest, a leading private firm, is leveraging this public data to benefit their users, and a Question & Answer session with a USGS developer to help you get the most out of the national geospatial services.

“This is an opportunity from NGTOC to bring developers and users together for some demonstrations and starting some dialogue,” said Brian Fox, the NGTOC Systems Development Branch Chief.  “The webinar format allows us to improve awareness of USGS geospatial services and develop a better understanding of what users and developers need to make our data and services more available and usable.” 

To access the webinar, you’ll need to activate Cisco WebEx and call into the conference number (toll free) 855-547-8255 and use the security code: 98212385.  The webinar will display through WebEx, and you can access it via this address: http://bit.ly/1RHayxY

To ensure that you have the appropriate players installed for this WebEx enabled webinar: https://usgs.webex.com/usgs/systemdiagnosis.php

The session will be recorded and closed caption option is available during the webinar at: https://recapd.com/w-a3c704

To find out more about this and other NGOC webinar conferences, go to: http://ngtoc.usgs.gov/webinars/webinar_june2015.html

Screen shot of a mobile mapping service integrating USGS topographic data; hiking and biking trails south of Golden, Colo. Imagery with road and contour data overlaid via AlpineQuest. (high resolution image 631 KB) Screen shot of a mobile mapping service integrating USGS topographic data; hiking and biking trails south of Golden, Colo. Trail data in KML/GPX overlaid via AlpineQuest. (high resolution image 613 KB)

USGS Ups Ease of Use for Landsat Data

Tue, 06/02/2015 - 16:38
Summary: Landsat satellite data have been produced, archived, and distributed by the U.S. Geological Survey since 1972

Contact Information:

Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 ); Tom Holm ( Phone: 605-594-6127 );



Landsat satellite data have been produced, archived, and distributed by the U.S. Geological Survey since 1972. Data users in many different fields depend on this basic Earth observation information to conduct broad investigations of historical land surface change that cross large regions of the globe and span many years. Accordingly, this community of users requires consistently calibrated radiometric data that are processed to the highest standards.

Recognizing the need, the USGS has begun production of higher-level (more highly processed) Landsat data products to help advance land surface change studies. One such product is Landsat surface reflectance data. 

Surface reflectance data products approximate what a sensor held just above the Earth’s surface would measure, if conditions were ideal without any intervening artifacts (interference or changing conditions) that may come from the Earth’s atmosphere, different levels of illumination, and the changing geometry of the view by the sensor from hundreds of miles above the Earth. The precise removal of atmospheric artifacts increases the consistency and comparability between images of the Earth’s surface taken at different times of the year and different times of the day. 

Surface reflectance and other high level data products can be requested through the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center by accessing the EROS Science Processing Architecture (ESPA) interface. Surface reflectance data are also available using the USGS EarthExplorer; select “Landsat CDR” under the tab for datasets.

More information on Landsat surface reflectance data is available at the USGS Landsat website and in an updated USGS Fact Sheet

State and Regional 3DEP Stakeholder Workshops Underway

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 10:00
Summary: The U.S. Geological Survey National Geospatial Program is developing the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) to respond to growing needs for high-quality topographic data and for a wide range of other three-dimensional (3D) representations of the Nation's natural and constructed features

Contact Information:

Diane Eldridge ( Phone: 703-648-4521 ); Mark Newell ( Phone: 573-308-3850 );



The U.S. Geological Survey National Geospatial Program is developing the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) to respond to growing needs for high-quality topographic data and for a wide range of other three-dimensional (3D) representations of the Nation's natural and constructed features.

To expand awareness of 3DEP status and plans, as well as provide an open forum for 3DEP stakeholders to communicate and coordinate potential Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) proposals, the USGS is offering numerous state and regional coordination workshops. The meetings will be held throughout the US between early May and June 30th. Locations, dates, times and registration information can be found at: http://1.usa.gov/1IMab1H. The workshops will include in-person and/or virtual participation options.

The primary goal of 3DEP is to systematically collect 3D elevation data in the form of light detection and ranging (lidar) data over the conterminous United States, Hawaii, and the U.S. territories, with data acquired over an 8-year period. Interferometric synthetic aperture radar (ifsar) data will be acquired for Alaska, where cloud cover and remote locations preclude the use of lidar in much of the State. The 3DEP initiative is based on the results of the National Enhanced Elevation Assessment that documented more than 600 business uses across 34 Federal agencies, all 50 States, selected local government and Tribal offices, and private and nonprofit organizations. A fully funded and implemented 3DEP would provide more than $690 million annually in new benefits to government entities, the private sector, and citizens.

3DEP is a "Call for Action" because no one entity can accomplish it independently. 3DEP presents a unique opportunity for collaboration between all levels of government, to leverage the services and expertise of private sector mapping firms that acquire the data, and to create jobs now and in the future. When partners work together, they can achieve efficiencies and lower costs so that 3DEP can become a reality. When 3D elevation data are available to everyone, new innovations will occur in forest resource management, alternative energy, agriculture, and other industries for years to come.

The annual Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) is a competitive solicitation issued to facilitate the collection of lidar and derived elevation data for 3DEP. Federal agencies, state and local governments, tribes, academic institutions and the private sector are eligible to submit proposals. The 3DEP public meetings will introduce this opportunity to the broadest stakeholder community possible and provide a forum for interested parties to discuss elevation data collection needs of mutual interest that could be addressed by a coordinated investment.

Map depicts the proposed body of work for 3DEP in Fiscal Year 2015. The BAA awards will add more than 95,000 square miles of 3DEP quality lidar data to the national database. (high resolution image 98 MB)

Preliminary Wind Energy Impacts Assessment Methodology Released

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 11:54
Summary: USGS has released a preliminary methodology to assess the population level impacts of onshore wind energy development on birds and bats

Contact Information:

Alex Demas ( Phone: 703-648-4421 ); Jay Diffendorfer ( Phone: 303-236-5369 );



USGS has released a preliminary methodology to assess the population level impacts of onshore wind energy development on birds and bats.  This wind energy impacts assessment methodology is the first of its kind, evaluating national to regional scale impacts of those bats and birds that breed in and migrate through the United States.  The methodology focuses primarily on the effects of collisions between wildlife and turbines.

Primary uses of this new methodology, which is complementary to and incorporates detailed studies and demographic models USGS conducts on key species, include:

  • Quantitative measuring of the potential impacts to species’ populations through demographic modeling and the use of potential biologic removal methods.
  • Ranking species in terms of their direct and indirect relative risk to wind energy development.
  • Recommending species for more intensive demographic modeling or study.
  • Highlighting species for which the effects of wind energy development on their populations are projected to be small.

This new draft methodology is based on a robust quantitative and probabilistic framework used by the USGS in energy resource assessments. The assessment methodology also incorporates publicly available information on fatality incidents, population estimates, species range maps, turbine location data and biological characteristics.

The methodology includes a qualitative risk ranking component, as well as a generalized population modelling component. The USGS also repurposed a well-established marine mammal conservation method known as Potential Biological Removal.  This methodology identifies the maximum number of animals—not including natural deaths—that may be removed from a marine mammal population while allowing it to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable population.  The USGS uses the Potential Biological Removal tool to compare the observed fatalities from collisions with wind turbines to the estimated number of fatalities that can occur before a population would decline.

This methodology also builds on previous USGS research on wind energy, for example, the USGS WindFarm map, released early 2014, that shows the location of all land-based wind turbines in the United States.

Applying expertise in biology, ecology, mapping and resource assessment, the USGS has contributed to the Department of the Interior’s Powering Our Future Initiative with this methodology to quantify the impact of wind energy development on birds and bats.

Throughout the course of this project, USGS scientists have engaged in discussions with a variety of partners and stakeholders, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Bureau of Land Management, Department of Energy, and Department of Defense, as well as industry, non-governmental organizations, and universities.  The USGS will now solicit technical comments on this methodology from an expert panel external to the USGS and will consider these comments in developing the final methodology.

Additional ongoing USGS research is focused on understanding potential impacts to wildlife species on a national, regional, and localized scale. Examples of these efforts include developing wildlife and mortality survey protocols, estimating causes and magnitude of fatalities, assessing population level effects, describing bird migration and movement patterns, understanding wildlife interactions with turbines, and developing technologies to reduce fatalities from interactions with turbines.

The new methodology can be accessed here. For more information about USGS wind energy impacts efforts, visit the USGS Energy Resources Program Web site or follow us on Twitter.

Spring Showers and Snowmelt: The State of Minnesota's Groundwater

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 11:45
Summary: New research can help water resource managers quantify critical groundwater resources and assess the sustainability of long-term water use in Minnesota

Contact Information:

Marisa Lubeck ( Phone: 303-526-6694 );



New research can help water resource managers quantify critical groundwater resources and assess the sustainability of long-term water use in Minnesota. 

U.S. Geological Survey scientists recently estimated annual rates of potential recharge, or the natural replenishment of groundwater, over 15 years across Minnesota. According the study, the statewide mean annual potential recharge rate from 1996‒2010 was 4.9 inches per year (in/yr). Recharge rates increased from west to east across the state and April generally had the highest potential recharge. 

Improved estimates of recharge are necessary because approximately 75 percent of drinking water and 90 percent of agricultural irrigation water in Minnesota are supplied from groundwater. 

“Resource managers in Minnesota can use this study to help inform water use or water conservation guidelines throughout the state,” said USGS scientist and lead author of the report, Erik Smith. 

To maintain a stable supply of groundwater, recharge rates must be high enough to compensate for water that is lost to streams, lakes and other surface-water bodies, or removed for uses such as agriculture. The scientists used data about daily precipitation, minimum and maximum daily temperatures, land cover and soil to model Minnesota’s recharge rates. 

During the study period, mean annual potential recharge estimates across Minnesota ranged from less than 0.1 to 17.8 in/yr. Other findings include: 

  • The highest annual mean recharge estimate across the state was in 2010 at 7 inches, and the lowest mean recharge estimate was 1.3 inches in 2003.
  • Some of the lowest potential recharge rates were in the Red River of the North Basin in northwestern Minnesota, generally between 1 and 1.5 in/yr.
  • The highest potential recharge rates were in northeastern Minnesota and the Anoka Sand Plain in central Minnesota.
  • Eighty-eight percent of the mean annual potential recharge rates were between 2 and 8 in/yr.
  • April had the greatest monthly mean at 30 percent of the yearly recharge.

 The USGS partnered with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on the new study. 

For more information on groundwater in Minnesota, please visit the USGS Minnesota Water Science Center website.

USGS Powder River Basin Coal Assessment Features an Estimate of the Reserve Base

Tue, 05/12/2015 - 12:00
Summary: The latest coal resource assessment of the Powder River Basin showcases the newly revised USGS’ assessment methodology, which, for the first time, includes an estimate of the reserve base for the entire basin

Contact Information:

Alex Demas ( Phone: 703-648-4421 ); Jim Luppens ( Phone: 303-236-7685 );



The latest coal resource assessment of the Powder River Basin showcases the newly revised USGS’ assessment methodology, which, for the first time, includes an estimate of the reserve base for the entire basin.

The coal reserve base includes those resources that are currently economic (reserves), but also may encompass those parts of a resource that have a reasonable potential for becoming economically available within planning horizons. The complete, final assessment results are available in two USGS publications released today: Professional Paper 1809 and Data Series 912.

The Powder River Basin contains one of the largest resources of low-sulfur, low-ash, subbituminous coal in the world and is the single most important coal basin in the United States.

The most important distinction between this Powder River Basin coal assessment and other, prior assessments, was the inclusion of mining and economic analyses to develop an estimate of the portion of the total resource that is potentially recoverable, not just the original (in-place) resources.  Prior resource assessments relied on net coal thickness maps for only selected beds, which provided only in-place resource estimates.

The key to performing the economic analyses was gathering and interpreting a sufficient amount of recent geological data from the extensive coal bed methane development over the past 20 years in the Powder River Basin. This wealth of new data was essential to enable modeling and mapping of all of the significant individual coal beds over the entire Powder River Basin for the first time.

The revised USGS assessment methodology resulted in an estimated original resource of about 1.16 trillion short tons in the Powder River Basin, of which 162 billion short tons are considered recoverable resources (coal reserve base) at a stripping ratio of 10:1 or less.  An estimated 25 billion short tons of that coal reserve base met the definition of reserves.   A 10:1 stripping ratio is approximately estimated by dividing the total thickness of rock mined to the total thickness of coal recovered.

The coal reserve base includes those resources that are currently economic (reserves), but also may encompass those parts of a resource that have a reasonable potential for becoming economically available. This reserve estimate does not mean that the total amount of coal left in the Powder River Basin could be produced by surface mining technologies. The costs of mining and coal sales prices are not static as both tend to increase over time if supported by demand. If future market prices continue to exceed mining costs, portions of the coal reserve base would be elevated to reserve status (and the converse).

The estimate of the current reserves along with the total coal reserve base provide more meaningful resource information for use by energy planners from local to national perspectives rather than just total in-place resource quantities..

Although no underground mining in the Powder River Basin is expected to occur in the foreseeable future, a substantial, deeper coal resource in beds 10–20 feet thick is estimated at 304 billion short tons in the region.

The USGS Energy Resources Program research efforts yield comprehensive, digital assessments of the quantity, quality, location, and accessibility of the Nation’s coal resources.

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.

Seasonal Habitat Quality and Landscape Characteristics Explain Genetic Differences Between Greater Sage-grouse Populations in Wyoming

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 08:38
Summary: Low-quality nesting and winter seasonal habitats are strong predictors of reduced gene flow between greater sage-grouse breeding locations, according to research just published in Ecology and Evolution and authored by the U.S. Geological Survey and their colleagues at the University of Waterloo

Contact Information:

Sara Oyler-McCance ( Phone: 970-226-9197 ); Catherine Puckett ( Phone: 352-377-2469 );



FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Low-quality nesting and winter seasonal habitats are strong predictors of reduced gene flow between greater sage-grouse breeding locations, according to research just published in Ecology and Evolution and authored by the U.S. Geological Survey and their colleagues at the University of Waterloo.  

The study compared the genetic differences between greater sage-grouse breeding areas with seasonal habitat distributions or combinations of landscape factors – such as amount of sagebrush habitat, agriculture fields or roads – to understand how each factor or combination of factors influence effective dispersal of sage-grouse across the state.

Understanding how habitat and landscape features impact the effective dispersal of a species is important for informing management and conservation decisions across large landscapes. Dispersal effectiveness can be measured by gene flow, the rate at which genetic material moves between populations. When populations become small and isolated, a reduction in gene flow can lead to reduced genetic diversity, making those populations potentially less resilient to environmental stressors.

“This research identified which seasonal habitats and individual landscape features facilitate and impede gene flow across the state of Wyoming – which is a stronghold for sage-grouse populations,” said Brad Fedy, one of the authors of the paper and a scientist at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

Greater sage-grouse are dependent upon sagebrush, so two populations separated only by sagebrush habitat would be expected to have more individuals moving between them and be more genetically similar than two populations separated by a barrier to sage-grouse movement, such as a mountain range or forest.

Researchers found that the juxtaposition and quality of nesting and winter seasonal habitats were the greatest predictors of gene flow for greater sage-grouse in Wyoming. Furthermore, the combinations of high levels of forest cover and highly rugged (steep and uneven) terrain or low levels of sagebrush cover and highly rugged terrain were correlated with low levels of gene flow among sage-grouse populations.

“Maintaining natural levels of gene flow among populations helps ensure resilience for the species,” said Sara Oyler-McCance, a USGS research geneticist and a co-author on the study. “Ultimately, land managers can use this information to identify habitats that are most important for maintaining effective dispersal between populations and to improve future sage-grouse conservation efforts.”

Greater sage-grouse occur in parts of 11 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces in western North America.  These birds rely on sagebrush ecosystems, which constitute the largest single North American shrub ecosystem and provide vital ecological, hydrological, biological, agricultural, and recreational ecosystem services. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is formally reviewing the status of greater sage-grouse to determine if the species is warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

Map Shows Content and Origins of the Nation's Geologic Basement

Thu, 04/23/2015 - 14:42
Summary: A map showing the many different pieces of Earth’s crust that comprise the nation’s geologic basement is now available from the U.S. Geological Surve

Contact Information:

Diane Noserale ( Phone: 703-648-4333 );



A map showing the many different pieces of Earth’s crust that comprise the nation’s geologic basement is now available from the U.S. Geological Survey. This is the first map to portray these pieces, from the most ancient to recent, by the events that influenced their composition, starting with their origin. This product provides a picture of the basement for the U.S., including Alaska, that can help scientists  produce regional and national mineral resource assessments, starting with the original metal endowments in source rocks.

“Traditionally, scientists have assessed mineral resources using clues at or near the Earth’s surface to determine what lies below,” said USGS scientist Karen Lund, who led the project. “This map is based on the concept that the age and origins of basement rocks influenced the nature and location of mineral deposits. It offers a framework to examine mineral resources and other geologic aspects of the continent from its building blocks up,” said Lund.

More than 80 pieces of crust have been added to the nation’s basement since the Earth began preserving crust about 3.6 billion years ago. These basement domains had different ages and origins before they became basement rocks, and this map includes these as key factors that determined their compositions and the original metals that may be available for remobilization and concentration into ore deposits. The map further classifies the basement domains according to how and when they became basement, as these events also influence the specific metals and deposit types that might be found in a region.

Users can identify domains potentially containing specific metals or deposit types. They can configure the companion database to show the construction of the U.S. through time.  The map also provides a template to correlate regional to national fault and earthquake patterns.  The map is also available on a separate site, where users can combine data and overlay known mineral sites or other features on the domains.

Basement rocks are crystalline rocks lying above the mantle and beneath all other rocks and sediments. They are sometimes exposed at the surface, but often they are buried under miles of rock and sediment and can only be mapped over large areas using remote geophysical surveys. This map was compiled using a variety of methods, including data from national-scale gravity and aeromagnetic surveys.

Crustal rocks are modified several times before they become basement, and these transitions alter their composition. Basement rocks are continental crust that has been modified by a wide variety of plate tectonic events involving deformation, metamorphism, deposition, partial melting and magmatism. Ultimately, continental crust forms from pre-existing oceanic crust and overlying sediments that have been thus modified.

It is not only the myriad processes that result in varying basement rock content but also the time when these processes occurred during the Earth’s history.  For example, because the Earth has evolved as a planet during its 4.5 billion year history, early deposit types formed when there was less oxygen in the atmosphere and the thin crust was hotter.  The ancient domains are now more stable and less likely to be altered by modern processes that could cause metals to migrate.  By contrast, basement rocks that formed out of crust that is less than one billion years old have origins that can be interpreted according to the present-day rates and scales of plate tectonic processes that reflect a more mature planet with a thicker crust.

By incorporating ancient to modern processes, this map offers a more complete and consistent portrait of the nation’s geologic basement than previous maps and presents a nationwide concept of basement for future broad-scale mineral resource assessments and other geologic studies.

Map showing basement domains according to generalized original crust types. (High resolution image)

USGS Issues Revised Framework for Hydrogeology of Floridan Aquifer

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 09:58
Summary: USGS scientists have updated the hydrogeologic framework for the Floridan aquifer system that underlies Florida and parts of Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina

Contact Information:

Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 ); Eve Kuniansky ( Phone: 678-924-6621 );



USGS scientists have updated the hydrogeologic framework for the Floridan aquifer system that underlies Florida and parts of Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. 

The Floridan aquifer system is the principal source of freshwater for agricultural irrigation, industrial, mining, commercial, and public supply in Florida and southeast Georgia. The extensive underground reservoir currently supplies drinking water to about 10 million people residing across the area as well as 50% of the water that is used for agricultural irrigation in the region.

By describing the hydrologic and geologic setting of an aquifer, a hydrogeologic framework enables appropriate authorities and resource managers to monitor an aquifer more accurately, improving their ability to protect these critical resources and determine the near- and long-term availability of groundwater.

As the first update of the framework for the aquifer in over 30 years, the revision incorporates new borehole data into a detailed conceptual model that describes the major and minor units and zones of the system. Its increased accuracy is made possible by data collected in the intervening years by the USGS; the Geological Surveys of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina; the South Florida, Southwest Florida, St Johns River, Suwannee River, and Northwest Florida Water Management Districts; and numerous other state and local agencies.

The USGS is releasing two reports as part of its current assessment of groundwater availability of the Floridan aquifer system.

The first report documents the revised framework.

Williams, L.J., and Kuniansky, E.L., 2015, Revised hydrogeologic framework of the Floridan aquifer system in Florida and parts of Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1807, 140 p., 23 pls.

The second report provides datasets that describe the surfaces and thicknesses of selected hydrogeologic units of the Floridan aquifer system. The data depict the top and base of the aquifer system, its major and minor hydrogeologic units and zones, geophysical marker horizons, and the altitude of the 10,000-milligram-per-liter total dissolved solids boundary that defines the approximate fresh and saline parts of the aquifer system.

Williams, L.J., and Dixon, J.F., 2015, Digital surfaces and thicknesses of selected hydrogeologic units of the Floridan aquifer system in Florida and parts of Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 926, 24 p.

The USGS is undertaking a series of regional groundwater availability studies to improve our understanding of groundwater availability in major aquifers across the Nation. Regional groundwater availability studies are currently underway to document the supply and demand of this important natural resource for the United States. To find out more about other related groundwater science activities, please visit the USGS Groundwater Resources Program website.

USGS Continues to Write History

Fri, 04/17/2015 - 13:59
Summary: The fourth volume of the comprehensive history of the U.S. Geological Survey, Minerals, Lands, and Geology for the Common Defence and General Welfare: Volume 4, 1939‒1961, has been issued as an electronic document. New Volume of Agency Annals Released

Contact Information:

Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 );



The fourth volume of the comprehensive history of the U.S. Geological Survey, Minerals, Lands, and Geology for the Common Defence and General Welfare: Volume 4, 1939‒1961, has been issued as an electronic document.

Featuring more than 200 illustrations, the 704-page Volume 4 focuses on the United States and the USGS in war and peace from the beginning of World War II in Europe to the end of the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. During this period, the USGS developed and adapted new instruments and methods that included airborne magnetometers and radiometers, advanced seismometers, stereoscopic plotters for topographic mapping, geophysical logging (detailed records of geologic formations penetrated by a borehole), and geological sampling from deep wells. 

The late Mary C. Rabbitt (1915‒2002), a geophysicist who served with the USGS (1949‒1978), wrote the first three volumes in the series: Volume 1, Before 1879 (1979), Volume 2, 1879‒1904 (1980), and Volume 3, 1904‒1939 (1986). Volume 4 was begun by Rabbitt and completed by coauthor Clifford M. Nelson, a geologist with the USGS since 1976. 

Like the earlier books in the series, Volume 4 places USGS operations in mapping and the earth sciences within the wider contexts of national and international history. For instance, USGS development of the airborne magnetometer — an instrument that traces the Earth’s magnetic field, enabling an effective method of exploring for subsurface minerals — followed from a wartime device that U.S. forces used to hunt enemy submarines in World War II. 

In the foreword to Volume 4, Mark D. Myers, the 14th USGS Director (2006‒2009), wrote that the volume records USGS support of the Nation’s efforts during "a pivotal interval of transformation for the United States and the agency, …a time of great national sacrifice, rapid expansion of industrial capacity, spectacular scientific and technological advancement, and international leadership." 

Do You Like to Map? Take the Mapping Challenge!

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 09:30
Summary: Volunteer citizen-mappers continue to make significant contributions to the USGS ability to provide accurate mapping information to the public The USGS crowd-sourcing project volunteers have updated all law enforcement points in Tennessee

Contact Information:

Elizabeth McCartney ( Phone: 573-308-3696 ); Mark Newell ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Erin Korris ( Phone: 303-202-4503 );



Volunteer citizen-mappers continue to make significant contributions to the USGS ability to provide accurate mapping information to the public. Recently, volunteers were asked to update all of the law enforcement structure points in Tennessee. The volunteers answered the call and added, verified, edited, or deleted an amazing 440 points!

In addition, all of the points were quality checked by either a peer reviewer or an advanced editor, so the data was ready to go into The National Map at the conclusion of the challenge.

The volunteer additions and edits will be symbolized on US Topo maps during the next production cycle for Tennessee, slated for next year.

An exciting addition to the mapping project is Mapping Challenges. The Challenges asks volunteers to concentrate on specific areas and structure types that need updating. In addition, Challenges encourage volunteers to remain engaged, and incentivizes participation. Once a need is determined, a call to action goes out to the volunteer corps with information on the geographic location and the type of structures that needs updating. Volunteers who participate can earn a series of virtual recognition badges and are recognized on social media and TNMCorps project site.

Using crowd-sourcing techniques, the USGS Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) project, known as The National Map Corps (TNMCorps), encourages 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.  

Special thanks to the volunteers who participated in this challenge: fconley, HGeisler, Cartograsaurus, TheJ, BCook2, rjerrard, Vindalou, Jwo_rocks, wesward, and alherna4.

"At times, locating structures seems similar to solving puzzles or detective work,” commented fconely, a Challenge veteran and one of the project’s more active participants.

Tools on TNMCorps project 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; register by going to The National Map Corps Editor. If you have access to the Internet and are willing to dedicate some time to editing map data, we hope you will consider participating.

Screen-shot of the Tennessee Law Enforcement Facility Mapping Challenge showing the more than 440 edited points (green dots). At this scale, many dots contain more than one edited or verified structure. (high resolution image) The most recent status graphic showing the number and density of The National Map Corp submitted edits or verification for the past three years. (high resolution image)

USGS Releases Online Tool for Estimating Atrazine Levels in Streams and Rivers

Wed, 04/01/2015 - 11:12
Summary: A new online, interactive tool for estimating atrazine concentrations in streams and rivers is now available

Contact Information:

Wes Stone ( Phone: 317-600-2786 ); Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 );



A new online, interactive tool for estimating atrazine concentrations in streams and rivers is now available. 

The online mapping tool can assist water managers, policy makers, and scientists in several ways, including:

  • Understanding where and why pesticides occur in streams.
  • Assessing geographic patterns in pesticide stream concentrations at many scales, ranging from the watershed to regional and national;
  • Designing efficient and cost-effective monitoring programs and studies; and
  • Identifying streams with the greatest likelihood to have concentrations that exceed a water-quality benchmark of potential concern. 

“Assessment and management of pesticides require far more information on concentrations in streams and rivers than we can afford to directly measure for all the places and times of interest,” said Wes Stone, the USGS hydrologist who developed the model.  “For these situations, statistical models can be used to estimate water-quality conditions at unmonitored locations under a range of possible circumstances.” 

The estimates are based on a USGS statistical model — referred to as Watershed Regression for Pesticides (or “WARP”) — which also provides key statistics for each selected stream, including the probability that a pesticide may exceed a water-quality benchmark of potential concern, and a level of confidence and uncertainty associated with each estimate. 

The release for atrazine is the first in a series of statistical models for other pesticides, each of which is based on USGS National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) monitoring in streams from 1992-2011, agricultural pesticide use, and environmental characteristics, such as soil characteristics, hydrology, and climate.  

Future updates will provide similar mapping and modeling for additional pesticides. Estimates and interactive mapping of pesticides for streams in the U.S. are available at this USGS website. The new website replaces an earlier version of the model for atrazine.  

USGS Seeks Proposals for Earthquake Science

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 13:17
Summary: The U.S. Geological Survey expects to award up to $7 million in grants for earthquake hazards research in 2016 Applications due May 19, 2015

Contact Information:

Elizabeth Lemersal ( Phone: 703-648-6716 ); Jessica Robertson ( Phone: 703-648-6624 );



The U.S. Geological Survey expects to award up to $7 million in grants for earthquake hazards research in 2016.

“The USGS Earthquake Hazards Program annually provides grants to support research targeted toward improving our understanding of earthquake processes, hazards and risks,” said Bill Leith, USGS Senior Science Advisor for Earthquake and Geologic Hazards. “We seek cutting-edge proposals that will further our efforts to reduce losses from earthquakes, provide more accurate and timely earthquake information and forecasts and better inform the public about earthquake safety.”

Interested researchers can apply online at GRANTS.GOV under funding opportunity number G15AS00037. Applications are due May 19, 2015.

Every year the USGS awards earthquake research grants to universities, state geological surveys and private institutions. Past projects included:

  • trench investigations to better understand the size and age of large earthquakes between Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah;
  • the application of innovative techniques to map seismic hazards near the nation’s capital;
  • exploring the use of rapid and precise GPS recordings to improve earthquake early warning;
  • analysis of the potential for large earthquakes in the Gorgonio Pass, an area of complex faulting east of San Bernardino, California;
  • investigation of recent earthquake activity along major fault lines crossing southeast Alaska; and
  • studies to characterize and understand the causes of potentially induced earthquakes in California, Kansas, Wyoming, Texas, and Ohio.

complete list of funded projects and reports can be found on the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program external research support website.

New Report Indicates Potential for Five Times Known Copper Deposits Yet to Be Found in Central Asia

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 12:25
Summary: A new U.S. Geological Survey report covering major parts of the world’s largest mountain belt in central Asia estimates the existence of about five times as much copper in undiscovered deposits as has been identified to date

Contact Information:

Dave Frank ( Phone: 509-368-3107 ); Leslie  Gordon ( Phone: 650-329-4006
 );



SPOKANE, Wash. — A new U.S. Geological Survey report covering major parts of the world’s largest mountain belt in central Asia estimates the existence of about five times as much copper in undiscovered deposits as has been identified to date. These areas host 20 known porphyry copper deposits, including the world class Oyu Tolgoi deposit in Mongolia that was discovered in the late 1990s.

The results of this new assessment estimate the probability that there may be as many as 97 undiscovered porphyry copper deposits within the assessed permissive tracts, which would represent nearly five times the 20 known deposits. Grade and tonnage models predict estimated resources associated with undiscovered deposits as mean values of 370,000,000 metric tons of copper, 10,000 t of gold, 7,700,000 t of molybdenum, and 120,000 t of silver. These estimated mean tonnages are predictions based on comparisons to known deposits of similar type.

Copper was one of the first metals ever extracted and used by humans, and it has been one of the important materials in the development of civilization. Because of its properties, of high ductility, malleability, and thermal and electrical conductivity, and its resistance to corrosion, copper has become a major industrial metal, ranking third after iron and aluminum in terms of quantities consumed.

USGS scientists worked in collaboration with colleagues in the China Geological Survey, the Centre for Russian and Central Eurasian Mineral Studies, and the Russian Academy of Sciences to complete the assessment. Participants evaluated applicable grade and tonnage models and estimated numbers of undiscovered deposits at different confidence levels for each permissive tract. The estimates were then combined with the selected grade and tonnage models using Monte Carlo simulations to generate probabilistic estimates of undiscovered resources.  Additional resources in extensions of deposits with identified resources were not specifically evaluated.

The full report, USGS SIR 2010-5090-X, “Porphyry Copper Assessment of the Central Asian Orogenic Belt and eastern Tethysides— China, Mongolia, Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and India,” is available online and includes a summary of the data used in the assessment, a brief overview of the geologic framework of the area, descriptions of permissive tracts and known deposits, maps, and tables. A geographic information system database that accompanies this report includes the tract boundaries and known porphyry copper deposits, significant prospects, and prospects. Assessments of overlapping younger rocks and adjacent areas are included in separate reports, which are also available online.