The results are in. And the public clearly wins.
In April 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Blue Legacy International (a nonprofit organization) challenged solvers to use open government data sources to create compelling visualizations that would inform individuals and communities about nutrient pollution (high-levels of nitrogen and phosphorous that cause excessive growth of algae).
Nutrient pollution is one of America’s most widespread, costly, and challenging environmental problems. It degrades the nation’s waterways, municipal and industrial water resources, wildlife, recreation, and fishing. Nutrient pollution is far reaching and affects more than 100,000 miles of rivers and streams, close to 2.5 million acres of lakes, reservoirs, and ponds, and more than 800 square miles of bays and estuaries in the United States.
The ultimate goal for the visualization challenge is to inspire citizens to take action at the local watershed level to reduce nutrient pollution and thus help to prevent algal blooms and hypoxia.
Here are the results of the 2015 Visualizing Nutrients Challenge.
A Resource Out of Place: The Story of Phosphorus, Lake Erie, and Toxic Algal Blooms
This visualization, created by Matthew Seibert, Benjamin Wellington, and Eric Roy, of Landscape Metrics, uses USGS monitoring data to inform individuals and communities about phosphorus runoff to Lake Erie. The authors sought to “inspire multiple stakeholders to strive toward both better resource management and improved environmental quality.”
Demonstrating creative use of open water data and effective storytelling, the following visualization submissions warranted special recognition.
Short film illustrating nutrient levels on the Los Angeles River using a digital elevation model.
Catherine Griffiths, Isohale
How does increasing nutrients affect you?
Animated illustration and interactive nitrogen concentration tool.
Dr. Zofia Taranu
Interactive chart illustrating water quality results on the Loxahatchee River.
The Silent Predator of the Deep Blue: Hypoxia
Infographic explaining hypoxia.
Kayla Brady - Computer Aid, Inc.
Sathya Ram - Computer Aid, Inc.
Michael Ruiz - Computer Aid, Inc.
Matthew Peters - Computer Aid, Inc.
Thaumas Mathew - Computer Aid, Inc.
VizNut48: Nutrient Pollution in the US Surface Waters and Management Actions
ArcGIS map of US surface water plotting nutrient pollution results.
Visualizing Water Pollution Data Using Beck-Style Flow Path Maps
Illustration of water systems and site results modeled after public transit maps
Prof. Edward Aboufadel
Department of Mathematics, Grand Valley State University
Daniel P. Huffman
* These Challenge submissions can be viewed online.
First Place will receive $10,000. Both the Challenge Winner and Runners Up visualizations will be highlighted in a number of important forums, including a showcase at the Nutrient Sensor Summit in Washington, DC on August 12, 2015.
The Visualizing Nutrients Challenge is part of the broader work of the Challenging Nutrients Coalition. The coalition was formed in 2013 when the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy convened a group of federal agencies, universities, and non-profit organizations to seek innovative ways to address nutrient pollution.
This Challenge marks the starting point for further discussion and application of data visualization tools to help tell the stories of our water. Blue Legacy International, a water advocacy organization championed by global explorer Alexandra Cousteau, will promote the results of the Challenge across a variety of digital platforms, where anyone can join the discussion to advance three critical areas of data visualization for public awareness:
- Reliable and accurate use of water data,
- Effective and clear communication of water issues supported by data, and
- Transformation of complex water issue into relatable, tangible stories that inspire and activate the public.
Visualizing Nutrients builds on the activities of the Open Water Data Initiative that seeks to further integrate existing water datasets and make them more accessible to innovation and decision making. The Open Water Data Initiative works in conjunction with the President's Climate Data Initiative.
For additional information, visit the prize competition website.The results of the 2015 Visualizing Nutrients Challenge can be viewed online
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — In the 20th century, Baranof Island in Southeastern Alaska has drawn attention for its gold, chrome and nickel deposits, timber industry, potential activity of the dormant Mount Edgecumbe volcano, and for numerous commercially developed hot springs. In addition, Baranof Island is known for its outstanding scenic fjords, pristine rainforests, and prolific fishing grounds.
A new map from the U.S. Geological Survey updates the geology of Baranof Island based on field studies, petrographic analyses of minerals, fossil ages, and isotopic ages for igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. These new data provide constraints on ages of rock units and the structures that separate them, as well as insights on the regional tectonic processes that affected the rocks on Baranof Island. This work provides stratigraphic, geochemical, and structural evidence that ties Baranof Island geologically to Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii rather than other islands in southeast Alaska.
"This report is a modern synthesis of new work and many years of topical investigations," said USGS geologist Susan Karl. "Pulling together all of this information in one product is a benefit to scientists working on similar or related studies, and is of interest to the general public for explanations of local geologic features such as the Mount Edgecumbe volcano, the Fairweather, Chatham Strait, and Peril Strait Faults, gold deposits, and hot springs."
A pamphlet complements the map and includes a geologic overview of the results of USGS studies and detailed rock unit descriptions. The map is available at the USGS Alaska Science Center website.
A new USGS study published in the journal River Research and Applications presents an extensive analysis of temporary (intermittent) streams across regions in the conterminous United States where such streams are prevalent (in the western plains and southwest) and describes their sensitivity to past climate.
Understanding how intermittent streams may be changing is important because they often serve critical — albeit impermanent — roles in supplying recharge to aquifers, transferring snowmelt water to perennial streams, accumulating agricultural and municipal effluents, and maintaining aquatic biological diversity downstream, to name a few examples.
Five distinct types of intermittent streams with record lengths of generally over 40 years and with minimal direct human influence were identified for this study based on their seasonal patterns of no-flow periods. Each type of stream had a different mixture of the physical processes that generated no-flow events. These processes included the timing of precipitation, antecedent soil-moisture conditions, snowmelt, and evaporation. Notably, the duration of wet and dry periods were found to affect the seasonality of streamflow at intermittent streams, but the intensity of precipitation events had little effect.
The temporal patterns of streamflow regimes at these intermittent streams were shown to closely reflect climatic patterns. However, the lack of trends in historical variations in precipitation at natural watersheds for this investigation has produced no clear trends in flows at intermittent streams. Nevertheless, the sensitivity of streamflows to variability in precipitation suggests that potential future drying and wetting patterns in precipitation would impact streamflows at intermittent streams.
Eng, K., Wolock, D.M., and Dettinger, M.D., 2015. Sensitivity of intermittent streams to climate variations in the United States: River Research and Applications, 35 p. Online
Images of Intermittency
A typical intermittent stream — Cedar Creek near Cedar Point, Kansas. On Aug. 13, 2013, it flowed at 303 cubic feet per second (left). A year earlier, Aug. 1, 2012, there was only standing water with no flow (right). USGS images. (High resolution image)
The National Water-Quality Tool offers graphical forms of historical and current information about: water quality in the Nation's rivers and streams (top panel); nutrient loading in the tributaries of the Mississippi River (middle panel); and nitrate loads and yields in coastal rivers (bottom panel). (high resolution image)
A new USGS online tool provides graphical summaries of nutrients and sediment levels in rivers and streams across the Nation.
The online tool can be used to compare recent water-quality conditions to long-term conditions (1993-2014), download water-quality datasets (streamflow, concentrations, and loads), and evaluate nutrient loading to coastal areas and large tributaries throughout the Mississippi River Basin.
"Clean water is essential for public water supplies, fisheries, and recreation. It's vital to our health and economy,” said William Werkheiser, USGS associate director for water. “This annual release of water quality information in graphical form will provide resource managers with timely information on the quality of water in our rivers and streams and how it is changing over time.”
Graphical summaries of nutrients and sediment are available for 106 river and stream sites monitored as part of the USGS National Water-Quality Network for Rivers and Streams.
This tool was developed by the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program, which conducts regional and national assessments of the nation’s water quality to provide an understanding of water-quality conditions, whether conditions are getting better or worse over time, and how natural processes and human activities affect those conditions.
On July 17, 2015, the USGS issued the FY15/FY16 Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for 3D Elevation Program (3DEP). The BAA provides detailed information on how to partner with the USGS and other Federal agencies to acquire high-quality 3D Elevation data. Information and contacts are now available at Fed Biz Opps (Search for Reference Number: G15PS00558) and Grants.gov (Funding Opportunity Number: G15AS00123).
Offerors may contribute funds toward a USGS lidar data acquisition activity via the Geospatial Products and Services Contracts or they may request 3DEP funds toward a lidar data acquisition activity where the requesting partner is the acquiring authority. Federal agencies, state and local governments, tribes, academic institutions and the private sector are eligible to submit pre-proposals. Pre-proposals are due by 1:00PM ET, August 25, 2015. Full Proposals are due by 1:00PM ET, October 23, 2015
On July 23 at 12:00 PM ET and July 28 at 2:00 PM ET, national public webinars will be conducted to provide instructions to the broader community on preparing proposals for submission to the BAA. These webinars will be recorded, so those unable to attend can listen to the instructions at their convenience. Links to register (and find the recording when posted) are available on the 3DEP Geospatial Platform Sharing Site.
Those who were unable to attend the national BAA process overview public webinars in April are encouraged to view the video recording to become familiar with the basics of the BAA process. The recording is available on the 3DEP Geospatial Platform Sharing Site.
The BAA is a public process to develop partnerships for the collection of lidar and derived elevation data for 3DEP. The primary goal of 3DEP is to systematically collect nationwide lidar coverage (ifsar in Alaska) over an 8-year period to provide more than $690 million annually in new benefits to government entities, the private sector and citizens. 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. More information about 3DEP including updates on current and future 3DEP partnership opportunities is available online.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 10.9 MB)
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.htmlScreen 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)
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.
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)
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.
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.
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
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.