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Technical Announcements
Updated: 3 hours 48 min ago

New Kupferschiefer Copper Assessment Available

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 14:00
Summary: In cooperation with the Polish Geological Institute — National Research Institute, U.S. Geological Survey scientists have published a new assessment of copper resources in Poland and Germany. This investigation is part of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Global Mineral Resource Assessment

Contact Information:

Mike Zientek ( Phone: 509-368-3105 ); Leslie  Gordon ( Phone: 650-329-4006
 );



SPOKANE, Wash. — In cooperation with the Polish Geological Institute — National Research Institute, U.S. Geological Survey scientists have published a new assessment of copper resources in Poland and Germany. This investigation is part of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Global Mineral Resource Assessment. The study synthesizes available information on known resources and estimates the location and quantity of undiscovered copper associated with the well-known late Permian (approximately 255 million years old), carbon-enriched shale, the Kupferschiefer, of the Southern Permian Basin in Europe.

The ore deposits associated with the Kupferschiefer in Germany and Poland have been mined for over 800 years and are world-famous among geologists because research on these deposits played a significant role in the scientific debates on ore genesis. The largest Kupferschiefer copper deposit occurs in the Lubin-Sieroszowice mining area, Poland. It is the largest copper deposit in Europe and one of the largest copper deposits on the Earth.

Most of the known copper resource and almost all of the estimated undiscovered copper resources occur in southwestern Poland and adjacent parts of eastern Germany. Since 1958, about 15 million metric tons of copper have been produced, and about 30 million metric tons of discovered copper remains to be developed. The USGS estimates a mean value of 110 million metric tons of copper may be undiscovered to a depth of 2.5 km below the surface in this area. Most of the undiscovered resource in southwestern Poland would be deeper than 1.5 km, where virgin rock temperatures exceed 50 degrees C (122 degrees F).

In 800 years of mining, about 2.6 million metric tons of copper were produced from Kupferschiefer deposits in east-central Germany. The areas near the deposits in east-central Germany have been well explored; less than one million metric tons of discovered copper remain in identified deposits. Mean undiscovered copper estimates for this area are about 20 million metric tons.

This USGS study supports previous findings by the Polish Geological Institute for the amount of undiscovered copper in Poland. Mean values from the USGS study are remarkably similar to the values estimated by Polish geologists. The USGS study differs from the Polish study in that two different methods are used to probabilistically estimate the amount of undiscovered copper and maps are included to show where undiscovered resources are likely to occur.

The full report, USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5090–U, “Assessment of undiscovered copper resources associated with the Permian Kupferschiefer, Southern Permian Basin, Europe,” by Michael Zientek and others, is available online.

Additional USGS mineral resource assessment results and reports, including previous volumes of this publication series, and an estimate of undiscovered copper resource of the world in 2013, are online.

USGS Groundwater Toolbox: A New Way to Analyze Hydrologic Data

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 12:12
Summary: The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has released a convenient and informative new method for the analysis of groundwater and surface-water hydrologic data called the Groundwater (GW) Toolbox. The GIS-driven graphical and mapping interface is a significant advancement in USGS software f

Contact Information:

Paul Barlow ( Phone: 508-490-5070 ); Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 );



The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has released a convenient and informative new method for the analysis of groundwater and surface-water hydrologic data called the Groundwater (GW) Toolbox. The GIS-driven graphical and mapping interface is a significant advancement in USGS software for estimating base flow (the groundwater-discharge component of streamflow), surface runoff, and groundwater recharge from streamflow data. 

The GW Toolbox brings together several analysis methods previously developed by the USGS and Bureau of Reclamation. Each of the methods included with the GW Toolbox use daily streamflow data automatically retrieved from the USGS National Water Information System (NWIS) for more than 26,000 streamgage sites across the United States. In addition to streamflow data, the GW Toolbox facilitates the retrieval of groundwater-level and precipitation time-series data from the NWIS database. 

The GW Toolbox will be of use to engineers, academia, and government agencies at all levels for the analysis of many of the water-budget components of a typical watershed. The intensively visual interface will help shed light on water availability and hydrologic trends in response to climate and land-use changes and variability in these watersheds.

 The GW Toolbox runs in a Microsoft Windows environment and includes the Base Flow Index (BFI), HYSEP, and PART hydrograph-separation methods to estimate base flow and surface runoff and the RORA and RECESS methods to estimate groundwater recharge. 

The GW Toolbox is available from the USGS at no cost. The documentation report also is available online from the USGS.

Advances in Dating Groundwater

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 10:40
Summary: Groundwater chemists and hydrologists are keenly interested in expanding the knowledge of environmental tracers that can be used to determine groundwater age. The age of groundwater is a valuable parameter that serves to inform many types of groundwater availability studies.

Contact Information:

Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 ); Karl Haase ( Phone: 703-648-5818 );



Groundwater chemists and hydrologists are keenly interested in expanding the knowledge of environmental tracers that can be used to determine groundwater age. The age of groundwater is a valuable parameter that serves to inform many types of groundwater availability studies.

Many environmental tracers — such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), SF6, and tritium — are of atmospheric origin. However, there are several classes of atmospheric trace gases whose application as groundwater age tracers have not been fully explored. Hydrofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HFCs and HCFCs) are among them.

USGS scientists have recently developed a high-sensitivity technique to measure two of these compounds (HCFC-22 and HFC-134a) in groundwater and the unsaturated zone.

The investigators found that, contrary to many simpler laboratory studies, these compounds can be degraded by bacteria in the environment. Consequently, both classes of compound (HFCs and HCFCs) are not likely to be useful for dating groundwater. Since they are depleted in the unsaturated zone, this reduction implies a weak environmental sink (a few percent or less) that has not been previously discussed.

The study by USGS hydrologists Haase, Busenberg, Plummer, Casile, and Sanford has been published in the journal Chemical Geology.

Learn more

Professional paper

USGS Groundwater Dating Lab

USGS Groundwater Information

USGS Amps up Environmental DNA Research With New DNA Machine

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 11:26
Summary: GAINESVILLE, Fla.—The U.S. Geological Survey Southeast Ecological Science Center has acquired a state-of-the-art genetic analysis machine that will help advance environmental DNA research efforts. The use of environmental DNA, or eDNA, could assist resource managers nationwide conserve imperiled species and improve control efforts of invasive species.

Contact Information:

Margaret Hunter ( Phone: 352-264-3484 ); Kaitlin  Kovacs ( Phone: 352-264-3578 );



GAINESVILLE, Fla.—The U.S. Geological Survey Southeast Ecological Science Center has acquired a state-of-the-art genetic analysis machine that will help advance environmental DNA research efforts. The use of environmental DNA, or eDNA, could assist resource managers nationwide conserve imperiled species and improve control efforts of invasive species.

The new technology, a droplet digital PCR machine, is the first of its kind to be acquired by a USGS facility. The machine can detect a single molecule of DNA from an environmental sample and enhances output compared to traditional methods. From water samples, it is possible to detect rare species or those that are difficult to observe due to secretive behavior, camouflaged coloration, or a resemblance to other species. Species identification via the detection of eDNA can make the physical capture or sighting of the target species unnecessary.

“This new platform allows us to process samples efficiently and with greater precision. With just a few copies of genetic material from the aquatic environment, we can detect the presence of an animal that may not otherwise be seen,” commented USGS research geneticist Margaret Hunter, who leads the SESC Conservation Genetics Laboratory.

Environmental DNA comes from organisms shedding biological material into the aquatic environment via feces, mucus, saliva, or skin cells.  This material can be used to determine the presence of species, establish range limits, and estimate occupancy and detection probabilities to inform management actions. The environmental DNA exists for approximately 20 days before it degrades, allowing researchers to detect animals, such as pythons, manatees, or Grass Carp, as they move throughout the environment.  As compared to traditional laboratory techniques, ddPCR reduces time and laboratory costs, and uses more rigorous statistical analyses to determine the number of DNA copies in a sample. While both techniques can detect and count molecules of DNA, ddPCR has been shown to enhance accuracy and precision. 

To detect individual species, genetic researchers first design a species-specific genetic marker. Then filtered surface water samples are split into 20,000 PCR droplets, each containing the marker and, if present, a copy of the target species’ DNA. The droplets illuminate fluorescently if DNA of the targeted species is detected, with the number of illuminated droplets corresponding to the number of DNA molecules in the sample.  Assessing the 20,000 droplets for positive detection of the species takes approximately two minutes.

“This technology can provide resource managers invaluable assistance in detecting and defining the habitat of imperiled and invasive species,” Hunter said. “For example, using eDNA and ddPCR can help to better delineate the spread of Burmese pythons in south Florida. Or, the habitat used by imperiled or rare species, such as elusive West Indian manatees, could be defined for research and conservation efforts.”

For more information:

http://fl.biology.usgs.gov/genetics/index.html (SESC Genetics Website)

http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2012/3017/ (Fact Sheet: Using Genetic Research to Inform Imperiled and Invasive Species Management)

Update - USGS Lidar Base Specification Version 1.2

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 10:00
Summary: The US Geological Survey National Geospatial Program is pleased to announce a new version of the USGS Lidar Base Specification that defines deliverables for nationally consistent lidar data acquisitions

Contact Information:

Allyson Jason ( Phone: 703-648-4572 ); Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 );



Reference: Heidemann, Hans Karl, 2014, Lidar Base Specification (ver. 1.2, November 2014): U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods, book 11, chap. B4, 67 p. with appendixes.

The US Geological Survey National Geospatial Program is pleased to announce a new version of the USGS Lidar Base Specification that defines deliverables for nationally consistent lidar data acquisitions. The USGS Lidar Base Specification provides a common base specification for all lidar data acquired for the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) component of The National Map. The primary goal of 3DEP is to systematically collect nationwide 3D elevation data in an 8-year period.

“Because we are acquiring data nationally for 3DEP with many partners, we need to have a way to ensure all of our requirements are being met, while minimizing the potential for problems with interoperability between various disparate data collections,” said Jason Stoker, Elevation Product and Services Lead for the USGS National Geospatial Program. “The USGS Lidar Base Specification helps everyone understand exactly what data we need and exactly how we need it, so we can be as efficient as possible.  This new version incorporates many of the lessons we have learned since putting together version 1.0, and sets the stage for future quality 3DEP data collections.”

Originally released as a draft in 2010 and formally published in 2012, the USGS–NGP Lidar Base Specification Version 1.0 was quickly embraced as the foundation for numerous state, county, and foreign country lidar specifications. Lidar is a fast-evolving technology, and much has changed in the industry since the final draft of the Lidar Base Specification Version 1.0 was written.

Lidar data have improved in accuracy and spatial resolution, geospatial accuracy standards have been revised by the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS), industry standard file formats have been expanded, additional applications for lidar have become accepted, and the need for interoperable data across collections has been realized. This revision to the Lidar Base Specification, known as Version 1.2, addresses those changes and provides continued guidance towards a nationally consistent lidar dataset. 

Update - USGS Lidar Base Specification Version 1.2

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 10:00
Summary: The US Geological Survey National Geospatial Program is pleased to announce a new version of the USGS Lidar Base Specification that defines deliverables for nationally consistent lidar data acquisitions

Contact Information:

Allyson Jason ( Phone: 703-648-4572 ); Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 );



Reference: Heidemann, Hans Karl, 2014, Lidar Base Specification (ver. 1.2, November 2014): U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods, book 11, chap. B4, 67 p. with appendixes.

The US Geological Survey National Geospatial Program is pleased to announce a new version of the USGS Lidar Base Specification that defines deliverables for nationally consistent lidar data acquisitions. The USGS Lidar Base Specification provides a common base specification for all lidar data acquired for the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) component of The National Map. The primary goal of 3DEP is to systematically collect nationwide 3D elevation data in an 8-year period.

“Because we are acquiring data nationally for 3DEP with many partners, we need to have a way to ensure all of our requirements are being met, while minimizing the potential for problems with interoperability between various disparate data collections,” said Jason Stoker, Elevation Product and Services Lead for the USGS National Geospatial Program. “The USGS Lidar Base Specification helps everyone understand exactly what data we need and exactly how we need it, so we can be as efficient as possible.  This new version incorporates many of the lessons we have learned since putting together version 1.0, and sets the stage for future quality 3DEP data collections.”

Originally released as a draft in 2010 and formally published in 2012, the USGS–NGP Lidar Base Specification Version 1.0 was quickly embraced as the foundation for numerous state, county, and foreign country lidar specifications. Lidar is a fast-evolving technology, and much has changed in the industry since the final draft of the Lidar Base Specification Version 1.0 was written.

Lidar data have improved in accuracy and spatial resolution, geospatial accuracy standards have been revised by the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS), industry standard file formats have been expanded, additional applications for lidar have become accepted, and the need for interoperable data across collections has been realized. This revision to the Lidar Base Specification, known as Version 1.2, addresses those changes and provides continued guidance towards a nationally consistent lidar dataset. 

Review of Minimum and Maximum Conservation Buffer Distance Estimates for Greater Sage-Grouse and Land-Use Activities

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 10:00
Summary: The U.S. Geological Survey released a report today that compiles and summarizes published scientific studies that evaluate effective conservation buffer distances from human activities and infrastructure that influence greater sage-grouse populations

Contact Information:

A.B.  Wade ( Phone: 703-648-4483 ); Carol Schuler ( Phone: 541-750-1031 );



The full report is available online.

The U.S. Geological Survey released a report today that compiles and summarizes published scientific studies that evaluate effective conservation buffer distances from human activities and infrastructure that influence greater sage-grouse populations.

Greater sage-grouse conservation buffers are specified protective distances around greater sage-grouse communal breeding locations, known as leks.

The report, prepared at the request of the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, can help decision makers establish buffer distances for use in conservation measures for greater sage-grouse habitat.  BLM requested the report because across the 11-state range of the greater sage-grouse a wide variety of buffer distances and supporting scientific literature have been posed as appropriate for providing protections for the species.

“This report should help DOI and others as they make or refine decisions and implement conservation actions for this species,” said Carol Schuler, USGS senior science advisor for ecosystems.

USGS scientists reviewed, compiled and summarized the findings of numerous previously published USGS and non-USGS scientific studies that evaluated the influence of human activities and infrastructure on greater sage-grouse populations. The report is organized into six sections representing these different land uses or human activities typically found in land-use plans:

  • cumulative surface disturbances;
  • linear features such as active roads and highways and pipelines;
  • oil, gas, wind and solar energy development;
  • tall structures such as electrical, communication and meteorological towers;
  • low structures such as fences and buildings; and
  • activities that don’t involve habitat loss, such as noise and related disruptions. 

The buffer distances in the report reflect a radius around lek locations. Although lek sites are breeding habitats, the report’s authors emphasized that designating protective buffers around these area offer “a consistent and practical solution for identifying and conserving seasonal habitat requirements by greater sage-grouse throughout their life cycle.”

The authors noted that because of variation in populations, habitats, development patterns, social context, and other factors that for a particular disturbance type there is no single number that is an appropriate buffer distance for all populations and habitats across the greater sage-grouse range.

The buffer distance estimates in this report can be useful in developing conservation measures,” said Schuler, “but should be used in conjunction with conservation planning that considers other factors such as local and regional conditions, habitat quality, and the cumulative impact of a suite of conservation and management actions.”

The report shows lek buffer minimum and maximum distance estimates suggested in the scientific literature as well as possible minimum and maximum conservation buffer distances developed by the team of expert scientists who reviewed and synthesized the literature.

The scientific literature indicates that, in some populations, 90-95 percent of sage-grouse movements are within 5 miles (8 km) of lek sites, and that most females nest within about 3.1 miles (5 km) of the lek, suggesting considerable protection of sage-grouse could be achieved using protective measures within these generalized conservation buffer distances.  Consequently, the ranges USGS experts assessed for lower and upper buffer distance limits fall within the 3.1-5 mile radius of leks for surface disturbance, linear features, and energy development categories. The buffer distances suggested for the other 3 categories are smaller.

Greater sage-grouse occur in parts of 11 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces in western North America.  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.

Review of Minimum and Maximum Conservation Buffer Distance Estimates for Greater Sage-Grouse and Land-Use Activities

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 10:00
Summary: The U.S. Geological Survey released a report today that compiles and summarizes published scientific studies that evaluate effective conservation buffer distances from human activities and infrastructure that influence greater sage-grouse populations

Contact Information:

A.B.  Wade ( Phone: 703-648-4483 ); Carol Schuler ( Phone: 541-750-1031 );



The full report is available online.

The U.S. Geological Survey released a report today that compiles and summarizes published scientific studies that evaluate effective conservation buffer distances from human activities and infrastructure that influence greater sage-grouse populations.

Greater sage-grouse conservation buffers are specified protective distances around greater sage-grouse communal breeding locations, known as leks.

The report, prepared at the request of the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, can help decision makers establish buffer distances for use in conservation measures for greater sage-grouse habitat.  BLM requested the report because across the 11-state range of the greater sage-grouse a wide variety of buffer distances and supporting scientific literature have been posed as appropriate for providing protections for the species.

“This report should help DOI and others as they make or refine decisions and implement conservation actions for this species,” said Carol Schuler, USGS senior science advisor for ecosystems.

USGS scientists reviewed, compiled and summarized the findings of numerous previously published USGS and non-USGS scientific studies that evaluated the influence of human activities and infrastructure on greater sage-grouse populations. The report is organized into six sections representing these different land uses or human activities typically found in land-use plans:

  • cumulative surface disturbances;
  • linear features such as active roads and highways and pipelines;
  • oil, gas, wind and solar energy development;
  • tall structures such as electrical, communication and meteorological towers;
  • low structures such as fences and buildings; and
  • activities that don’t involve habitat loss, such as noise and related disruptions. 

The buffer distances in the report reflect a radius around lek locations. Although lek sites are breeding habitats, the report’s authors emphasized that designating protective buffers around these area offer “a consistent and practical solution for identifying and conserving seasonal habitat requirements by greater sage-grouse throughout their life cycle.”

The authors noted that because of variation in populations, habitats, development patterns, social context, and other factors that for a particular disturbance type there is no single number that is an appropriate buffer distance for all populations and habitats across the greater sage-grouse range.

The buffer distance estimates in this report can be useful in developing conservation measures,” said Schuler, “but should be used in conjunction with conservation planning that considers other factors such as local and regional conditions, habitat quality, and the cumulative impact of a suite of conservation and management actions.”

The report shows lek buffer minimum and maximum distance estimates suggested in the scientific literature as well as possible minimum and maximum conservation buffer distances developed by the team of expert scientists who reviewed and synthesized the literature.

The scientific literature indicates that, in some populations, 90-95 percent of sage-grouse movements are within 5 miles (8 km) of lek sites, and that most females nest within about 3.1 miles (5 km) of the lek, suggesting considerable protection of sage-grouse could be achieved using protective measures within these generalized conservation buffer distances.  Consequently, the ranges USGS experts assessed for lower and upper buffer distance limits fall within the 3.1-5 mile radius of leks for surface disturbance, linear features, and energy development categories. The buffer distances suggested for the other 3 categories are smaller.

Greater sage-grouse occur in parts of 11 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces in western North America.  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.

Building the Water Theme of the White House Climate Data Initiative

Thu, 11/06/2014 - 08:53
Summary: USGS science leaders are meeting with other federal agency scientists at the annual conference of the American Water Resources Association this week to consider critical issues that face the nation in regard to its water resources and how to best utilize the extensive information that is collected about those resources. 

Contact Information:

Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 );



USGS science leaders are meeting with other federal agency scientists at the annual conference of the American Water Resources Association this week to consider critical issues that face the nation in regard to its water resources and how to best utilize the extensive information that is collected about those resources. 

What are the overarching water challenges of the nation and what information is needed to address them? How can government water information be presented so that commercial firms can transform it into useful applications? How can structures such as the Federal Geographic Data Committee and the Advisory Committee on Water Information be used to define an appropriate architecture for Open Water Data sharing for the nation? Answers to these complex questions will contribute to focusing the Water theme of the Climate Data Initiative. 

Announced by President Obama in March 2014, the Climate Data Initiative is a broad effort to leverage the federal government’s extensive, freely available data resources relevant to climate to stimulate innovation and private-sector entrepreneurship in support of national climate change preparedness. The Water theme is one of seven themes under the topic of climate on data.gov—the federal government’s source of open data.

Resources are drawn from across the U.S. federal government and can be used to help understand:

  • How the human and natural components of the water cycle are changing.
  • How communities and water managers can plan for uncertain future conditions relating to water.

"USGS science has contributed to more than 40 water and climate datasets within the Initiative, extending the range of software tools available to help analyze and assess impacts of a changing climate on the water cycle,” said Jerad Bales, USGS Chief Scientist for Water. “These tools provide specialists with convenient data-access capabilities, water data software tools, and analysis methods for data and related information."

The U.S. government has made records of streamflow, groundwater levels, and water quality available for more than a century, and estimated water use since 1950. These data and information resources are vital to building resilience across our water resources in a changing climate.

"The information from the datasets will help water managers make informed decision about their water resources," said Bales.

Datasets include the USGS National Water Information System, which is the leading source of high frequency streamflow, water quality, groundwater, and water use data for the Nation. It features water-resources data collected by USGS at approximately 1.5 million sites in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Another key resource is the NOAA National Climatic Data Center’s holdings of historical precipitation and other climate drivers relevant to the water cycle.

Additionally, base map data such as the USGS National Hydrography Dataset and 3D Elevation Program, land cover, soils, and others are provided along with models such as the NASA North American Land Data Assimilation System, which estimates soil moisture and other water variables.

Other themes included within the Climate Data Initiative are Coastal Flooding, Energy, Ecosystem, Health, Food Resilience, and Transportation.

To date, the Administration’s Climate Data Initiative has engaged a range of private, philanthropic and academic partners to make commitments to mobilizing climate data for action, including Google, Intel, Coca-Cola, IBM, Walmart, Microsoft, the World Bank, Rockefeller Foundation, and many others.

 

Building the Water Theme of the White House Climate Data Initiative

Thu, 11/06/2014 - 08:53
Summary: USGS science leaders are meeting with other federal agency scientists at the annual conference of the American Water Resources Association this week to consider critical issues that face the nation in regard to its water resources and how to best utilize the extensive information that is collected about those resources. 

Contact Information:

Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 );



USGS science leaders are meeting with other federal agency scientists at the annual conference of the American Water Resources Association this week to consider critical issues that face the nation in regard to its water resources and how to best utilize the extensive information that is collected about those resources. 

What are the overarching water challenges of the nation and what information is needed to address them? How can government water information be presented so that commercial firms can transform it into useful applications? How can structures such as the Federal Geographic Data Committee and the Advisory Committee on Water Information be used to define an appropriate architecture for Open Water Data sharing for the nation? Answers to these complex questions will contribute to focusing the Water theme of the Climate Data Initiative. 

Announced by President Obama in March 2014, the Climate Data Initiative is a broad effort to leverage the federal government’s extensive, freely available data resources relevant to climate to stimulate innovation and private-sector entrepreneurship in support of national climate change preparedness. The Water theme is one of seven themes under the topic of climate on data.gov—the federal government’s source of open data.

Resources are drawn from across the U.S. federal government and can be used to help understand:

  • How the human and natural components of the water cycle are changing.
  • How communities and water managers can plan for uncertain future conditions relating to water.

"USGS science has contributed to more than 40 water and climate datasets within the Initiative, extending the range of software tools available to help analyze and assess impacts of a changing climate on the water cycle,” said Jerad Bales, USGS Chief Scientist for Water. “These tools provide specialists with convenient data-access capabilities, water data software tools, and analysis methods for data and related information."

The U.S. government has made records of streamflow, groundwater levels, and water quality available for more than a century, and estimated water use since 1950. These data and information resources are vital to building resilience across our water resources in a changing climate.

"The information from the datasets will help water managers make informed decision about their water resources," said Bales.

Datasets include the USGS National Water Information System, which is the leading source of high frequency streamflow, water quality, groundwater, and water use data for the Nation. It features water-resources data collected by USGS at approximately 1.5 million sites in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Another key resource is the NOAA National Climatic Data Center’s holdings of historical precipitation and other climate drivers relevant to the water cycle.

Additionally, base map data such as the USGS National Hydrography Dataset and 3D Elevation Program, land cover, soils, and others are provided along with models such as the NASA North American Land Data Assimilation System, which estimates soil moisture and other water variables.

Other themes included within the Climate Data Initiative are Coastal Flooding, Energy, Ecosystem, Health, Food Resilience, and Transportation.

To date, the Administration’s Climate Data Initiative has engaged a range of private, philanthropic and academic partners to make commitments to mobilizing climate data for action, including Google, Intel, Coca-Cola, IBM, Walmart, Microsoft, the World Bank, Rockefeller Foundation, and many others.

 

Tracking the Nitrate Pulse to the Gulf of Mexico

Tue, 11/04/2014 - 11:36
Summary: A new USGS report describes how advanced optical sensor technology is being used in the Mississippi River basin to accurately track the nitrate pulse to the Gulf of Mexico.

Contact Information:

Ethan Alpern ( Phone: 703-648-4406 );



A new USGS report describes how advanced optical sensor technology is being used in the Mississippi River basin to accurately track the nitrate pulse to the Gulf of Mexico.

Excessive springtime nitrate runoff from agricultural land and other sources in the Mississippi drainage flows into the Mississippi River and downstream to the Gulf of Mexico. This excess nitrate contributes to the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone, an area with low oxygen known commonly as the "dead zone." NOAA-supported researchers reported that the summer 2014 dead zone covered about 5,052 square miles, an area the size of Connecticut.

The USGS is using the new sensor technology to collect nitrate concentration data every hour to improve the accuracy of nitrate load estimates to the Gulf of Mexico. The data can also be used to make it easier to detect changes in nitrate levels related to basin management and to track progress toward the goal of reducing the size of the dead zone.

“High frequency data from these sensors has revealed considerable variability in nitrate concentrations in small rivers and streams,” said Brian Pellerin, USGS researcher. “However, we were surprised to see nitrate concentrations vary by as much as 20 percent in a week in a river as large as the Mississippi River without similar changes in streamflows.”

These rapid changes are very easy to miss with traditional water-quality monitoring approaches. However, hourly information on nitrate levels improves the accuracy and reduces the uncertainty in estimating nitrate loads to the Gulf of Mexico, especially during drought and flood years.

This high frequency data also provides new insights into timing and magnitude of nitrate flushing from soils during wet and dry conditions. For instance, the high frequency data revealed high nitrate concentrations during the spring and early summer of both 2013 and 2014 following the drought of 2012.

Nitrate sensors on small streams and large rivers throughout the Mississippi River basin are improving our ability track where the pulses are coming from and forecast when they will arrive at the Gulf.

The USGS, in cooperation with numerous local, state, and other federal agencies, currently operates over 100 real-time nitrate sensors across the Nation. Real-time nitrate monitoring is supported by the USGS National Stream Quality Accounting NetworkCooperative Water Program, and the National Water-Quality Assessment Program.

The USGS also continuously monitors water levels and streamflows at thousands of the nation's streams on a real-time basis. These data are available at USGS Current Streamflow Conditions.

Tracking the Nitrate Pulse to the Gulf of Mexico

Tue, 11/04/2014 - 11:36
Summary: A new USGS report describes how advanced optical sensor technology is being used in the Mississippi River basin to accurately track the nitrate pulse to the Gulf of Mexico.

Contact Information:

Ethan Alpern ( Phone: 703-648-4406 );



A new USGS report describes how advanced optical sensor technology is being used in the Mississippi River basin to accurately track the nitrate pulse to the Gulf of Mexico.

Excessive springtime nitrate runoff from agricultural land and other sources in the Mississippi drainage flows into the Mississippi River and downstream to the Gulf of Mexico. This excess nitrate contributes to the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone, an area with low oxygen known commonly as the "dead zone." NOAA-supported researchers reported that the summer 2014 dead zone covered about 5,052 square miles, an area the size of Connecticut.

The USGS is using the new sensor technology to collect nitrate concentration data every hour to improve the accuracy of nitrate load estimates to the Gulf of Mexico. The data can also be used to make it easier to detect changes in nitrate levels related to basin management and to track progress toward the goal of reducing the size of the dead zone.

“High frequency data from these sensors has revealed considerable variability in nitrate concentrations in small rivers and streams,” said Brian Pellerin, USGS researcher. “However, we were surprised to see nitrate concentrations vary by as much as 20 percent in a week in a river as large as the Mississippi River without similar changes in streamflows.”

These rapid changes are very easy to miss with traditional water-quality monitoring approaches. However, hourly information on nitrate levels improves the accuracy and reduces the uncertainty in estimating nitrate loads to the Gulf of Mexico, especially during drought and flood years.

This high frequency data also provides new insights into timing and magnitude of nitrate flushing from soils during wet and dry conditions. For instance, the high frequency data revealed high nitrate concentrations during the spring and early summer of both 2013 and 2014 following the drought of 2012.

Nitrate sensors on small streams and large rivers throughout the Mississippi River basin are improving our ability track where the pulses are coming from and forecast when they will arrive at the Gulf.

The USGS, in cooperation with numerous local, state, and other federal agencies, currently operates over 100 real-time nitrate sensors across the Nation. Real-time nitrate monitoring is supported by the USGS National Stream Quality Accounting NetworkCooperative Water Program, and the National Water-Quality Assessment Program.

The USGS also continuously monitors water levels and streamflows at thousands of the nation's streams on a real-time basis. These data are available at USGS Current Streamflow Conditions.

Subsidence in Southern Colorado Linked to Gas Production and Earthquakes

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 11:00
Summary: New radar observations show significant ground subsidence near the Colorado-New Mexico border in the area where a magnitude 5.3 earthquake struck in August, 2011. The analysis supports the idea that earthquakes in this region may be triggered by waste-water disposal.

Contact Information:

Heidi  Koontz ( Phone: 303-202-4763 );



New radar observations show significant ground subsidence near the Colorado-New Mexico border in the area where a magnitude 5.3 earthquake struck in August, 2011. The analysis supports the idea that earthquakes in this region may be triggered by waste-water disposal.

In a recent study published in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey used satellite radar observations (interferometric synthetic aperture radar, or InSAR) to show that there is significant vertical deformation, or ground subsidence, in the Raton Basin, likely caused by methane and water withdrawal from coal beds. Also, there is no evidence for shallow volcanic activity throughout the observation period.

Alternatively, the August, 2011, earthquake occurred close to several wastewater disposal wells during times when injection was occurring. Aspects of the earthquake rupture, including the location of slip, the style of faulting and the statistics of the 2011 earthquake aftershock sequence, suggest that the earthquake was likely caused by a slip on a naturally stressed fault that was triggered by the fluid disposal.

The InSAR analysis provides a new method of looking at earthquake location and dimensions, allowing USGS and other scientists to further explore relationships between fluid extraction and injection, induced seismicity, local geology and hydrological systems. The satellite data also provide a check on the seismological observations that are most commonly used to analyze induced seismicity, and allow scientists to explore deformation that does not produce seismic signals.

Subsidence in Southern Colorado Linked to Gas Production and Earthquakes

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 11:00
Summary: New radar observations show significant ground subsidence near the Colorado-New Mexico border in the area where a magnitude 5.3 earthquake struck in August, 2011. The analysis supports the idea that earthquakes in this region may be triggered by waste-water disposal.

Contact Information:

Heidi  Koontz ( Phone: 303-202-4763 );



New radar observations show significant ground subsidence near the Colorado-New Mexico border in the area where a magnitude 5.3 earthquake struck in August, 2011. The analysis supports the idea that earthquakes in this region may be triggered by waste-water disposal.

In a recent study published in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey used satellite radar observations (interferometric synthetic aperture radar, or InSAR) to show that there is significant vertical deformation, or ground subsidence, in the Raton Basin, likely caused by methane and water withdrawal from coal beds. Also, there is no evidence for shallow volcanic activity throughout the observation period.

Alternatively, the August, 2011, earthquake occurred close to several wastewater disposal wells during times when injection was occurring. Aspects of the earthquake rupture, including the location of slip, the style of faulting and the statistics of the 2011 earthquake aftershock sequence, suggest that the earthquake was likely caused by a slip on a naturally stressed fault that was triggered by the fluid disposal.

The InSAR analysis provides a new method of looking at earthquake location and dimensions, allowing USGS and other scientists to further explore relationships between fluid extraction and injection, induced seismicity, local geology and hydrological systems. The satellite data also provide a check on the seismological observations that are most commonly used to analyze induced seismicity, and allow scientists to explore deformation that does not produce seismic signals.

USGS Announces Grants for Water Studies

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 07:57
Summary: The U.S. Geological Survey recently awarded nearly $1 million to four university programs across the country, through the National Competitive Grants Program.

Contact Information:

Ethan Alpern ( Phone: 703-648-4406 ); Earl Greene ( Phone: 443-498-5505 );



The U.S. Geological Survey recently awarded nearly $1 million to four university programs across the country, through the National Competitive Grants Program.

Proposals from Purdue University, University of Iowa, University of Maryland, and the University of Nebraska won the grants this year.

Purdue University’s project will address the need to improve the nation’s water supply through the evaluation of what factors limit adoption of urban stormwater conservation practices. The project goal is to improve water quality planning and implementation management practices.

The University of Iowa will develop statistical models to describe the relationship between inland flooding and North Atlantic tropical storms. This knowledge is instrumental in identifying and characterizing areas at risk from flooding and for developing a model to determine economic impacts of such events.

University of Maryland’s objective is to characterize the number and concentration of gestagens in tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay and to document the exposure effects of gestagens on the reproductive health of the fathead minnow. Because fish are key indicators of the effects of steroid hormones and other emerging contaminants in water, they can reveal critical insights for understanding the quality of the Nation’s water supply.

University of Nebraska’s research will develop models to predict how soluble uranium is transported and how it can be remediated or reduced. Soluble uranium is a recognized contaminant in public ground water supplies in various regions throughout the United States. It can appear in drinking water in both urban and rural communities, which has led to human health concerns including kidney failure and cancer risk. How this occurs is poorly documented.

The goals of the National Competitive Grants program are to promote collaboration between USGS and university scientists in research on significant national and regional water resources issues; promote the dissemination and results of the research funded under this program; and assist in the training of scientists in water resources.

The federal funding for this program is required to be matched with non-federal dollars each year. Any investigator at an accredited institution of higher learning in the United States is eligible to apply for a grant through a Water Research Institute or Center established under the provisions of the Water Resources Research Act of 1984.

USGS Announces Grants for Water Studies

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 07:57
Summary: The U.S. Geological Survey recently awarded nearly $1 million to four university programs across the country, through the National Competitive Grants Program.

Contact Information:

Ethan Alpern ( Phone: 703-648-4406 ); Earl Greene ( Phone: 443-498-5505 );



The U.S. Geological Survey recently awarded nearly $1 million to four university programs across the country, through the National Competitive Grants Program.

Proposals from Purdue University, University of Iowa, University of Maryland, and the University of Nebraska won the grants this year.

Purdue University’s project will address the need to improve the nation’s water supply through the evaluation of what factors limit adoption of urban stormwater conservation practices. The project goal is to improve water quality planning and implementation management practices.

The University of Iowa will develop statistical models to describe the relationship between inland flooding and North Atlantic tropical storms. This knowledge is instrumental in identifying and characterizing areas at risk from flooding and for developing a model to determine economic impacts of such events.

University of Maryland’s objective is to characterize the number and concentration of gestagens in tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay and to document the exposure effects of gestagens on the reproductive health of the fathead minnow. Because fish are key indicators of the effects of steroid hormones and other emerging contaminants in water, they can reveal critical insights for understanding the quality of the Nation’s water supply.

University of Nebraska’s research will develop models to predict how soluble uranium is transported and how it can be remediated or reduced. Soluble uranium is a recognized contaminant in public ground water supplies in various regions throughout the United States. It can appear in drinking water in both urban and rural communities, which has led to human health concerns including kidney failure and cancer risk. How this occurs is poorly documented.

The goals of the National Competitive Grants program are to promote collaboration between USGS and university scientists in research on significant national and regional water resources issues; promote the dissemination and results of the research funded under this program; and assist in the training of scientists in water resources.

The federal funding for this program is required to be matched with non-federal dollars each year. Any investigator at an accredited institution of higher learning in the United States is eligible to apply for a grant through a Water Research Institute or Center established under the provisions of the Water Resources Research Act of 1984.

National Scale Assessment of Mercury Contamination in Streams

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 12:07
Summary: A new USGS report presents a comprehensive assessment of mercury contamination in streams across the United States. It highlights the importance of environmental processes, monitoring, and control strategies for understanding and reducing stream mercury levels.

Contact Information:

Mark Brigham ( Phone: 763-783-3274 ); Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 );



A new USGS report presents a comprehensive assessment of mercury contamination in streams across the United States. It highlights the importance of environmental processes, monitoring, and control strategies for understanding and reducing stream mercury levels.

Methylmercury concentrations in fish exceed the human health criterion in about one in four U.S. streams.  

Mercury contamination of fish is the primary cause of fish consumption advisories, which currently exist in every state in the nation. Mercury can travel long distances in the atmosphere and be deposited in watersheds, thus contaminating fish even in areas with no obvious source of mercury pollution.

“Understanding the source of mercury, and how mercury is transported and transformed within stream ecosystems, can help water resource managers identify which watersheds are most vulnerable to mercury contamination. They can then prioritize monitoring and management actions,” said William Werkheiser, USGS Associate Director for Water.

Some of the highest fish mercury levels were found in southeastern U.S. streams draining forested watersheds containing abundant wetlands.

Wetlands provide ideal conditions for atmospherically deposited mercury to be converted to methlymercury — which enters the aquatic food web and ultimately bioaccumulates in fish, especially top predator game fish such as largemouth bass. Thus, wetland construction or restoration (for example, to improve habitat or to filter nutrients and sediment) should balance the potential for increased methylmercury production against the anticipated ecological and water-quality benefits of the wetlands.

Elevated mercury levels also were noted in areas of the western U.S. affected by historical gold and mercury mining.

Fish mercury levels were lowest in urban streams, despite an abundance of sources of inorganic mercury. This occurs because urban streams lack conditions, such as wetlands, that are conducive to production and bioaccumulation of methylmercury.

In contrast to other environmental contaminants, mercury emission reduction strategies need to consider global mercury sources in addition to domestic sources. Reductions in domestic mercury emissions are likely to result in lower mercury levels in fish in the eastern U.S., where domestic emissions contribute a large portion of atmospherically deposited mercury. In contrast, emission controls will provide smaller benefits in the western U.S., where reduced domestic emissions may be offset by increased emissions from Asia.

Atmospheric mercury emissions from municipal and medical waste incineration, metallurgical processes, and other sources have been reduced in the U.S. by more than 60 percent since 1990. Mercury concentrations in lake sediment, fish tissue, and precipitation have decreased in some areas of the U.S. during recent decades, coincident with mercury reduction legislation. The development of a national monitoring approach will be critical to track the effectiveness of future management actions.

A complete description of the mercury study by the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program is available online. Additional information on USGS mercury research is also available online.

National Scale Assessment of Mercury Contamination in Streams

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 12:07
Summary: A new USGS report presents a comprehensive assessment of mercury contamination in streams across the United States. It highlights the importance of environmental processes, monitoring, and control strategies for understanding and reducing stream mercury levels.

Contact Information:

Mark Brigham ( Phone: 763-783-3274 ); Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 );



A new USGS report presents a comprehensive assessment of mercury contamination in streams across the United States. It highlights the importance of environmental processes, monitoring, and control strategies for understanding and reducing stream mercury levels.

Methylmercury concentrations in fish exceed the human health criterion in about one in four U.S. streams.  

Mercury contamination of fish is the primary cause of fish consumption advisories, which currently exist in every state in the nation. Mercury can travel long distances in the atmosphere and be deposited in watersheds, thus contaminating fish even in areas with no obvious source of mercury pollution.

“Understanding the source of mercury, and how mercury is transported and transformed within stream ecosystems, can help water resource managers identify which watersheds are most vulnerable to mercury contamination. They can then prioritize monitoring and management actions,” said William Werkheiser, USGS Associate Director for Water.

Some of the highest fish mercury levels were found in southeastern U.S. streams draining forested watersheds containing abundant wetlands.

Wetlands provide ideal conditions for atmospherically deposited mercury to be converted to methlymercury — which enters the aquatic food web and ultimately bioaccumulates in fish, especially top predator game fish such as largemouth bass. Thus, wetland construction or restoration (for example, to improve habitat or to filter nutrients and sediment) should balance the potential for increased methylmercury production against the anticipated ecological and water-quality benefits of the wetlands.

Elevated mercury levels also were noted in areas of the western U.S. affected by historical gold and mercury mining.

Fish mercury levels were lowest in urban streams, despite an abundance of sources of inorganic mercury. This occurs because urban streams lack conditions, such as wetlands, that are conducive to production and bioaccumulation of methylmercury.

In contrast to other environmental contaminants, mercury emission reduction strategies need to consider global mercury sources in addition to domestic sources. Reductions in domestic mercury emissions are likely to result in lower mercury levels in fish in the eastern U.S., where domestic emissions contribute a large portion of atmospherically deposited mercury. In contrast, emission controls will provide smaller benefits in the western U.S., where reduced domestic emissions may be offset by increased emissions from Asia.

Atmospheric mercury emissions from municipal and medical waste incineration, metallurgical processes, and other sources have been reduced in the U.S. by more than 60 percent since 1990. Mercury concentrations in lake sediment, fish tissue, and precipitation have decreased in some areas of the U.S. during recent decades, coincident with mercury reduction legislation. The development of a national monitoring approach will be critical to track the effectiveness of future management actions.

A complete description of the mercury study by the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program is available online. Additional information on USGS mercury research is also available online.