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Technical Announcements
Updated: 4 hours 46 min ago

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.

 

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.

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.

Promising Tools Assess Presence of Chytrid Fungus in Amphibian Habitats

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 12:00
Summary: Amphibians, including threatened and endangered species like the Oregon Spotted Frog, may benefit from a recent study that highlights the use of promising tools that can assess the risk of disease exposure

Contact Information:

Tara Chestnut ( Phone: 503-251-3283 ); Paul Laustsen ( Phone: 650-329-4046 );



PORTLAND, Ore. — Amphibians, including threatened and endangered species like the Oregon Spotted Frog, may benefit from a recent study that highlights the use of promising tools that can assess the risk of disease exposure. With global biodiversity decreasing, it has become important for scientists to find new and innovative tools to quickly assess how environmental hazards affect wildlife, especially those that are threatened or endangered.

“By sampling water for amphibian chytrid fungus, rather than sampling amphibians directly, we can detect the pathogen with as few as four samples,” says U.S. Geological Survey researcher Tara Chestnut.

This information is vital to researchers and resource managers, alike, by providing early detection of potential problems that may require immediate conservation efforts or further detailed investigation. Of all species, amphibians (e.g. frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts) appear especially vulnerable to environmental hazards, with up to 41 percent considered threatened worldwide. One potentially lethal threat is the chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. The amphibian chytrid fungus causes the disease chytridiomycosis, which is linked to many of the observed amphibian population declines and extinctions globally.

For this study, scientists coupled sophisticated molecular tools with advanced statistics to evaluate whether the amphibian chytrid fungus occupied ponds and wetlands. First, they used DNA extracted from water samples to test for the presence and abundance of the amphibian chytrid fungus. Then they used an occupancy modeling method to estimate the chance of a false-negative result, or the likelihood of not detecting the pathogen when it was actually present. The study found chytrid fungus in approximately 61 percent of sampled ponds and wetlands. The fungus was present year round at the long-term monitoring site, but its density was highest in the spring. Beside seasonal variability, elevation also played a role in the presence of the fungus. Chytrid fungus was more common in amphibian breeding habitats at lower elevations than those habitats at higher elevations.

Among the benefits of these tools, scientists have been able to improve survey protocols, which increases the chances of detecting the amphibian chytrid fungus in the environment, while reducing the risk of a false-negative. More importantly, these tools are not limited to only studying the amphibian chytrid fungus. These same methods can be modified to quickly and applied to other aquatic diseases that pose risks to the health of wildlife and humans alike.

“When we study the ecology of pathogens by sampling the environment, conservation efforts can be more informed and focused to meet the management goals and objectives for threatened and endangered species, and common species,” says Chesnut.

The study was published in the journal PLOS One.

Pharmaceuticals from Treated Municipal Wastewater Can Contaminate Shallow Groundwater Following Release to Streams

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 10:00
Summary: Pharmaceuticals and other contaminants from treated municipal wastewater can travel into shallow groundwater following their release to streams, according to a recent USGS study

Contact Information:

Alex Demas ( Phone: 703-648-4421 ); Dana Kolpin ( Phone: 319-358-3614 );



Pharmaceuticals and other contaminants from treated municipal wastewater can travel into shallow groundwater following their release to streams, according to a recent USGS study. The research was conducted at Fourmile Creek, a small, wastewater-dominated stream near Des Moines, Iowa.

 “Water level measurements obtained during this study clearly show that stream levels drive daily trends in groundwater levels. Combined with the detection of pharmaceuticals in groundwater collected several meters away from the stream, these results demonstrate that addition of wastewater to this stream results in unintentional, directed transport of pharmaceuticals into shallow groundwater,” said Paul Bradley, the study’s lead author.

Samples for the study were taken from Fourmile Creek during the months of October and December of 2012. In October, the wastewater made up about 99 percent of the stream’s flow, whereas in December, the wastewater made up about 71 percent of the stream’s flow. During both months, Fourmile Creek experienced persistent dry conditions.

Pharmaceuticals and other wastewater contaminants are most likely to contaminate adjacent shallow groundwater systems during dry conditions when wastewater contributes the greatest proportion to streamflow.

The samples from the stream and groundwater were analyzed for 110 pharmaceutical compounds, as well as other chemicals like personal care products and hormones. These compounds are able to move into the groundwater systems because they remain dissolved in the water, rather than attaching themselves to the sediments that filter other chemicals out of the water as it moves from the stream into adjacent groundwater. There were no sources of these pharmaceuticals to groundwater in the study reach other than municipal wastewater in the stream.

This study found that 48 and 61 different pharmaceuticals were present in the stream downstream of the wastewater discharge point during the two periods of study, with concentrations as high as 7,810 parts-per-trillion (specifically the chemical metformin, an anti-diabetic pharmaceutical). Correspondingly, between 7 and 18 pharmaceuticals were present in groundwater at a distance of about 65 feet (20 meters) from the stream bank, with concentrations as high as 87 parts-per-trillion (specifically fexofenadine, an antihistamine pharmaceutical).  

“This research has important implications for the application of bank filtration for indirect water reuse,” said Bradley. Bank filtration is the engineered movement of water between surface water bodies and wells located a short distance away on the streambank. Bank filtration is routinely used to pretreat surface-water for drinking water supply (raw surface water moves from the stream to a shallow groundwater extraction well), or as a final polishing step for the release of treated wastewater (treated wastewater moves from infiltration wells or lagoons through the bank to the stream).

This study is part of a long-term effort to determine the fate and effects of contaminants of emerging concern and to provide water-resource managers with objective information that assists in the development of effective water management practices. 

The paper is entitled “Riverbank filtration potential of pharmaceuticals in a wastewater-impacted stream” and has been published in Environmental Pollution. More information on this study and other studies on contaminants of emerging concern can be found here. To learn more about USGS environmental health science, please visit the USGS Environmental Health website and sign up for our GeoHealth Newsletter or our Environmental Health Headlines.

Sampling and Monitoring for the Mine Life Cycle Handbook Now Available

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 15:31
Summary: The sixth of a series of handbooks on technologies for management of metal mining influenced water is now available online from the Society of Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration Inc

Contact Information:

Heidi  Koontz ( Phone: 303-202-4763 ); Kathy Smith ( Phone: 303-236-5788 );



The sixth of a series of handbooks on technologies for management of metal mining influenced water is now available online from the Society of Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration Inc.

“This volume was prepared through the Acid Drainage Technology Initiative–Metal Mining Sector (ADTI-MMS), which includes USGS mine drainage expertise, other federal and state agencies, industry, and academia, to develop a handbook with an approach for environmental sampling and characterization throughout the mine life cycle,” said Kathy Smith, U.S. Geological Survey research geologist and co-editor of the new publication. 

This handbook supplements and enhances current environmental mine sampling and monitoring literature and provides an awareness of the specialized approach necessary for environmental sampling and monitoring at mining sites. It differs from most information sources by providing an approach to address mining influenced water and other sampling media throughout the mine life cycle. 

Sampling and Monitoring for the Mine Life Cycle is organized into a main text and six appendices, including an appendix containing technical summaries written by subject-matter experts that describes various analytical, measurement and collection procedures. Sidebars and illustrations are included to provide additional detail about important concepts, to present examples and brief case studies and to suggest resources for further information. Extensive references are included. 

For more information about USGS minerals research, please visit the website.

200 Years of Magma at Kīlauea Volcano Described in New Book

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 15:00
Summary: A new book that summarizes the Kīlauea magma system is now available online, with printed copies to follow soon

Contact Information:

Thomas Wright ( Phone: 301-365-2287 );



Professional Paper 1806: Two Hundred Years of Magma Transport and Storage at Kīlauea Volcano, Hawaiʻi, 1790–2008

ISLAND OF HAWAIʻI, Hawaiʻi — A new book that summarizes the Kīlauea magma system is now available online, with printed copies to follow soon.  The U.S. Geological Survey monograph summarizes the evolution of the internal plumbing of Kīlauea Volcano on the Island of Hawaiʻi from the first documented eruption in 1790 to the explosive eruption of March 2008 in Halemaʻumaʻu Crater. 

For the period before the founding of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory in 1912, the authors rely on written observations of eruptive activity, earthquake swarms, and periodic draining of magma from the lava lake present in Kīlauea Caldera by missionaries and visiting scientists. After 1912 the written observations were supplemented by continuous measurement of tilting of the ground at Kīlauea’s summit and by a continuous instrumental record of earthquakes, both measurements made during 1912–56 by a single pendulum seismometer housed on the northeast edge of Kīlauea’s summit. Scientific interpretations become more robust following the installation of seismic and deformation networks in the 1960s. A major advance in the 1990s was the ability to continuously record and telemeter ground deformation to allow its precise correlation with seismic activity before and after eruptions, intrusions, and large earthquakes.

In Kīlauea’s 200-year history, USGS scientists and authors of the new volume, Thomas Wright and Fred Klein, identify three regions of the volcano in which magma is stored and supplied from below. Source 1 is at 1-km depth or less beneath Kīlauea’s summit and fed Kīlauea’s summit lava lakes throughout most of the 19th century and again from 1907 to 1924. Source 1 was used up in the series of small Halemaʻumaʻu eruptions following the end of lava-lake activity in the summit collapse of 1924. Source 2 is the magma reservoir at a depth of 2–6 km beneath Kīlauea’s summit that has been imaged by seismic and deformation measurements beginning in the 1960s. This source was first identified in the summit collapses of 1922 and 1924. Source 3 is a diffuse volume of magma-permeated rock between 5 and 11 km depth beneath the east rift zone and above the near-horizontal fault at the base of the Kīlauea edifice. 

Kīlauea’s history can be considered in cycles of equilibrium, crisis, and recovery. The approach of a crisis is driven by a magma supply rate that greatly exceeds the capacity of the plumbing to deliver magma to the surface. Crises can be anticipated by inflation measured at Kīlauea’s summit coupled with an increase in overall seismicity, particularly manifest by intrusion and eruption in the southwest sector of the volcano. Unfortunately the nature of the crisis—for example, a large earthquake, new eruption, or edifice-changing intrusion—cannot be specified ahead of time. The authors conclude that Kīlauea’s cycles are controlled by nonlinear dynamics, which underscores the difficulty in predicting eruptions and earthquakes.

Highlights of interpretations for the period prior to 1952 are:

• Prior to and including 1924, major subsidence events include draining of the deep magma system identified beneath Kīlauea’s East Rift Zone. 1924 is the last such occurrence.

• A massive intrusion on the lower east rift zone preceding the 1924 phreatic activity at Kīlauea’s summit stabilized the south flank and the present magmatic system.

• The 1952 eruption was preceded by deep earthquakes associated with the magma supply path from the mantle resulting in the beginning of a steady increase in magma supply rate extending to 2008.  A large earthquake swarm on the offshore part of Kīlauea’s south flank in the months before the 1952 eruption ushered in the modern era of seaward spreading.

Interpretations in the post-1952 period are based on connecting events over a far longer time period than the duration of any one person’s tenure on the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory staff.

Highlights are:

• Kīlauea’s shallow magma system is envisioned as a small molten core surrounded by a partially molten matrix able to record both short- and long-period seismicity.

• Magma coming from the mantle enters the rift zone before it reaches the molten core and appears in rift eruptions before it is seen as a summit eruption.

• Earthquake swarms beneath Kīlauea’s south flank precede as well as succeed shallow intrusions, supporting the modern idea of deep magma pressure being exerted from beneath the East Rift Zone.

• Prior to the M7 south flank earthquake on November 29, 1975 south flank spreading was driven by Kīlauea’s magma supply. Following the earthquake the spreading rate was decoupled from the still increasing magma supply rate.

• The seismic signatures of “suspected deep intrusions” in the monograph are equated with similar signatures that characterize “slow-slip” or “silent” earthquakes. The occurrence of such events is inferred to extend as far back as the 1960s well before continuous geodetic monitoring could identify correlated spreading steps.

• Major changes in Kīlauea’s behavior, such as ends of long eruptions, large south flank earthquakes or changes in eruptive style are anticipated by increased seismic activity on the southwest side of the volcano. The nature of the coming event is not specified, which emphasizes the uncertainties in eruption and earthquake forecasting, even in an increasingly well-monitored, but yet imperfectly understood volcano.

Citation: Wright, T.L., and Klein, F.W., 2014, “Two hundred years of magma transport and storage at Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai'i, 1790-2008,” U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1806, 240 p., plus 8 digital appendixes.

Appendices include yearly time-series seismic plots and map plots for all intrusion-related earthquake swarms covered in the text. Earthquakes are color-coded to indicate those preceding, during, and following the intrusion.

Endocrine Disruption May Make Fish More Prone to Disease

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 07:57
Summary: New USGS-led research suggests that fish exposed to estrogenic endocrine-disrupting chemicals may have increased susceptibility to infectious disease

Contact Information:

Luke  Iwanowicz ( Phone: 304-724-4550 ); Hannah Hamilton ( Phone: 703-648-4356 );



LEETOWN, W.Va. -- New USGS-led research suggests that fish exposed to estrogenic endocrine-disrupting chemicals may have increased susceptibility to infectious disease.

Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals can affect the reproductive system and cause the development of characteristics of the opposite sex, such as eggs in the testes of male fish. Wild- caught fish affected by endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been found in locations across the county.  Estrogenic endocrine-disrupting chemicals are derived from a variety of sources from natural estrogens to synthetic pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals that enter the waterways.

In this study, researchers discovered that cellular receptors for estrogen were present in cells of the channel catfish immune system, which alters the immune system response. These cellular receptors are similar to “on-off switches” that require a lock and key for activation. The study looked at channel catfish because of their well-researched leukocyte cell lines. Leukocytes are immune system cells involved in defending the body against infectious disease and foreign invaders.

Estrogens have been shown to modify immune system responses in mammals and a diverse group of ray-finned fishes that include tunas, halibut, herring and catfish. Most fish species are members of this group, called teleosts. Prior to this research few studies looked at how estrogen receptors in fish leukocytes function. 

The study also marks the first time the dynamics of estrogen receptor gene behavior has been evaluated in activated immune cells. Immune cells are either activated or not, much like a dimmable light, there are degrees of activation.   The researchers found that all cells of the immune system are not likely to be equally affected. 

“We found that B-cells that produce antibodies, T-cells that regulate and coordinate immune responses and destroy virus-infected cells, and macrophages that gobble up invaders, have different arrays of estrogen receptors,” said lead author, USGS research biologist Luke Iwanowicz. “It is likely that these cells are instructed by estrogens differently.”

Iwanowicz noted that this work moves researchers one step closer to better understanding the consequences of exposure to estrogenic substances on the immune function in fish.  “This new research not only means that endocrine disruptors may make fish more prone to disease, but it also provides the context and baseline data to enhance our ability to conduct similar work in wild-caught fishes and investigate relationships between disease in the aquatic environments and endocrine disruptors.”

Based on these findings, future research would explore age-related differences as well as seasonal differences in fish and estrogenic endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure.

The journal article, “Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) leukocytes express estrogen receptor isoforms ERα and ERβ2 and are functionally modulated by estrogens,” by L.R. Iwanowicz, J.L. Stafford, R. Patino, E. Bengten, N.W. Millerand V.S. Blazer, is available online in Fish & Shellfish Immunology.

Two Recent Perspectives on USGS Water Information

Wed, 08/20/2014 - 12:56
Summary: USGS collects a wide range of hydrologic data, assures the quality of these data, and makes historical and continuing records of the nation’s water resources freely available in national databases

Contact Information:

Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 );



USGS collects a wide range of hydrologic data, assures the quality of these data, and makes historical and continuing records of the nation’s water resources freely available in national databases. USGS scientists have recently published two separate papers that provide national overviews of the status of USGS water resources information in the context of historical and technical developments in the last half-century.

Robert M. Hirsch and Gary T. Fisher (retired) point out in “Past, Present, and Future of Water Data Delivery from the U.S. Geological Survey” that USGS innovations, aided by rapidly improving technology, have enabled a transition in recent years from paper reports to online reports and from daily data to instantaneous data. An increasing emphasis on national and international data standards and web services makes it possible for users in the water management and research communities to quickly and easily import USGS water data into the operational and scientific software tools that they use. Further, distributing water data with applications on new mobile platforms brings value to new and nontraditional consumers of hydrologic information.

Writing in the May 2014 edition of Water Resources Impact, USGS Chief Scientist for Water Jerad D. Bales reviews (PDF) 1974 predictions of how water data would be collected in the future and notes how those predictions have been fulfilled or altered. He also describes factors, both technical and otherwise, affecting changes in water-resources data collection and management, as well as future challenges for water data collection.

References

Robert M. Hirsch and Gary T. Fisher. “Past, Present, and Future of Water Data Delivery from the U.S. Geological Survey” in Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education, Universities Council on Water Resources, Issue 153, April 2014, pp. 4-15.

Jerad D. Bales. “Progress in Data Collection and Dissemination in Water Resources – 1974-2014” (PDF) in Water Resources IMPACT, May 2014, v. 16, no. 3, pp. 18-23.

Pharmaceuticals and Other Chemicals Common in Landfill Waste

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 15:30
Summary: Pharmaceuticals, personal-care products, and other contaminants are widespread in water that has passed through landfill waste

Contact Information:

Alex Demas ( Phone: 703-648-4421 ); Dana  Kolpin ( Phone: 319-358-3614 );



Pharmaceuticals, personal-care products, and other contaminants are widespread in water that has passed through landfill waste. The samples of this liquid, also known as leachate, were collected from within each of the studied landfills. This study by the U.S. Geological Survey is the first national assessment of these chemicals of emerging concern in landfill leachate in the United States.

USGS scientists collected leachate from 19 active landfills and analyzed it for 202 chemicals across a wide range of uses, including pharmaceuticals, hygiene products, home-use chemicals, pesticides, plastics, etc. Of those 202 chemicals, 129 were found.

“This represents the first step in USGS efforts to quantify the contribution of contaminants of emerging concern in leachate from active landfills to the environment,” said Dana Kolpin, USGS, the research team leader. “Follow-up research will examine contaminant concentrations in treated and untreated leachate that is released to the environment.”

Of the chemicals found, concentrations varied. Steroid hormone concentrations generally ranged from 1 to 100’s nanograms per liter (ng/L, or parts per trillion); prescription and nonprescription pharmaceutical concentrations generally ranged from 100 to 10,000’s ng/L; and home-use and industrial chemical concentrations generally ranged from 1,000 to 1,000,000’s ng/L.

The 19 active landfills are located all across the United States and represent a snapshot of the various conditions that affect landfills.

“As expected, we found more chemicals and generally higher concentrations in landfills from wetter regions compared to those from drier regions,” said USGS scientist Jason Masoner, the primary author of this paper. “Overall, this study provides a better understanding of sources of contaminants of emerging concern in landfills.”

Chemicals commonly detected include:

  • bisphenol A—detected in 95 percent of samples, used to make plastics and resins
  • cotinine—detected in 95 percent of samples, a chemical formed from nicotine
  • N,N-diethyltoluamide—detected in 95 percent of samples, also known as DEET
  • lidocaine—detected in 89 percent of samples, used as anti-itching and local anesthetic
  • camphor—detected in 84 percent of samples, used in a variety of medicines and lotions

This study is part of a long-term effort to determine the fate and effects of contaminants of emerging concern and to provide water-resource managers with objective information that assists in the development of effective water management practices.

The paper is entitled “Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Fresh Leachate from Landfills in the Conterminous United States” and has been published in Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts. More information on this study and other studies on contaminants of emerging concern can be found here. To learn more about USGS environmental health science, please visit the USGS Environmental Health website and sign up for our GeoHealth Newsletter or our Environmental Health Headlines.