USGS News: National News Release

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USGS News: National News ReleaseWater Use Across the United States Declines to Levels Not Seen Since 1970New Approach May Detect Chronic Wasting Disease Earlier, at Less CostAverage-sized Dead Zone Forecasted for the Gulf of MexicoBetter Together: How Ecosystem Services and Adaptive Decision-Making Can Improve Land ManagementInterior Releases 2018’s Final List of 35 Minerals Deemed Critical to U.S. National Security and the EconomyKilauea volcanic activity and ash eruptions intensifyDr. Jim Reilly Takes the Helm at the U.S. Geological SurveyNews Media briefing for latest update at Hawaii’s Kīlauea VolcanoMany Low-Lying Atoll Islands Will Be Uninhabitable by Mid-21st CenturyInvasive Cuban Treefrogs Leap Out of Florida, Establish First Known Population in LouisianaUSGS Tracks How Hurricane Floodwaters Spread Non-Native Freshwater Plants and AnimalsU.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Department of Energy Release Online Public Dataset and Viewer of U.S. Wind Turbine Locations and CharacteristicsUSGS Scientists Develop New Tool to Determine if Vermiculite Insulation Contains AsbestosEarthquake Early Warning! New Study Examines Safety Potentials and LimitsNew genetic test detects manatees' recent presence in fresh or saltwaterInterior Seeks Public Comment on Draft List of 35 Minerals Deemed Critical to U.S. National Security and the EconomyU.S. Mines Produced an Estimated $75.2 Billion in Minerals During 20173-D Structure of Buried Ice Sheets on Mars Revealed by High-Resolution ImagesNew Interior Department Survey Shows Significant Increase in Recoverable Energy Resources in Federal, State and Tribal Lands and Waters in AlaskaScientists Home in on Causes of High Radium Levels in Key Midwestern AquiferAvian Flu From Abroad Can Spread in North American Poultry, Wild BirdsMexico’s Yucatan Peninsula Reveals a Cryptic Methane-Fueled Ecosystem in Flooded CavesPrevious Evidence of Water on Mars Now Identified as GrainflowsUSGS-NASA Pecora Award Recognizes Excellence in Earth ObservationUSGS Estimates 40 Million Pounds of Potential Uranium Resources in Parts of Texas, New Mexico and OklahomaNew Tool Allows Users to Explore Mountains WorldwideU.S. and Canadian Scientists Explore Major Undersea Earthquake FaultStudy Estimates about 2.1 Million People using Wells High in ArsenicFuture Temperature and Soil Moisture May Alter Location of Agricultural RegionsUSGS Installs Storm-Tide Sensors Along Gulf Coast for Hurricane Nate News Releases related to National News Release en <p>Water use across the country reached its lowest recorded level in 45 years. According to a new <a href=”″>USGS report</a>, 322 billion gallons of water per day (Bgal/d) were withdrawn for use in the United States during 2015.</p> <p>This represents a 9 percent reduction of <a href=””>water use from 2010</a> when about 354 Bgal/d were withdrawn and the lowest level since before 1970 (370 Bgal/d).</p> <p>“The downward trend in water use shows a continued effort towards efficient use of critical water resources, which is encouraging,” said Tim Petty, assistant secretary for Water and Science at the Department of the Interior. “Water is the one resource we cannot live without, and when it is used wisely, it helps to ensure there will be enough to sustain human needs, as well as ecological and environmental needs.”</p> <a href=”/media/images/total-water-withdrawals-state-2015″></a> <p></p> <p>Total water withdrawals by State, 2015 [1 Bgal/d = 1,000 million gallons per day].</p> <p>In 2015, more than 50 percent of the total withdrawals in the United States were accounted for by 12 states (in order of withdrawal amounts): California, Texas, Idaho, Florida, Arkansas, New York, Illinois, Colorado, North Carolina, Michigan, Montana, and Nebraska.</p> <a href=”/media/images/total-water-withdrawals-category-and-state-west-east-2015″></a> <p></p> <p>Total water withdrawals by category and by State from west to east, 2015  [1 Bgal/d = 1,000 million gallons per day].</p> <p>California accounted for almost 9 percent of the total withdrawals for all categories and 9 percent of total freshwater withdrawals. Texas accounted for about 7 percent of total withdrawals for all categories, predominantly for thermoelectric power generation, irrigation, and public supply.</p> <p>Florida had the largest share of saline withdrawals, accounting for 23 percent of the total in the country, mostly saline surface-water withdrawals for thermoelectric power generation. Texas and California accounted for 59 percent of the total saline groundwater withdrawals in the United States, mostly for mining.</p> <p>“The USGS is committed to providing comprehensive reports of water use in the country to ensure that resource managers and decision makers have the information they need to manage it well,” said USGS director Jim Reilly. “These data are vital for understanding water budgets in the different climatic settings across the country.”</p> <p>For the first time since 1995, the USGS estimated consumptive use for two categories — thermoelectric power generation and irrigation. Consumptive use is the fraction of total water withdrawals that is unavailable for immediate use because it is evaporated, transpired by plants, or incorporated into a product.</p> <p>“Consumptive use is a key component of the water budget. It’s important to not only know how much water is being withdrawn from a source, but how much water is no longer available for other immediate uses,”  said USGS hydrologist Cheryl Dieter.</p> <p>The USGS estimated a consumptive use of 4.31 Bgal/d, or 3 percent of total water use for thermoelectric power generation in 2015. In comparison, consumptive use was 73.2 Bgal/d, or 62 percent of total water use for irrigation in 2015.</p> <p>Water withdrawn for thermoelectric power generation was the largest use nationally at 133 Bgal/d, with the other leading uses being irrigation and public supply, respectively. Withdrawals declined for thermoelectric power generation and public supply, but increased for irrigation. Collectively, these three uses represented 90 percent of total withdrawals.</p> Thermoelectric power decreased 18 percent from 2010, the largest percent decline of all categories. Irrigation withdrawals (all freshwater) increased 2 percent. Public-supply withdrawals decreased 7 percent. <a href=”/media/images/trends-total-water-withdrawals-water-use-category-1950-2015″></a> <p></p> <p>Trends in total water withdrawals by water-use category, 1950-2015.</p> <p>A number of factors can be attributed to the 18 percent decline in thermoelectric-power withdrawals, including a shift to power plants that use more efficient cooling-system technologies, declines in withdrawals to protect aquatic life, and power plant closures.</p> <p>As it did in the period between 2005 and 2010, withdrawals for public supply declined between 2010 and 2015, despite a 4 percent increase in the nation’s total population. The number of people served by public-supply systems continued to increase and the public-supply domestic per capita use declined to 82 gallons per day in 2015 from 88 gallons per day in 2010. Total domestic per capita use (public supply and self-supplied combined) decreased from 87 gallons per day in 2010 to 82 gallons per day in 2015.</p> <p>The <a href=””>USGS</a> is the world’s largest provider of water data and the premier water research agency in the federal government.</p> <span class=”date-display-single”>June 19, 2018</span> [email protected] 7dcf5b4a-0f72-4d56-9804-10db8a95e57e <p>Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is a major health concern for wild deer populations, and it is present in more than 20 states. Early detection of CWD gives wildlife managers more options to minimize establishment of the disease and to limit its geographic spread.</p> <p>Many land managers have relied on random sampling to detect CWD, which makes it difficult to achieve sufficient sample sizes needed to detect the disease if it is present. That’s why a group of researchers developed and tested a new statistical model to increase sampling efficiency, making CWD early detection more feasible and less expensive. <a href=”″>Their paper</a>, “Application of a Bayesian Weighted Surveillance Approach for Detecting Chronic Wasting Disease in White-tailed Deer,” was published in the Journal of Applied Ecology on June 18.</p> <p>“This has been a fantastic opportunity for collaboration,” said Dr. Jenny Powers, Acting Chief, Wildlife Conservation Branch of the National Park Service and co-author of the paper. “Parks provide the perfect natural laboratory, and our partners bring expertise that makes this modeling approach a benefit to all land managers.”</p> <p>The NPS and the U.S. Geological Survey collaborated with researchers from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Princeton University and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on this innovative weighted sampling scheme. For this study, the scientists used previously collected data from deer in Wisconsin to develop precise but adaptable sampling protocols to guide tissue collection from deer in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, where CWD is not known to occur.</p> <p>“With this new approach, researchers can test fewer numbers of deer by using existing information on the disease risk of different demographic groups,” said Daniel Walsh, a USGS scientist and coauthor of the study. “They can target tissue collections from the groups at highest risk instead of casting a much larger and wider net.”</p> <p>Managers and scientists will be able to apply this method of weighted sampling to other areas with high risk of CWD introduction and may be able to use similar modeling techniques to answer disease ecology questions in the future.</p> <p>Chronic wasting disease is fatal to infected animals. The disease is not known to infect humans, but hunters are advised to have the deer tested before consuming the venison. Learn more about CWD via the <a href=””>USGS fact sheet</a>.</p> <p>Read the entire study <a href=”″>here</a>. For more information, contact Dr. Jenny Powers at 970-267-2122.</p> <span class=”date-display-single”>June 19, 2018</span> [email protected] a41859fa-64b1-4203-bdca-ec39849cf508 <p>NOAA scientists are forecasting that this summer’s Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone or ‘dead zone’ – an area of low to no oxygen that can kill fish and other marine life – will be approximately 5,780 square miles, approximately the size of Connecticut. </p> <p>The 2018 forecast is similar to the 33-year average Gulf dead zone of 5,460 square miles and is smaller than the <a href=””>8,776 square mile 2017 Gulf dead zone</a>, which was the largest dead zone measured since mapping began in 1985.</p> <p>Even though NOAA is predicting an average dead zone this summer, the dead zone remains three times larger than the long-term target set by the <a href=””>Interagency Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force</a>, a group charged with reducing the Gulf dead zone.</p> <p>The Gulf’s hypoxic zone is caused by excess nutrient pollution, primarily from human activities in the watershed, such as urbanization and agriculture. The excess nutrients stimulate an overgrowth of algae, which then sinks and decomposes in the water. The resulting low oxygen levels near the bottom are insufficient to support most marine life.</p> <p>Studies have also shown a multitude of other impacts associated with high nutrient concentrations within watersheds. Such impacts include <a href=””>high nitrates in groundwater</a>,<a href=””> higher drinking and wastewater treatment costs</a> and<a href=””> wasted fertilizer applications</a>. </p> <p>“The Gulf’s recurring summer hypoxic zone continues to put important habitats and valuable fisheries at risk,” said Steve Thur, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. “Although there has been some progress in reducing nutrients, the overall levels remain high and continue to strain the region’s coastal economies.”</p> <p>NOAA issues a dead zone forecast each year, and <a href=”″>refines the models</a> used by the Hypoxia Task Force to set nutrient reduction targets and better understand the link between hypoxia and nutrients. The forecast is based on nitrogen runoff and river discharge data from the <a href=””>U.S. Geological Survey</a>. The forecast assumes typical weather conditions, but the dead zone could be disrupted by hurricanes and tropical storms. A NOAA-supported monitoring survey will confirm the size of the 2018 Gulf dead zone in early August.</p> <p>Higher river<a href=””> discharge</a> in May carries a larger nutrient load into the Gulf of Mexico, one factor that contributes to a larger hypoxic zone. This past May, discharge in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers was about 4 percent above the long-term average (between 1980 and 2017). The USGS estimates that this near-average river discharge carried 115,000 metric tons of nitrate and 18,500 metric tons of phosphorus into the Gulf of Mexico in May. These nitrate loads were about 13 percent below the long-term average, and the phosphorus loads were about 10 percent above the long-term average.</p> <p>The USGS operates more than <a href=””>3,000 real-time stream gauges</a>,<a href=”″> 60 real-time nitrate sensors</a>, and<a href=””> 35 long-term monitoring sites</a> throughout the Mississippi-Atchafalaya watershed, which drains parts or all of 31 states.</p> <p>The USGS recently completed the<a href=””> largest-ever assessment of water-quality trends in the nation’s streams and rivers</a>, using monitoring data from the USGS and 73 other federal, state, tribal, and local organizations.</p> <p>“While recent trend results show nutrient loads decreasing in some areas of the Mississippi-Atchafalaya watershed, on balance, there has been little change in loading to the Gulf in recent decades,” said Don Cline, associate director for the USGS Water Mission Area.</p> <p>This is the first year NOAA is conducting the Gulf dead zone forecast independently. It is the culmination of a multi-year academic-federal partnership to develop a suite of NOAA-supported hypoxia forecast models. The partnership included teams of researchers at the <a href=””>University of Michigan</a>, <a href=””>Louisiana State University</a>, <a href=””>Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences/College of William and Mary</a>,<a href=””> </a><a href=””>North Carolina State University</a> and the <a href=””>USGS</a>. Some of these groups are also developing independent forecasts, released in coordination with NOAA and using the USGS data.</p> <p>NOAA and its partners continue to develop additional <a href=””>hypoxia forecast</a> capabilities. For example, <a href=””>new forecasts</a> are being used to evaluate the impacts of reducing phosphorus on dead zone size, and to better estimate the timing and location of hypoxia occurrence. NOAA also provides information to farmers through its <a href=””>Runoff Risk Forecasts</a>, which are aimed at reducing nutrient pollution by giving farmers information about when to apply fertilizers to their fields. Such forecasts can help farmers ensure that fertilizer stays on fields, instead of washing off into waterways.</p> <span class=”date-display-single”>June 7, 2018</span> [email protected] 04c141c0-9aff-435b-99eb-798fceb883dc <p><a href=””>Ecosystem services</a> are the benefits to people from things produced by the natural living environment, such as pollination of crops, filtering of groundwater by wetland vegetation, and buffering of storm surge by mangrove swamps. <a href=””>Adaptive decision-making</a>, meanwhile, allows managers to learn by doing, adjusting their operations based on results from management decisions, and ongoing research and monitoring over time.</p> <p>“Resource management decisions are having greater impacts on our lives, and we need the best methods to assess and understand the consequences of decisions,” said Carl Shapiro, director of the USGS Science and Decisions Center. “Our work showing how adaptive decision-making and ecosystem services complement each other will help resource managers make the best decisions affecting the Nation’s natural resources.”</p> <p>Both ecosystem services and adaptive management have been widely explored, but there have not yet been widespread attempts to use both together. To address this gap, researchers at USGS and Resources for the Future explored the conceptual basis for combining the two approaches and examined several projects that evaluated ecosystem services within an adaptive management decision process.</p> <a href=”/media/images/mdtenmilecreek1″></a> <p>Tenmile Creek in Maryland (Public domain.)</p> <p>The first, a suburban community of Clarksburg, MD, in the Washington, DC, area, weighs development against water quality in the Tenmile Creek drainage basin. By applying the concept of ecosystem services, county managers can put the benefits of water quality in the same categories as the benefits of development, while the adaptive decision-making process allows them to adjust their plans over time based on new information and community feedback.</p> <p>Thousands of miles away, in the Intermountain West, Interior’s Bureau of Land Management is facing a similar dilemma in balancing the permitting of solar energy facilities, their effects on ecosystems, and the concerns of stakeholders as diverse as Tribes, ranchers, electrical utilities and conservationists. Just as in Clarksburg, MD, evaluating the situation through the concept of ecosystem services allows the BLM to make an apples-to-apples comparison for potential benefits and drawbacks.</p> <a href=”/media/images/solar-panels-colorado”></a> <p>A solar power installation in Colorado (Credit: Jessica K Robertson, USGS. Public domain.)</p> <p>Meanwhile, using an adaptive decision-making process enables the BLM to apply new information when it is available to engage stakeholders throughout the entire course of the activity.</p> <p>Finally, the benefits of using both adaptive decision-making and ecosystem services can be seen in the Migratory Bird Regulations Committee’s recommendations for regulating the hunting of migratory waterfowl across the United States. Currently, adaptive decision-making has been used to adjust the recommendations for hunting season length and amount of birds that can be harvested, based on things like environmental conditions and total population of the birds. By incorporating ecosystem services, the values of the various stakeholders can be incorporated into the hunting recommendations.</p> <a href=”/media/images/brandt-meixell-holding-pintail-ducks”></a> <p>Pin-tailed Ducks (Public domain.)</p> <p>This report used results from two workshops that considered ways in which adaptive management approaches and ecosystem service concepts may be complementary, leading to improved natural resource and societal outcomes. The report can be accessed <a href=”″>here</a>.</p> <p>More information about USGS research in decision science, ecosystem services and natural resource economics can be found at the <a href=””>USGS Science and Decision Center</a>. More information on the research projects of Resources for the Future can be found <a href=””>here</a>.</p> <span class=”date-display-single”>May 24, 2018</span> [email protected] e7490c20-16a5-46bc-a979-92741725f9a7 <p>At the direction of Secretary Zinke, on February 16, 2018, Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey <a href=”” target=”_blank”>published a draft list of 35 critical minerals</a> under Executive Order 13817. A report summarizing the methodology for compiling the list and background information <a href=”″ target=”_blank”>can be found here</a>. </p> <p>Today, after consideration of the 453 public comments received, the Department of the Interior decided that the methodology used to draft the list remains valid and finalized the original list of 35 critical minerals in the Federal Register.</p> <p> “The expertise of the USGS is absolutely vital to reducing America’s vulnerability to disruptions in our supply of critical minerals,” said Dr. Tim Petty, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science.</p> <p>The list includes aluminum—used in almost all sectors of the economy; the platinum group metals—used for catalytic agents; rare-earth elements—used in batteries and electronics; tin—used as protective coatings and alloys for steel; and titanium—overwhelmingly used as a white pigment or as a metal alloy. A full list of the 35 mineral commodities follows.</p> <p>This list of critical minerals, while “final,” is not intended as a permanent designation of criticality, but will be a dynamic list updated periodically to represent current data on supply, demand, and concentration of production, as well as current policy priorities. </p> <p>Under the Executive Order, the Commerce Department is responsible for organizing the interagency responses into a final report which is due Aug. 16, 2018, to the President.  The report will include:</p> a strategy to reduce the nation’s reliance on critical minerals the status of recycling technologies alternatives to critical minerals options for accessing critical minerals through trade with allies and partners a plan for improvements to mapping the United States and its mineral resources recommendations to streamline lease permitting and review processes, ways to increase discovery, production, and domestic refining of critical minerals <p>This report will, as appropriate, include analyses and strategies to strengthen and sustain the supply chains for all minerals, and analyses and strategies targeted to minerals deemed critical based on this 2018 analysis.  For example, because the permitting of minerals development activities is administered under existing mineral disposal laws and regulations, any recommendations to improve permitting processes for critical minerals will improve permitting processes for all minerals administered under the same laws and regulations by the Bureau of Land Management and other Federal land management agencies..</p> <p>The full list of critical minerals includes the following—click a mineral’s name to find relevant statistics and publications:</p> <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Aluminum (bauxite)</a>, used in almost all sectors of the economy <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Antimony</a>, used in batteries and flame retardants <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Arsenic</a>, used in lumber preservatives, pesticides, and semi-conductors <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Barite</a>, used in cement and petroleum industries <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Beryllium</a>, used as an alloying agent in aerospace and defense industries <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Bismuth</a>, used in medical and atomic research <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Cesium</a>, used in research and development <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Chromium</a>, used primarily in stainless steel and other alloys <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Cobalt</a>, used in rechargeable batteries and superalloys <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Fluorspar</a>, used in the manufacture of aluminum, gasoline, and uranium fuel <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Gallium</a>, used for integrated circuits and optical devices like LEDs <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Germanium</a>, used for fiber optics and night vision applications <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Graphite (natural)</a>, used for lubricants, batteries, and fuel cells <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Hafnium</a>, used for nuclear control rods, alloys, and high-temperature ceramics <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Helium</a>, used for MRIs, lifting agent, and research <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Indium</a>, mostly used in LCD screens <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Lithium</a>, used primarily for batteries <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Magnesium</a>, used in furnace linings for manufacturing steel and ceramics <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Manganese</a>, used in steelmaking <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Niobium</a>, used mostly in steel alloys <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Platinum group metals</a>, used for catalytic agents <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Potash</a>, primarily used as a fertilizer <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Rare earth elements group</a>, primarily used in batteries and electronics <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Rhenium</a>, used for lead-free gasoline and superalloys <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Rubidium</a>, used for research and development in electronics <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Scandium</a>, used for alloys and fuel cells <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Strontium</a>, used for pyrotechnics and ceramic magnets <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Tantalum</a>, used in electronic components, mostly capacitors <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Tellurium</a>, used in steelmaking and solar cells <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Tin</a>, used as protective coatings and alloys for steel <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Titanium</a>, overwhelmingly used as a white pigment or metal alloys <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Tungsten</a>, primarily used to make wear-resistant metals <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Uranium</a>, mostly used for nuclear fuel <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Vanadium</a>, primarily used for titanium alloys <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Zirconium</a>, used in the high-temperature ceramics industries <p>Under the Executive Order, these commodities qualify as “critical minerals” because  each has been identified as  a non-fuel mineral or mineral material that is essential to the economic and national security of the United States, that has a supply chain vulnerable to disruption, and that serves an essential function in the manufacturing of a product, the absence of which would have significant consequences for the economy or national security.</p> <span class=”date-display-single”>May 18, 2018</span> [email protected] eaaff290-2f4b-481d-b202-99a6d215e23c <p>USGS and NOAA’s National Weather Service are working together to observe, model and warn the public of hazardous conditions. Here is where you can find the information you need to stay safe.</p> <p><a href=””>Volcanic Ash Advisories</a> and <a href=””>Aviation Warnings</a></p> <p>Volcanic ash clouds can threaten air traffic by sandblasting windscreens, clogging pitot tubes, and in severe cases, causing jet engines to shut down. NOAA issues volcanic ash warnings to alert pilots to potential ash in the atmosphere and will include volcanic ash in forecasts for airports.</p> <p><a href=””>Observations and Status of Kilauea</a></p> <p>While the <a href=””>USGS Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory</a> is positioning staff to observe the volcano and best communicate its status and evolution, they rely heavily on the weather forecasts from NOAA. Wind forecasts, along with dispersion models such as HYSPLIT, are critical in understanding where sulphur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5) will disperse from fissures and vents to ensure safety of USGS observers, emergency managers and the public.</p> <p><a href=””>Ashfall Advisories, Warnings and Current Weather Forecast from Honolulu </a></p> <p>On May 15 the National Weather Service issued the first ever ashfall advisory for Hawaii. Forecasters will issue ashfall advisories and warnings when ashfall is a hazard. NOAA predicts where an ash plume will go and how much ash will accumulate using USGS’s  <a href=””>Ash3d Volcanic Ash Dispersion Model</a>.</p> <p><a href=””>Tips to Stay Safe</a></p> <p>During explosive eruptions, volcanic ash can disrupt downwind populations by causing breathing problems, impacting water quality, clogging air filters, shorting out power systems and making transportation difficult. If your community is threatened by ash, you are advised to do the following:</p> Seal windows and doors. Protect electronics and cover air intakes and open water sources. Avoid driving as visibility will be reduced and roads may become slippery. Remain indoors to avoid inhaling ash particles unless it’s absolutely necessary to go outside.  If you have a respiratory illness, do not go outside. If you must go outside, cover your mouth and nose with a mask or cloth. <span class=”date-display-single”>May 17, 2018</span> [email protected] 7e2b08e7-db35-4d83-9989-5726fbb1abcb <p>WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke today welcomed the arrival of Dr. Jim F. Reilly II at the Department of the Interior to begin his tenure as the 17th director of the <a href=””>U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)</a>.</p> <p>“Dr. Reilly is an accomplished explorer, scientist, and public servant who has spent years defending our nation as a Navy Reserve officer and pushing the limits as an astronaut,” said Secretary Zinke. “Dr. Reilly will be a strong leader for the USGS as it addresses the natural resource opportunities and challenges we face as a nation. I am excited to finally have him on board and look forward to working with him.”</p> <p><a href=””>Read more </a></p> <span class=”date-display-single”>May 14, 2018</span> [email protected] 1f0b4758-2538-46ef-8525-2fe58e87478e <p>PLEASE NOTE:  This briefing will be by telephone only.</p> <p>WHO: Representatives from:</p> U.S. Geological Survey, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory National Park Service, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense <p>WHAT: Briefing and Q&amp;A session about the current situation at Kīlauea volcano. The briefing will address:</p> HVO’s scientific monitoring of the volcano and current activity, including a chronology of volcanic activity since late April Impacts at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Current Civil Defense advice to local residents and visitors <p>WHEN: MAY-09-2018 (Wednesday), 11:00 AM HAWAII TIME (= 5:00 p.m. EDT)</p> <p>DIAL IN INSTRUCTIONS: Dial in to audiobridge:</p> Callers in the U.S. toll-free: 1-888-469-1765 For international callers: 1-415-228-5012 At the prompt, please enter the participant code. Then please follow the subsequent prompts. <p>For the latest updates and information please check these websites:</p> <a href=””>HVO Kīlauea daily updates</a> <a href=””>HVO Kīlauea photo chronology</a> <a href=””>HVO Kīlauea maps of current activity</a> <a href=””>Sign up for HVO Volcano Notification Service</a> <a href=””>Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Status</a> <a href=””>Hawaii County Civil Defense Alerts</a> <span class=”date-display-single”>May 8, 2018</span> [email protected] 1dc8d6cb-37d0-42b6-b4aa-54576f5106e0 <p>According to a new study published in Science Advances, scientists found that such flooding not only will impact terrestrial infrastructure and habitats, but, more importantly, it will also make the limited freshwater resources non-potable and, therefore, directly threaten the sustainability of human populations.</p> <a href=”/media/images/wave-driven-flooding-and-overwash-roi-namur-atoll”></a> <p>Wave-driven flooding and overwash on Roi-Namur Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands (Credit: Peter Swarzenski, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.)</p> <p>Most of the world’s atolls are in the Pacific and Indian oceans. The scientists focused on Roi-Namur Island on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands for their site study from November 2013 to May 2015. The Republic of the Marshall Islands has more than 1,100 low-lying islands on 29 atolls, is home for numerous island nations and hundreds of thousands of people.</p> <p>Scientists from the <a href=””>U.S. Geological Survey</a>, <a href=””>Deltares</a>, <a href=””>National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration</a>, and the <a href=””>University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa</a> used a variety of climate-change scenarios to project the impact of sea-level rise and wave-driven flooding on atoll infrastructure and freshwater availability. The approach and findings in this study can serve as a proxy for atolls around the world, most of which have a similar morphology and structure, including, on average, even lower land elevations.</p> <p>“The tipping point when potable groundwater on the majority of atoll islands will be unavailable is projected to be reached no later than the middle of the 21st century,” said Curt Storlazzi, USGS geologist and lead author of the new report.</p> <p>Sea levels are rising, with the highest rates in the tropics, where thousands of low-lying coral atoll islands are located. Previous studies on the resilience of these islands to sea-level rise projected they will experience minimal inundation impacts until at least the end of the 21st century. However, those previous studies did not take into account the additional hazard of wave-driven overwash (storm waters and waves that wash up and over the low-lying island) nor its impact on freshwater availability.</p> <p>“Such information is key to assess multiple hazards and prioritize efforts to reduce risk and increase the resiliency of atoll islands’ communities around the globe,” said Storlazzi.</p> <p>These findings have relevance not only to populated atoll islands in the Marshall Islands, but also to those in the Caroline Islands, Cook Islands, Gilbert Islands, Line Islands, Society Islands, Spratly Islands, Maldives, Seychelles, and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.</p> <a href=”/media/images/wave-driven-flooding-and-overwash-roi-namur-atoll-0″></a> <p>Wave-driven flooding and overwash on Roi-Namur Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands (Credit: Peter Swarzenski, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.)</p> <p>Thus, the study scientists project that, based on current global greenhouse gas emission rates, the interactions between sea-level rise and wave dynamics over coral reefs will lead to an annual wave-driven overwash of most atoll islands by the mid-21st century. Such annual flooding would result in the islands becoming uninhabitable due to frequent damage to infrastructure and the inability of their freshwater resources to recover between overwash events.</p> <p>The primary source of freshwater for populated atoll islands is rain that soaks into the ground and remains there as a layer of fresh groundwater that floats on top of denser saltwater. As atoll islands come to be overwashed annually, on average, in the next few decades (assuming current greenhouse gas emission rates), flooding impacts to infrastructure and the loss of freshwater resources would make human habitation difficult in most locations beginning between the 2030s to 2060s, requiring the relocation of island inhabitants or significant financial investments in new infrastructure.</p> <p>“The overwash events generally result in salty ocean water seeping into the ground and contaminating the freshwater aquifer. Rainfall later in the year is not enough to flush out the saltwater and refresh the island’s water supply before the next year’s storms arrive repeating the overwash events,” explained Stephen Gingerich, USGS hydrologist and co-author of the new report.</p> <a href=”/media/images/coral-reefs-kwajalein-atoll-republic-marshall-islands-3″></a> <p>Aerial photograph of Kwajalein Atoll showing its low-lying islands and coral reefs. (Credit: Thomas Reiss, Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center. Public domain.)</p> <p>The full report, “Most Atolls will be uninhabitable by the mid-21st century due to sea-level rise exacerbating wave-driven flooding,” in “Science Advances” is <a href=”″>available online</a>.</p> <span class=”date-display-single”>April 25, 2018</span> Leslie C. Gordon 471817b4-6c2e-4c52-af79-69af9081b1cb <a href=”/media/images/a-cuban-treefrog-sighted-new-orleans”></a> <p>A Cuban treefrog in New Orleans, Louisiana, where the non-native frogs have established the first population on the U.S. mainland outside Florida. Credit: Brad Glorioso, USGS. Public domain.</p> <p>Cuban treefrogs can drive out native frogs and be a nuisance to homeowners. Native to Cuba, the Bahamas, and the Cayman Islands, Cuban treefrogs have successfully bred in Florida since at least 1951. Established populations of the treefrog species have also been found on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.</p> <p>“Homeowners may be familiar with the nuisance species as they have noxious skin secretions, lay their eggs in bird baths and fish ponds, and they can clog plumbing and cause power outages by short-circuiting utility switches where they seek refuge,” said USGS Research Ecologist Brad Glorioso, the lead author of the study. “Cuban treefrogs grow much larger than native treefrogs, have been known to displace native treefrogs, and will even eat smaller frogs, often of their own species. A decline in native treefrogs could have consequences, since frogs act as both predator and prey in food webs.”</p> <p>The invasive species may have hitched a ride on palm trees imported from Lake Placid, Florida, and planted in the Elephant Exhibit at the Audubon Zoo in March 2016. Elephant keepers noted the presence of unusual treefrogs soon thereafter.</p> <p>According to Glorioso, the tight spaces at the base of palm tree fronds provide an ideal hiding spot for the treefrogs as they are inadvertently transported to distant places. Palm trees are frequently imported from Florida in large numbers to recently disturbed areas, including New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.</p> <p> “They often end up in places with unsuitable climates, but in south Louisiana, Cuban treefrogs appear capable of withstanding seasonal cold spells by seeking appropriate refuge,” said Glorioso.</p> <a href=”/media/images/cuban-treefrogs-have-leaped-louisiana”></a> <p>Cuban treefrogs, like this one spotted in Louisiana, can outcompete native species and become a nuisance to homeowners. Credit: Brad Glorioso, USGS. Public domain.</p> <p></p> <p>In late 2016, reports of at least eight Cuban treefrogs of varying sizes on the grounds of the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans gave concern that a population may be establishing. Following additional reports in 2017 of suspected Cuban treefrog tadpoles and recently metamorphosed juveniles in Riverview, a part of Audubon Park between Audubon Zoo and the Mississippi River, the USGS began investigating the likelihood of an established population.</p> <p>Between mid-September and mid-November of 2017, USGS scientists captured 367 Cuban treefrogs in just four surveys. In addition, in late October, approximately 2,000 Cuban treefrog tadpoles were removed from two pools of water in Riverview. The pooled water was then drained to eliminate any possibility of survival of overlooked tadpoles.</p> <p>It is not yet known how the Cuban treefrogs have impacted Louisiana’s native treefrogs, but USGS scientists did note a lack of native species during their surveys. No native treefrogs were captured at Riverview, where the highest density of Cuban treefrogs were found.</p> <p>Cuban treefrogs are not a harmless invasive species, says Glorioso, and eradicating the recently discovered population in Louisiana is improbable.</p> <p>“Right now, the hope is that the Cuban treefrogs do not reach and become established in the large tracts of public land, including the Barataria Preserve of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, just across the Mississippi River,” said Glorioso.</p> <p>The study has been published in Biological Invasions, and can be accessed online at <a href=”” target=”_blank”></a> .</p> <p>Your browser does not support the audio element.</p> <p>Cuban treefrogs’ call is distinctive. Biologist Paul Moler of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recorded them in South Florida. Credit: Paul Moler, used with permission.</p> <p>Your browser does not support the audio element.</p> <p>Green treefrogs call from their favorite habitat, rivers and lakes. They’re native to Louisiana and to Florida, where these were recorded. Credit: Paul Moler, used with permission.</p> <p>Your browser does not support the audio element.</p> <p>Squirrel treefrogs are also native to Florida and Louisiana. Hear them calling from ditches, puddles and other ephemeral pools of water. Credit: Paul Moler, used with permission.</p> <p> </p> <span class=”date-display-single”>April 25, 2018</span> [email protected] 2b7aaa68-5d24-4892-a5a0-fce813259052 <a href=”/media/images/image-a-giant-applesnail”></a> <p>This invasive Giant Apple Snail is just one of hundreds of non-native aquatic species that might have migrated to new areas due to flooding that occurred during the 2017 hurricane season. Photo by Cayla Morningstar, used with permission. </p> <p>To help land managers find and manage these flood-borne newcomers, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey have created four online maps, one for each hurricane. These “storm tracker” map sets, on which users can see the potential spread of any of 226 non-native aquatic plant and animal species during the 2017 hurricane season, are available at <a href=””></a>.</p> <p>More than 1,270 freshwater aquatic species have been reported as found beyond their home ranges nationwide. Some have caused no obvious ill effects on their new habitats. Others, like the zebra mussels introduced into the Great Lakes, have caused damage to fisheries, shipping, water utilities and other industries. </p> <p>Storm surges and floodwaters can quickly spread non-native aquatic species into waterways where they weren’t found before. They can even create temporary freshwater zones in saltwater environments, as Hurricane Harvey did in parts of the Gulf of Mexico, said biologist Pam Fuller, the leader of USGS’s Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program.</p> <p>“USGS’s stream monitoring showed that as the rivers carried Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters downstream, a freshwater area developed along the Gulf Coast in parts of Texas and Louisiana,” Fuller said. “Normally the Gulf acts as a saltwater barrier that blocks freshwater species from moving along the coast. But that barrier was temporarily gone, and freshwater aquatic species could move into new habitats.”</p> <p>“Land managers have been responding to all sorts of hurricane impacts,” Fuller said. “It’s hard for them to survey all the places where flooding or storm surge occurred. Our results can help them concentrate on areas where non-native aquatic species are most likely to appear.”</p> <p>”The U.S. Geological Survey’s Flood and Storm Tracker maps are terrific tools we now have available to help determine the spread of aquatic invasive fish, wildlife and plants caused by major storms like the hurricanes we had last fall,” said John Galvez, who leads the Peninsular Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  “The county-by-county maps are helping us make better decisions about where to target surveys and identify ways to eliminate the invaders before they get a foothold in new areas.”</p> <p>Fuller’s Gainesville, Florida-based research group maintains the Nonindigenous Aquatic Species database, the nation’s most complete record of freshwater plant and animal species found outside their native range. The researchers used the nationwide database to identify all the non-native plant and animal species known to occur at storm-flooded sites. Then they modeled the flood waters’ height to identify places where floodwaters overtopped the barriers separating water bodies. The storm trackers show where lakes, rivers, streams and other waterways merged, giving aquatic species the opportunity to spread.</p> <p>The Hurricane Harvey tracker was the first map set of its kind, said Fuller, whose research team developed all the storm trackers.  “The tracker gives us a realistic picture of whether a particular species may have been introduced into new watersheds by Harvey’s flooding, and where that introduction may have taken place,” said Fuller. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is using it to decide where to conduct field surveys at national wildlife refuges in Texas and Louisiana.”</p> <p>Fuller said the sailfin armored catfish (Pterygoplichthys sp.), a South American species sold in the aquarium trade as “Plecos” and found in Houston’s Buffalo-San Jacinto watershed, is one species that may have spread with Hurricane Harvey to watersheds around Galveston Bay. Male sailfin armored catfish dig burrows into canal and river banks, where the females lay their eggs. Large populations of the non-native species can cause canal and river banks to erode or fail, so the species’ spread has the potential to exacerbate ongoing Gulf Coast marsh erosion.</p> <a href=”/media/images/storm-tracker-map”></a> <p>This screen shot of a “storm tracker” map shows the potential the area sailfin armored catfish could have spread around Galveston Bay during the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. USGS photo. (Public domain.)</p> <span class=”date-display-single”>April 23, 2018</span> [email protected] 088a53e0-e00e-4243-9d10-4cbcc5ef3be2 <p>This new Wind Turbine Database is a comprehensive dataset of U.S. wind turbine locations and characteristics that is easily accessible, more accurate, and updated more often than existing wind turbine datasets. This dataset and its associated viewer allow federal agencies to share data to properly develop and plan around wind projects. The availability of these data are crucial to planning for government agencies, as well as researchers.</p> <a href=”/media/images/us-wind-turbine-database-viewer”></a> <p>The U.S. Wind Turbine Database viewer, which houses information on more than 57,000 individual wind turbines across 43 states, Puerto Rico, and Guam.</p> <p>(Public domain.)</p> <p>“This database and map are not only a fantastic and much-needed tool that will see much use, but also proof of the power of bringing together the expertise in both government and industry,” said Tim Petty, Assistant Secretary for Water and Science at the Department of the Interior. “The data will help improve the siting of future wind energy projects as well as aid land managers in devising more up-to-date land-use and multiple-use plans.”</p> <p>For example, the U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been using the database already to perform crucial operational impact assessments of wind turbines on radar. This effort dovetails with DOE’s interagency work to address the potential impacts of operating wind turbines on defense and civilian radar systems through the <a href=””>Wind Turbine Radar Interference Mitigation Working Group</a>.</p> <a href=”/media/images/power-county-wind-farm”></a> <p>Power County Wind Farm, Power County, Idaho</p> <p>(Credit: Douglas Barnes, U.S. Department of Energy. Public domain.)</p> <p>“The Energy Department is conducting early-stage research to support development and testing to ensure that wind facilites do not interfere with our nation’s radar systems” said Daniel Simmons, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “This database builds on those efforts and provides an important resource for other government agencies that use radar for their missions.”</p> <p>“The USWTDB directly supports the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) air defense mission by enabling us to conduct credible and meaningful analysis of wind turbine-radar interference impacts, and ultimately helps ensure that U.S. renewable energy does not adversely impact our ability to conduct our homeland defense mission,” said Major-General Christopher Coates, NORAD Director of Operations.</p> <p>Other examples of uses for the data include studying wind energy and wildlife interactions, reviewing economic impacts assessments of wind energy’s deployment, and better understanding of local wind deployment trends.</p> <a href=”/media/images/us-wind-turbine-database-viewer-detail”></a> <p>The database and viewer include wind turbine locations and characteristics, including make and model, total height, hub height, rotor diameter, year of installation, and rated capacity to produce electricity. Clicking on each turbine will bring up a window with the turbine’s metadata.</p> <p>(Public domain.)</p> <p>With the release of the database, data that were previously scattered across many datasets and in some cases unavailable to the public—have been released to the public in a single package via the <a href=””>USWTDB</a>. The database currently contains data from more than 57,000 turbines, constructed from the 1980s through 2018, in more than 1,700 wind power projects spanning 43 states plus Puerto Rico and Guam.</p> <p>The USWTDB Viewer, the development of which was led by the <a href=””>USGS Energy Resources Program</a>, is unprecedented in its ability to search and sort the U.S. wind turbine fleet. Users can interact with the data using multiple filters and colorings to allow wind projects across counties, states or regions to be quickly scanned for unique qualities. The full dataset can be <a href=””>downloaded</a> with a few clicks in a variety of formats, and users can connect to the underlying data and incorporate the Viewer into their own website. The database and viewer include wind turbine locations and characteristics, including make and model, total height, hub height, rotor diameter, year of installation, and rated capacity to produce electricity.</p> <p>The team that developed the USWTDB will host a one-hour webinar on April 23 at 2 p.m. Eastern to provide details on the data and viewer.  Register <a href=”;eom” target=”_blank”>here</a> to join.</p> <p>To learn more about DOE’s research in wind energy technologies, please visit <a href=”” title=”Read more about”></a>.</p> <p>More information about this database and other USGS energy research can be found <a href=””>here</a>. Stay up to date with USGS energy science by subscribing to the <a href=””>USGS Energy Newsletter</a> or following USGS on <a href=””>Twitter</a>.</p> <span class=”date-display-single”>April 19, 2018</span> [email protected] fa8f360b-f89d-47c1-b79b-5e5343063edf <p>Approximately one million homes in the United States contain vermiculite attic insulation. One of the major past sources of this vermiculite was commercially produced vermiculite insulation from <a href=”;id=0801744#bkground”>Libby, Montana,</a> containing trace levels of asbestiform amphibole, which is known to cause asbestos-related diseases. Although the <a href=”;id=0801744#bkground”>Libby mine is closed</a> and <a href=”;id=0801744#bkground”>part of a Superfund site</a>, the existing insulation in many older houses and buildings still needs to be tested for asbestos. When vermiculite insulation is found in an attic, evaluating it for asbestos has traditionally involved collecting a sample and submitting it for potentially time-consuming analyses at an off-site laboratory.</p> <p> </p> <p>“The goal of this USGS study was to find an onsite way to test for asbestos by determining if near-infrared reflectance measurements, using portable spectrometers, could be used to reliably identify the source of vermiculite ore and therefore its potential to contain asbestos,” said Denver-based USGS scientist and first author Gregg Swayze. “We achieved this goal.”</p> <p> </p> <p>Swayze and the team studied 52 expanded vermiculite samples from around the world, including attic insulation, commercial packing materials and horticultural products from Libby, Montana; Louisa, Virginia; Enoree, South Carolina; Palabora, South Africa; and Jiangsu, China. All of the nearly two dozen Libby vermiculite insulation samples examined with scanning electron microscopy in this study contained asbestiform amphiboles compared to relatively little asbestos to none in samples from the other locations. <a href=””>Spectroscopy</a> accurately determined the origin of the vermiculite insulation samples. </p> <p> </p> <p>“Based on medical studies, there is general agreement that all Libby vermiculite insulation is potentially hazardous,” said Swayze. “This study demonstrates that spectrally determining the source of attic vermiculite as Libby, provides enough information to make a remediation decision.”</p> <p> </p> <p>Vermiculite insulation can be analyzed while it is still in an attic using a portable spectrometer. Samples for potentially time-consuming off-site laboratory analyses do not need to be collected from an attic if the insulation is spectrally confirmed as vermiculite from Libby. Instead, a report can be generated and given to the owner while on site, along with information on remediation scenarios.</p> <p> </p> <a href=”/media/images/photo-vermiculite-attic-insulation-libby-montana-0″></a> <p></p> <p>Photo of Vermiculite Attic Insulation from Libby, Montana</p> <p>(Credit: Gregg Swayze, USGS. Public domain.)</p> <a href=”/media/images/scanning-electron-image-vermiculite-asbestos”></a> <p></p> <p>Scanning electron microscope image of elongate amphiboles, some of which are asbestiform, collected from attic insulation from Libby, Montana.</p> <p>(Public domain.)</p> <span class=”date-display-single”>April 5, 2018</span> [email protected] d45c8404-3f21-4f76-9f36-227bf7f88eed <p>Results of scientific studies such as this can be used to design alerting strategies for earthquake early warning systems such as USGS’ <a href=””>ShakeAlert</a>, now being developed for the U.S. West Coast.</p> <a href=”/media/images/earthquake-alerts-early-and-often-or-possibly-late-0″></a> <p>The choice when issuing earthquake warnings is to: 1) issue alerts for weak shaking and potentially provide long warning times, but risk sending alerts for the many events that do not go on to produce damaging ground shaking, or 2) issue alerts only when ground shaking is expected to be damaging, with the tradeoff that the alert will be sent much later, reducing the amount of time available to take action. (Public domain.)</p> <a href=”/media/images/earthquake-alerts-early-and-often-or-possibly-late-1″></a> <p>The choice when issuing earthquake warnings is to: 1) issue alerts for weak shaking and potentially provide long warning times, but risk sending alerts for the many events that do not go on to produce damaging ground shaking, or 2) issue alerts only when ground shaking is expected to be damaging, with the tradeoff that the alert will be sent much later, reducing the amount of time available to take action. (Public domain.)</p> <p>This new study examines what the expected warning times could be for earthquake early warning systems by considering how long it takes an earthquake to grow in size (magnitude) compared to how long it takes earthquake waves (shaking) to arrive at a user’s location.</p> <p>Modern earthquake early warning systems can monitor the evolving rupture, issuing alerts to regions expected to experience a certain level of shaking as the earthquake is occurring.  If the earthquake rupture grows, and the region impacted by ground motion expands, alerts may be updated and extended to new locations.  A person will experience very strong ground motions only if the earthquake grows to a large-enough magnitude and if the fault rupture breaks close to their location.</p> <p>“Small and large earthquakes begin in similar ways, so we can’t know just after an earthquake starts how large it will ultimately become,” said Annemarie Baltay, a USGS seismologist and coauthor of the report. Consequently, earthquake early warning systems have the greatest potential benefit for people who can take protective action when warnings are issued for low levels of ground shaking. If alerts are only issued for very strong shaking, people will have less time to respond and take action.</p> <p>When and if an advance warning is issued thus depends critically on the ground motion threshold set for alert notification. The time available to issue an alert depends on both a user’s distance to the rupturing fault and the minimum level of ground motion for which the user wants to be alerted.  The amount of warning time depends most strongly on the ground-motion level that is used to trigger alerts. Longer warning times are possible if alerts are issued at lower thresholds, when only weak ground motion is expected from the earthquake.</p> <p>“Using the example of an earthquake on the San Andreas Fault, that starts in northern California and ruptures toward San Francisco, alerts issued when just light shaking is expected in San Francisco could provide warning times as long as about 48 seconds in advance of when the earthquake shaking is felt there,” said Elizabeth Cochran, a USGS seismologist and coauthor of the report. “In contrast, if you wait to alert San Francisco until very strong shaking is anticipated, only 8 seconds of warning are possible.”</p> <p>The authors noted that if users are willing to receive alerts and take safety actions even when it is unlikely the ground shaking will grow to become damaging, they are more likely to receive timely information they can act on. In contrast, if users prefer to limit alerts to events during which ground motion is expected to be very strong, then warning times will be short, or perhaps even arrive too late to act.</p> <p>“The conundrum,” noted USGS seismologist and lead study author Sarah Minson, “is that little earthquakes are much more common than big ones. You could get much longer advance warning if you take action to protect yourself as soon as an earthquake begins and not wait to see if that earthquake happens to grow large enough to cause potentially damaging shaking.”</p> <p>Alerts for weak shaking could help provide effective response training for when a bigger, damaging earthquake eventually occurs. “There are many low-cost actions that can be taken even when scientists can’t forecast the final strength of an earthquake. This includes drop-cover-hold-on; slowing down trains to prevent high-speed derailments; putting down hazardous work materials, such as chemicals or saws; backing away from warehouse racks and other fragile structures in ‘big box’ stores; and so on,” said Men-Andrin Meier, a Caltech seismologist and coauthor of the report.</p> <p>The full report, “The Limits of Earthquake Early Warning: Timeliness of Ground Motion Estimates,” was published in “Science Advances,” and is available <a href=””>online</a>.</p> <span class=”date-display-single”>March 27, 2018</span> Leslie C. Gordon 92afdaa6-1a6f-4c40-bfc1-b31f79a7b08a <a href=”/media/images/curious-manatee-calf-approaches-scientist-crystal-river-florida”></a> <p>A curious manatee calf approaches as the USGS Sirenia Project conducts fieldwork at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. Credit: Bob Bonde, USGS. Public domain.</p> <p>U.S. Geological Survey scientists have developed the first laboratory test that can pick up traces of manatees’ genetic material in the waterways where they live.  Using a water sample collected in the field, the innovative environmental DNA test can reveal whether one or more of the elusive marine mammals has been in the area within the past month.</p> <p>The test can detect the presence of manatees where other methods won’t work, help scientists identify the habitats manatees use and the patterns of their seasonal movements, and inform efforts to bring back wild manatee populations that are considered close to extinction, such as in Brazil or West Africa, said USGS research geneticist Margaret Hunter.</p> <p>“Environmental DNA detection is the wave of the future for monitoring species that are difficult to find,” Hunter said. “Some species, such as marine mammals, live in places where humans can’t easily follow them. Others are few in number and widely dispersed, well camouflaged, or good at avoiding contact with people. By combining new advances in eDNA work with other techniques, we’re getting a more complete picture of these wild populations, without disturbing them.”</p> <p>Hunter led a research team that isolated a unique DNA segment found in manatees’ body residues, such as saliva, skin cells, excrement and exhaled water vapor. The team developed a genetic marker that signals the presence of those DNA segments in a concentrated water sample from the animals’ environment. Their work is reported in a <a href=””>scientific paper</a> published March 13, 2018 in the journal Endangered Species Research.</p> <a href=”/media/images/a-manatee-meets-dr-margaret-hunter-during-research-crystal-river”></a> <p>During research at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Dr. Margaret Hunter comes face to face with a manatee. Credit: Gaia Meigs-Friend, USGS. Public domain.</p> <p>The eDNA probe can detect genetic material from all three manatee species: the West Indian manatee (Trichecus manatus) of Florida and the Caribbean; the less well understood African manatee (Trichecus senegalensis); and the Amazonian manatee (Trichecus inunguis) of South America, so difficult to detect in dark river waters that its abundance, range and behavior are largely unknown. All three species are considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the West Indian manatee is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.</p> <p>Slow-moving and secretive, wild manatees are often concealed by foliage, cloudy or dark water or bad weather. Scientists typically use aerial surveys to find and monitor them.</p> <p>“In some instances manatees just cannot be detected even though we know they’re there,” Hunter said. “But our study found that eDNA surveys improved the detection of manatees in the wild, compared to the more traditional aerial survey methods. And it is relatively easy for field biologists to collect the samples, even though the methodology in the lab is not easy.”</p> <a href=”/media/images/a-water-sample-prepped-be-tested-environmental-dna”></a> <p>Laboratory technician Amelia Ulmer filters water collected in the field, to be analyzed for environmental DNA in the laboratory of Dr. Margaret Hunter. This sample was tested for Burmese python eDNA, in a process similar to that developed by Dr. Hunter for manatee eDNA. Credit: Gaia Meigs-Friend, USGS. Public domain.</p> <p>Hunter began developing the eDNA test in the fall of 2013. Using a database of wildlife genomes that have already been sequenced and tissue samples taken from living animals or carcasses, the team identified DNA sequences that are unique to manatee. The researchers developed a genetic marker that gives off fluorescent light in the presence of manatee DNA. A fragment of the manatees’ genetic material – just 69 DNA base pairs, out of a total of 16,882 DNA base pairs – is enough to produce a reliable result, Hunter said.</p> <p>The probe was tested on concentrated water samples from an area on Florida’s East Coast where manatees congregate, in the Florida Panhandle, where they are less numerous, and at locations in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Lake Ossa, Cameroon, where observers sometimes see the animals in the water. Some samples came from salty or brackish bays and lagoons, others from freshwater lakes and bayous. Taking care to avoid contamination with stray DNA, the team filtered water samples and concentrated the DNA. The samples were analyzed in a quantitative DNA detector, a state-of-the-art device which separates each water sample into as many as 20,000 droplets and analyzes each of them for traces of manatee DNA.</p> <p>The probe detected manatee eDNA at all six Florida locations and all five in Guantanamo Bay, but at just one location in Cameroon. It was not affected by salinity levels. But in waters rich in organic matter, such as forested lagoons, high levels of tannins and other natural chemicals in the water sometimes interfered with the probe, the researchers found.  And there is another caveat: the probe “gives us the concentration of manatee DNA in our water sample, but it can’t yet tell us how many animals are present,” Hunter said. “It could be detecting one animal right next to you or ten animals upstream.”</p> <p>The researchers’ potential next steps include refining the manatee probe and developing similar probes for the dugong, a related species, or for other marine mammals.</p> <span class=”date-display-single”>March 19, 2018</span> [email protected] 6e1a823f-235a-47b4-92d2-844d25ab76df <p>WASHINGTON – The <a href=””>U.S. Department of the Interior today announced</a> it is seeking public comment by March 19, 2018, on a draft list of minerals considered critical to the economic and national security of the United States. </p> <span class=”date-display-single”>February 16, 2018</span> [email protected] 69fdf5d1-5f2f-4397-83c2-ed082182b2af <p>The report from the USGS National Minerals Information Center is the earliest comprehensive source of 2017 mineral production data for the world. It includes statistics on more than 90 mineral commodities that are important to the U.S. economy and national security. It also identifies events, trends and issues in the domestic and international minerals industries. This report covers the full range of nonfuel minerals monitored by the center, not just critical minerals, which were described in the recent USGS <a href=”″>Critical Mineral Resources</a> publication; which was released in December of 2017.</p> <p>“The Mineral Commodity Summaries provide crucial, unbiased statistics that decision-makers and policy-makers in both the private and public sectors rely on to make business decisions and national policy,” said Steven M. Fortier, the center’s director. “Industries – such as steel, aerospace, and electronics – processed nonfuel mineral materials and created an estimated $2.9 trillion in value-added products in 2017 or 15 percent of the total U.S. Gross Domestic Product.”</p> <a href=”/media/images/us-relies-these-countries-50-or-more-certain-minerals”></a>This map shows the countries that supply mineral commodities for which the United States was more than 50 percent import reliant in 2017. (Map: USGS. Public domain.) <p>According to this year’s report, the United States continues to rely on foreign sources for some raw and processed mineral materials. In 2017, the country was 100 percent import-reliant on 21 mineral commodities including <a href=””>rare earths</a>, <a href=””>manganese</a>, <a href=””>niobium </a>and <a href=””>vanadium</a>. This number of 100 percent import-reliant minerals has increased from just 11 commodities in 1984.</p> <p>The $75.2 billion in nonfuel mineral production by U.S. mines this year is made up of industrial minerals, including aggregates, and metals.</p> <p>Thirteen mineral commodities produced in the United States were worth more than $1 billion each in 2017. The estimated value of U.S. industrial minerals production in 2017 was $48.9 billion, 3 percent more than that of 2016. Increased natural gas and oil production benefitted some of the industrial mineral sectors. However, slower construction activity resulted in stagnant production in industrial minerals used in construction. </p> <p>U.S. metal mine production in 2017 was estimated at $26.3 billion and was 12 percent more than that of 2016. Supply concerns and increased investor activity resulted in higher prices in 2017 for most metals. However, despite higher metal prices, domestic production was lower than the previous year.  </p> <p>In 2017, 11 states each produced more than $2 billion worth of nonfuel mineral commodities. These states were, in descending order of value: Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Alaska, California, Minnesota, Florida, Utah, Missouri, Michigan and Wyoming.</p> <p>Some other significant findings in the new report on domestic production include:</p> <a href=”;_gravel_construction/”>Construction Sand and Gravel</a>, <a href=””>Crushed Stone</a>, and <a href=””>Dimension Stone</a>: Construction-related industrial minerals remained essentially unchanged or saw slight decreases in production and demand in 2017. Much of this decline was due to weather events along the Gulf Coast and in the Southeast, mixed-to-slight growth in expenditures in residential and nonresidential sectors, and a slight decline in expenditures for public sector construction. <a href=””>Aluminum</a>: U.S. production of primary aluminum decreased for the fifth consecutive year, declining by about 12 percent in 2017 to the lowest level since 1951. U.S. imports of aluminum increased by 16 percent in 2017.  <a href=””>Rare Earths</a>: The suspension of U.S. rare-earth mining in late 2015 continued throughout 2017. In Nebraska, one company commissioned an operation that produced separated rare earth oxides from recycled fluorescent light bulbs. The company planned to ramp up production to 18 tons per month using a proprietary technology. <a href=””>Gold</a>: Two new gold mines opened in late 2016 and 2017; one in Nevada and one in South Carolina – this was the first gold mine east of the Mississippi River since 1999. <a href=””>Cobalt</a>: Average annual cobalt prices more than doubled, owing to strong demand from consumers, limited availability of cobalt on the spot market, and an increase in metal purchases by investors. <a href=””>Lithium</a>: Strong demand from consumers drove the average price of lithium up 61 percent in 2017 vs. 2016.  <p>The <a href=””>USGS Mineral Resources Program</a> delivers unbiased science and information to understand mineral resource potential, production, consumption and how minerals interact with the environment. The <a href=””>USGS National Minerals Information Center</a> collects, analyzes and disseminates current information on the supply of and the demand for minerals and materials in the United States and about 180 other countries. This information is essential in planning for and mitigating impacts of potential disruptions to mineral commodity supply due to both natural hazard and man-made events.</p> <p>The USGS report Mineral Commodity Summaries 2018 is available <a href=”″>online</a>. Hardcopies will be available later in the year from the Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents. For ordering information, please call <a href=”tel:(202)%20512-1800″ target=”_blank”>(202) 512-1800</a> or <a href=”tel:(866)%20512-1800″ target=”_blank”>(866) 512-1800</a> or <a href=”” target=”_blank”>go online</a>. </p> <p>For more information on this report and individual mineral commodities, please visit the <a href=””>USGS National Minerals Information Center</a>. To keep up-to-date on USGS mineral research, follow us on <a href=””>Twitter</a> or visit the <a href=””>Mineral Resources Program webpage</a>.</p> <span class=”date-display-single”>January 31, 2018</span> [email protected] 70a694bd-9bb7-405c-952a-7f8db70e39e1 <p>The study, <a href=”″>published in Science today</a>, shows there is low rock and dust content in the exposed ice. This means that relatively pure water ice, capped by only a thin layer of ice-cemented rock and dust, may be readily accessible to future exploration missions.</p> <p>“There is ice under roughly a third of the Martian surface, which records the recent geologic history of Mars,” said USGS scientist and lead author of the study, Colin Dundas. “What we’ve seen here are cross-sections through the ice that give us a 3-D view with more detail than ever before. Having this degree of detail is an important contribution to the growing body of knowledge about conditions on Mars.”</p> <a href=”/media/images/broad-view-icy-scarp-mars”></a>This NASA HiRISE image shows an icy scarp on Mars in the context of a broader area.<br />Credit:NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/USGS <p>Although water ice deposits are known to exist from <a href=””>previous Mars missions</a>, this new study analyzed the vertical structure and thickness of ice sheets using high-resolution imagery and topography from the HiRISE instrument on NASA’s <a href=””>Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter</a>. The study examined north and south pole-facing erosional slopes, known as scarps, in eight locations around Mars, all in the mid-latitudes. These scarps are thought to be formed by a process called <a href=””>sublimation</a>, where ice is lost to the atmosphere by transformation into water vapor without ever turning into liquid.</p> <p>Similar to ice cores recovered from the Earth’s surface, these ice sheets may preserve a record of ice deposition and past climate on Mars. Images of the erosional scarps reveal geologic features of the ice, such as banded patterns and color variations due to layering. Such details suggest ice layers with different proportions of ice and dust that could have formed under varying climate conditions.</p> <p>This study was funded by NASA with research done in collaboration with the University of Arizona, the Planetary Science Institute, Georgia Tech, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Texas. </p> <p>While NASA leads space exploration for the United States, the USGS has a long and rich history of assisting NASA with space exploration missions and planetary mapping. Specifically, the <a href=””>USGS Astrogeology Science Center </a>in Arizona is a national resource for the integration of planetary geoscience, cartography and remote sensing. The center was established in 1963 to provide lunar geologic mapping for NASA and assist in training astronauts destined for the Moon. Throughout the years, the USGS has participated in processing and analyzing data from numerous missions to planetary bodies in our solar system, and collaborates with the planning and operation of space exploration missions.</p> <a href=”/media/images/detailed-subsection-icy-scarp-mars”></a>This high-resolution NASA HiRISE image shows a detailed subsection of an icy scarp on Mars in enhanced color. <br />Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/USGS <span class=”date-display-single”>January 12, 2018</span> [email protected] 8605b9c9-a63e-4d02-a09d-eb3eb1b7aaf7 <p>(WASHINGTON) Today, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke  released an updated resource assessment for the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A), the Western Beaufort Sea, adjacent State and Native lands, and State waters , which estimates the mean undiscovered, technically recoverable resources both on and offshore to include 17.6 billion barrels of oil and more than 50 trillion cubic feet of gas.</p> <p>“Earlier this year I visited the North Slope to talk with Alaska Natives and elected officials about what responsible energy development means for the communities and the state. The response was overwhelmingly positive and the message was clear: the path to American Energy Dominance starts in Alaska,” said Secretary Zinke. “Today’s updated assessment is a big step toward that goal. Thanks to the incredible work of scientists at the USGS and BOEM, we know what’s available and what our potential is. That’s important because with the scientific knowledge, industry partners are more willing to explore the area. New discoveries have changed our geologic knowledge of the area – and these assessments show that the North Slope will remain an important energy hub for decades to come in order to meet the energy needs of our nation.”</p> <a href=”/media/images/npr-a-assessment-map”></a>This map shows the assessment units of the USGS assessment of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and adjacent state and Tribal lands and waters. (Public domain.) <p>The assessment was conducted by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) which are all bureaus under the management of the Department. USGS led onshore efforts and BOEM led offshore efforts with data contributed by BLM. Additional information was provided by state and industry partners.</p> <p>Onshore, USGS estimates a mean of 8.7 billion barrels of oil and 25 trillion cubic feet of gas. This is a significant increase from the 2010 resource assessment which estimated a mean of 1.5 billion barrels of oil. </p> <p>Offshore, BOEM’s revised estimates of mean undiscovered technically recoverable resources in the Beaufort Sea Outer Continental Shelf  Planning Area are 8.9 billion barrels of oil and 27.7 trillion cubic feet of gas.</p> <p>BOEM’s updated assessment resulted in a net increase of nearly 700 million barrels of oil equivalent over BOEM’s 2016 Beaufort Sea Planning Area assessment. </p> <p>The rest of the news release can be found at the <a href=””>Department of the Interior’s Newsroom</a>.</p> <a href=”/media/images/permafrost-national-petroleum-reserve-alaska”></a>Permafrost forms a grid-like pattern in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, a 22.8 million acre region managed by the Bureau of Land Management on Alaska’s North Slope. USGS has periodically assessed oil and gas resource potential there. These assessments can be found <a data-cke-saved-href=”” href=””>here</a>. (Credit: David Houseknecht, USGS. Public domain.) <span class=”date-display-single”>December 22, 2017</span> [email protected] 86ffa575-34ed-4ddb-964b-de715cc01ad9 <p>U.S. Geological Survey scientists have shed new light on processes that happen deep underground.</p> <p>These processes — which cause radium to leach from aquifer rocks into groundwater — are responsible for high concentrations of naturally occurring radium in groundwater from the Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer. This aquifer provides more than 630 million gallons of water a day for public supply to parts of Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin.</p> <p>A <a href=”″>newly published USGS study</a> helps explain how radium isotopes 224, 226, and 228 make their way into water in the Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer and where concentrations are highest. Knowing where and how much radium is in groundwater is important because of the health risks associated with drinking water that’s high in radioactive isotopes. Known health risks include bone cancer and leukemia.  </p> <p>“Millions of people rely on the Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer for drinking water,” said Paul Stackelberg, USGS hydrologist and study lead. “By helping to identify the conditions that cause high levels of radium in water from the aquifer, we can help water utilities and resource managers understand where radium levels are likely to be high and thereby prioritize resources for monitoring activities, alternative water resource development, and public education programs.”</p> <p>Radium can be removed from drinking water through treatment, thereby limiting the health risks it poses. The groundwater tested in this study came from public supply wells, before treatment and distribution. Private wells were not tested during this study, however, more than half a million people get their drinking water from private wells that tap the Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer. These homeowners might consider having their water tested for radium.</p> <p>Previous water-quality testing by federal, state, and local agencies has found that radium isotopes 226 and 228 occur in the Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer at levels that exceed those in most other U.S. aquifers and that, in some locations, are higher than the EPA maximum contaminant level (MCL) for radium.</p> <p>The USGS study also measured a third radium isotope, 224, that was not tested for in previous studies. Radium 224 adds radioactivity to groundwater but has no EPA MCL because its risks to human health are lower than isotopes 226 and 228. The levels of isotope 224 were found to be nearly equal to 228 but generally less than 226.</p> <p>This <a href=”″>study</a>, part of the USGS National Water Quality Assessment Project, investigated the conditions that cause higher-than-typical amounts of radium in water from the Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer. By looking at variables like groundwater age, dissolved minerals, and dissolved oxygen levels in 80 samples collected across six states, researchers were able to better understand the conditions that cause radium to leach into groundwater at higher levels. Water that was recharged into the aquifer long ago, that contains greater amounts of dissolved minerals, and that is low in dissolved oxygen is more likely to leach radium from its surrounding rock.</p> <a href=”/media/images/radium-groundwater-study-area-cambrian-ordovician-aquifer”></a>Map: Concentrations of radium in samples of untreated groundwater from the confined parts of the Cambrian-Ordovician groundwater system frequently exceeded the USEPA maximum contaminant level of 5 picocuries per liter in Illinois, Iowa, and eastern Wisconsin, where wells tap deeper, older groundwater. Click map to enlarge. <p>”<a href=”″>Radium mobility and the age of groundwater in public-drinking-water supplies from the Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer system, north-central USA</a>,” is available online in the journal Applied Geochemistry.</p> <span class=”date-display-single”>December 6, 2017</span> [email protected] dbc20e96-0fc2-412c-aaf9-e7c8df3f4be0 <a href=”/media/images/commercial-poultry”></a>A new USGS study found that the avian flu viruses in the United States during 2014-2015 were able to spread between commercial poultry and wild birds. This process is called spillover. (Credit: Stephen Ausmus, USDA Agricultural Research Service) <p>Scientists from the USGS analyzed the genes, or <a href=””>genome</a>, of the <a href=””>avian flu</a> viruses that <a href=””>spread in the United States</a> during 2014-2015. This outbreak resulted in more than $3 billion in losses to the United States poultry industry. The study found that even though the viruses likely evolved in Asia, they easily infected and spread among North American wild birds. The viruses were also <a href=”″>able to spread</a> between domestic and wild birds, in a process called spillover. However, this study found that the rate of spillover was minor, and the poultry outbreak was able to persist without further transmission from wild birds.</p> <p>“Results from our study are important because they can help managers enhance <a href=””>biosecurity</a> and guard against the most likely sources of avian flu outbreaks in the United States,” said Dan Grear, a disease ecologist with the USGS National Wildlife Health Center and the lead author of the study.</p> <p>The scientists studied avian flu viruses of the highly pathogenic variety. The designation of low or highly pathogenic avian flu refers to the potential for these viruses to kill domestic chickens. Strains of highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, cause contagious and severe illness and often death in poultry and wildlife, and some strains <a href=””>can infect humans</a>. The 2014-2015 HPAI outbreak in the U.S. did not infect people.</p> <p>Infection and transmission of HPAI in wild birds are difficult to measure during a fast-moving outbreak. The new study used cutting-edge techniques, known as phylodynamics, to analyze the genetic similarity between viruses infecting wild birds and poultry that were collected during the outbreak. This new method of analysis can answer questions about transmission within waterfowl populations and between waterfowl and poultry.</p> <p>“Our analyses showed that HPAI viruses can adapt easily to novel species and environments,” Grear said.</p> <p>Like most people, the genetic make-ups of influenza viruses are different from one another. Influenza viruses are constantly evolving and can develop into different strains with varying risks to animal and human health. Viruses from afar can also mix with local ones to create completely new strains of flu. Influenza viruses are classified by a combination of two groups of proteins: “H” proteins, of which there are 18 – H1 to H18 – and “N” proteins, of which there are 11 – N1 to N11. HPAI viruses in poultry are usually H5 or H7 subtypes.</p> <p>In 2014 and 2015, three different subtypes of HPAI were detected in the United States and Canada: H5N1, H5N2 and H5N8. Although those viruses did not infect humans, they were <a href=””>related to the Asian H5N1 subtype</a> that infected people in other countries.</p> <p>The new USGS study is published in the journal Evolutionary Applications.</p> <p>For more information about avian flu and other wildlife diseases, please visit the <a href=””>USGS National Wildlife Health Center website</a>. For more information about avian influenza and poultry, please visit the <a href=””>U.S. Department of Agriculture website</a>.</p> <span class=”date-display-single”>December 4, 2017</span> [email protected] c7b91ef5-a818-47db-824c-31e1eb8b2df1 <p>Here, methane and the bacteria that feed off it form the lynchpin of an ecosystem that is similar to what has been found in deep ocean cold seeps and some lakes, according to recent research by Texas A&amp;M University at Galveston, the U.S. Geological Survey and a team of collaborators from Mexico, The Netherlands, Switzerland and other U.S. institutions.</p> <p>The research, conducted by scientists who are trained in cave diving in addition to their other expertise, is the most detailed ecological study ever for a coastal cave ecosystem that is always underwater. In fact, the scientists had to use techniques that had previously been used by deep-sea submergence vehicles to be able to study the environment.</p> <p>“The opportunity to work with an international team of experts has been a remarkable experience for me,” said David Brankovits, who is the paper’s lead author and conducted the research during his Ph.D. studies at TAMUG. “Finding that methane and other forms of mostly invisible dissolved organic matter are the foundation of the food web in these caves explains why cave-adapted animals are able to thrive in the water column in a habitat without visible evidence of food.”</p> <a href=”/media/images/research-crew”></a>Ox Bel Ha Cave Project Field Team Members (left to right) David Brankovits (TAMUG), Jake Emmert (Moody Gardens), John Pohlman (USGS), and Francisco Bautista De La Cruz (Speleotech). (Credit: Jacob Pohlman. Public domain.) <p>The study was conducted in the Ox Bel Ha cave network of the northeastern Yucatan, which is described as a subterranean estuary because the flooded cave passages contain distinct water layers consisting of freshwater fed by rainfall and salt water from the coastal ocean. This subterranean estuary complex covers an area approximately the size of Galveston Bay, the seventh largest surface estuary in the United States.</p> <p>The freshwater portion of the caves and the sinkholes, which are used to access the caves and are referred to locally as cenotes, are important sources of freshwater for communities throughout the Yucatan. Methane in the caves forms naturally beneath the jungle floor and migrates downward, deeper into the water and caves. Normally, all of the methane formed in soils migrates upward, towards the atmosphere.</p> <p>This sets the stage for the bacteria and other microbes that form the basis for the cave ecosystem. The microbes eat both the methane in the water and other dissolved organic material that the freshwater brought with it from the surface. The microbes then fuel a food web that is dominated by crustaceans, including a cave-adapted shrimp species that obtains about 21 percent of its nutrition from methane.</p> <a href=”/media/images/ox-bel-ha-cross-section”></a>Caves within a karst subterranean estuary are filled with separated fresh (green), brackish (gray) and saline (blue) waters.  Within the subterranean estuary, methane (CH4) and other forms of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) created during the decomposition of soil from the overlying tropical forest sustain a complex cave-adapted ecosystem. (Public domain.) <p>“The processes we are investigating in these stratified groundwater systems are analogous to what is happening in the global ocean, especially in oxygen minimum zones where deoxygenation is a growing concern,” says John Pohlman, a coauthor of the study and a USGS biogeochemist whose work from the early 90s motivated the research. “Although accessing these systems requires specialized training and strict adherence to cave diving safety protocols, relative to the complexity of an oceanographic expedition, the field programs we organize are simple and economical.”</p> <p>One surprising finding was how important the dissolved organic material like methane was to the caves’ food web. Prior studies had assumed that the majority of organic material that feeds the microbes of caves came from vegetation and other detritus in the tropical forest that washed into the caves from the cenotes.</p> <p>However, deep within the caves, where the study was conducted, there is very little of that surface debris, so the microbes depend on methane and the other dissolved organics percolating downward through the ceiling of the caves.</p> <a href=”/media/images/cave-diver-a-flooded-cave”></a>Cave passage and diver within a section of the Ox Bel Ha cave system where the current study was conducted. The guideline seen alongside the diver that provides a continuous route to the surface is one of many safety standard the divers follow. Photograph © HP Hartmann. (Photograph © HP Hartmann) <p>Tom Iliffe, a professor in the Marine Biology Department at TAMUG who has been studying the biodiversity, evolution and conservation of marine cave animals for nearly 40 years, remarks, “Providing a model for the basic function of this globally-distributed ecosystem is an important contribution to coastal groundwater ecology and establishes a baseline for evaluating how sea level rise, seaside touristic development and other stressors will impact the viability of these lightless, food-poor systems.”</p> <p>The research was conducted during field expeditions funded by the USGS, TAMUG, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and with field assistance from Moody Gardens and Speleotech. Data from materials collected during the field program was provided by collaborating researchers from the USGS, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the University of Basel in Switzerland, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. USGS involvement was partially supported by the USGS Gas Hydrates Project and USGS Coastal Aquifers Project.  The study can be accessed <a href=””>here</a>.</p> <span class=”date-display-single”>November 28, 2017</span> [email protected] e4a1a95a-74e1-48cb-a3b0-d13fae4da29f <p>These new findings indicate that present-day Mars may not have a significant volume of liquid water. The water-restricted conditions that exist on Mars would make it difficult for Earth-like life to exist near the surface of the planet.</p> <p>Scientists from the USGS, the University of Arizona, Durham University (England) and the Planetary Science Institute analyzed narrow, down-slope trending surface features on Mars that are darker than their surroundings, called Recurring Slope Lineae, or RSL. These RSL features grow incrementally, fade when inactive and recur annually during the warmest time of year on Mars. RSL are mostly found on steep rocky slopes in dark regions of Mars, such as the southern mid-latitudes, Valles Marineris near the equator, and in Acidalia Planitia on the northern plains. The appearance and growth of these features resemble seeping liquid water, but how they form remains unclear, and this research demonstrated that the RSL flows seen by HiRISE are likely moving granular material like sand and dust.</p> <p>“We’ve thought of RSL as possible liquid water flows, but the slopes are more like what we expect for dry sand,” said USGS scientist and lead author Colin Dundas. “This new understanding of RSL supports other evidence that shows that Mars today is very dry.”</p> <p>The terminal end of the RSL slopes, said Dundas, are identical to the slopes of sand dunes where movement is caused by dry granular flows. Water almost certainly is not responsible for this behavior, which would require the volume of liquid to correspond to the length of slope available, producing more liquid on longer slopes. Instead, the 151 RSL examined by the study authors all end on similar slopes despite very different lengths. Additionally, said the scientists, water is unlikely to be produced only near the tops of slopes at these angles and if it were, it should be able to flow onto lower slopes.</p> <p>This new research finds that these RSL features are flows of granular material and thus, align with the long-standing hypothesis that the surface of Mars lacks flowing water. Small amounts of water could still be involved in their initiation in some fashion, as hydrated minerals have been detected at some RSL locations. The authors conclude that liquid on present-day Mars may be limited to traces of dissolved moisture from the atmosphere and thin films of water.</p> <p>This study was done in cooperation with the <a href=””>NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter project</a>.</p> <a href=”/media/images/hirise-image-cutout-shows-recurring-slope-lineae-tivat-crater”></a>This HiRISE image cutout shows Recurring Slope Lineae in Tivat crater on Mars in enhanced color. The narrow, dark flows descend downhill (towards the upper left). Analysis shows that the flows all end at approximately the same slope, which is similar to the angle of repose for sand.​​​​​​​Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/USGS. Public domain.​​​​​ <span class=”date-display-single”>November 20, 2017</span> [email protected] 57c3d394-d2bc-4481-9d60-f029b3fc0a99 <p>Darrel L. Williams, Ph.D., is being recognized for his individual contributions as a catalyst behind many innovations for the Landsat program. The International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, a group of 16 agencies, is being recognized for providing satellite earth observations to help save lives and protect property worldwide.</p> <p>Sponsored by the USGS and NASA, <a href=””>the annual award</a> is being presented today at a special commemorative event at the <a href=””>Pecora 20 conference</a>.</p> <p>The award has been presented annually since 1974 and honors the memory of William T. Pecora, Ph.D., former director of the USGS and under secretary of the Department of the Interior. Dr. Pecora was a motivating force behind <a href=””>Secretary Udall’s 1966 announcement</a> for the establishment of civil remote sensing of the Earth from space.</p> <p>Individual Award</p> <a href=”/media/images/darrel-l-williams”></a> <p>Darrel L. Williams, chief scientist for Global Science and Technology, is being recognized for outstanding contributions to understanding the Earth through remote sensing. He retired from NASA in 2010, following a distinguished 35-year career primarily focused on the Landsat program.</p> <p>He was the catalyst behind many new innovations for the Landsat 7 mission. For example, he helped improve the quantity and quality of imagery by comparing simultaneously acquired Landsat 5 with Landsat 7 data for cross-calibration between the two satellites.</p> <p>Williams played an instrumental role in the development of the Landsat 7 long-term acquisition plan to ensure that a robust, global and seasonal archive was acquired. Two significant examples include a global archive of coral reefs and the acquisition of Landsat imagery of Antarctica, leading to the highly acclaimed Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica.</p> <p>After discovering that Landsat 5 wasn’t conducting routine orbit adjustments and scientists were faced with potential degradation in data, Williams was critical in ensuring the issues were remedied. Landsat 5 went on to function another 17 years and acquire over one million additional images.</p> <p>Currently, as chief scientist at Global Science and Technology, he has explored innovative approaches to follow-on Landsat missions and continues to support completion of the soon-to-be-published Landsat Legacy study, which documents the definitive history of the Landsat program.</p> <p>Williams is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University and the University of Maryland.</p> <p>Group Award</p> <a href=”/media/images/international-charter-space-and-major-disasters-logo”></a> <p>The International Charter on Space and Major Disasters is being recognized for providing free satellite imagery, data and information to the global community during times of crises. The Charter has changed the way civil protection agencies respond to disasters.</p> <p>Satellite imagery allows decision makers, rescue teams and responders to quickly determine available routes to victims, move them to safety and select the best locations for rescue efforts.</p> <p>Since the Charter was founded in 2000, response efforts include the massive 7.9 magnitude earthquake in Nepal in 2015; the devastating Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013; the major earthquake in Haiti in 2010; the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010; the tsunami in Indonesia and Thailand in 2004; and over 500 other disasters spanning the globe.</p> <p>The Charter has 16 member agencies that provide satellite, data processing and data distribution assets. The wide range of satellites operated by members helps ensure rapid coverage of the Earth and provides an invaluable source of near-real-time information.</p> <p>This humanitarian mission is valuable to communities who are exposed to an imminent risk or are already victims of natural or technological disasters.  </p> <span class=”date-display-single”>November 15, 2017</span> [email protected] e87ebed9-36d5-4a7b-a480-e565fe99b478 <p>The U.S. Geological Survey estimates a mean of 40 million pounds of in-place uranium oxide remaining as potential undiscovered resources in the Southern High Plains region of Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.</p> <p>The uranium occurs in a type of rock formation called “calcrete,” which has been well-documented in noted uranium-producing countries like Australia and Namibia. The calcrete formations described in this assessment are the first uranium-bearing calcrete deposits reported in the United States.</p> <a href=”/media/images/calcrete-near-sulfur-springs-draw”></a>A calcrete outcropping near Sulfur Springs Draw in Texas. This deposit dates to the Pliocene and Pleistocene, and hosts uranium-vanadate minerals.(Credit: Susan Hall, USGS. Public domain.) <p>The United States is the world’s largest consumer of uranium used in nuclear power plants, which provide approximately 19 percent of the Nation’s electricity. Substantial uranium resources are identified in the United States, yet only <a href=””>11 percent</a> of uranium purchased by civilian nuclear power reactors during 2016 was obtained from domestic sources.</p> <p>“Planning for long-term sustainable nuclear power in the United States requires evaluation of both identified and potential undiscovered resources,” said Tom Crafford, program coordinator for the <a href=””>USGS Mineral Resources Program</a>. “That’s where USGS science comes in. Identifying and understanding our domestic mineral wealth is a vital part of ensuring the security of our supply chain for these resources.”</p> <a href=”/media/images/southern-high-plains-uranium-assessment-area-map”></a>The areas covered in this uranium assessment.(Public domain.) <p>The assessment focuses on a region known as the Southern High Plains, which stretch from eastern New Mexico across North Texas to western Oklahoma. The assessment area is divided into a northern and southern portion, with the southern portion estimated to contain 80 percent of the undiscovered resources. For comparison, the two known deposits, Buzzard Draw and Sulfur Springs Draw, both located in Texas, contain a combined total of 2.7 million pounds of uranium oxide.</p> <p>“Texas is well-known for its energy potential, from petroleum to wind to uranium,” said Walter Guidroz, program coordinator of the <a href=””>USGS Energy Resources Program</a>. “In fact, in 2015, we released another assessment of <a href=””>uranium in South Texas</a>, where we estimated a mean of about 5 years of U.S. uranium needs.”</p> <a href=”/media/images/finchite-carnotite-and-celestine”></a>Intergrown Finchite and Carnotite (yellowish minerals) with Celestine (white/clear mineral). (Image courtesy of Travis Olds, University of Notre Dame) <p>The current assessment of the Southern High Plains yielded another surprise—a new uranium mineral species. Discovered near Sulphur Springs Draw in Texas, the new mineral was named <a href=””>finchite</a>, after long-time USGS uranium scientist Warren Finch (1924—2014).</p> <p>“This assessment was especially exciting for us, as not only did we get to discover a new species of mineral, but we also had the opportunity to honor a friend and celebrated colleague,” said USGS scientist Susan Hall, lead author of the assessment. “Dr. Finch’s long service and contributions to uranium science now live on through this new mineral, which itself has the potential to contribute to the Nation’s energy mix.”</p> <a href=”/media/images/southern-high-plains-0″></a>The Southern High Plains of New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. USGS conducted a uranium assessment in this region in 2015.(Public domain.) <p>Finchite is a unique combination of <a href=””>strontium</a>, uranium, <a href=””>vanadium</a>, and water, and is a potential source of mineable uranium ore. Today, it is part of the Southern High Plains, a region that has drawn little attention for uranium resource potential. That may change, given the qualities of the uranium deposits.</p> <p>“The calcrete uranium deposits within this region have the advantage of shallow depth and soft host rock,” said USGS scientist Brad Van Gosen, co-author of the assessment. “These qualities work well for open-pit mining, assuming uranium prices and other factors are favorable.”</p> <a href=”/media/images/usgs-scientist-examining-texas-rock-layers-finchite-minerals”></a>USGS scientist Bradley Van Gosen examines rock layers for the newly discovered mineral finchite near Lamesa, Texas. Van Gosen was the first to recognize the existence of the new mineral, which was named for long-time USGS uranium geologist Warren Finch. Read more about our uranium research <a data-cke-saved-href=”” href=””>here</a>. (Credit: Susan Hall, USGS. Public domain.) <p>The assessment can be accessed <a href=”″>here</a>. Other USGS research regarding uranium potential can be found <a href=””>here</a>. Stay up to date with USGS energy science by subscribing to our <a href=””>Newsletter</a> or following us on <a href=””>Twitter</a>.</p> <span class=”date-display-single”>November 14, 2017</span> [email protected] d53b31ad-4b13-4813-945a-2f7a9c1ea855 <p><a href=””>The Global Mountain Explorer</a> can help a variety of users – from hikers planning their next adventure, to scientists, resource managers and policy makers seeking information that is often sparse in these prominent yet often understudied landscapes. Mountains occupy anywhere from 12 to 31 percent of the land surface of the Earth, but despite their importance, surprisingly few attempts have been made to scientifically define and map these regions worldwide with detail.</p> <a href=”/media/images/global-mountain-explorer”></a>An example display from the Global Mountain Explorer tool showing a map of mountains on top of a satellite image background.(Public domain.) <p>“This product allows anyone with access to the Internet to explore where mountains are, whether they are low or high, scattered or continuous, snowy or snow-free,” said USGS ecosystems geographer Roger Sayre, who led the project. “Mountain Explorer users can visualize and compare in one place and for the first time the three major global mountain maps that have been produced,” he added.</p> <p>Mountains provide significant water, timber, and mineral resources, and food, fiber, and fuel products. They are home to diverse ecosystems and wildlife and are valued for their esthetic beauty and recreational offerings. Mountain areas are also prone to natural hazards. But despite their importance, surprisingly few attempts have been made to scientifically define and map these regions worldwide with detail.</p> <a href=”/media/images/borah-peak-idaho”></a>The Global Mountain Explorer provides information from global scales down to specific mountains, such as Borah Peak, Idaho pictured above. (Public domain.) <p>The USGS developed the Global Mountain Explorer, in partnership with <a href=””>ESRI</a>, and three organizations at the University of Bern in Switzerland – <a href=””>the Center for Development and Environment</a>, <a href=””>the Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment</a>, and <a href=””>the Mountain Research Initiative</a>. The tool was developed as part of a <a href=”″>Group on Earth Observations initiative</a> to accurately delineate mountain regions using best available data. It is intended to provide information on the global distribution and a variety of mountain data with a resolution 16 times more detailed than previous mapping efforts.</p> <a href=”/media/images/mount-shasta-city-lights”></a>Twilight image of snow-covered Mount Shasta with city lights visible at its base. The Global Mountain Explorer allows users to view mountains and surrounding terrain. (Public domain.) <p>Users can select an area by zooming in or by typing a place name like Mt. Kilimanjaro to view its elevation and type. They can also select from a number of backdrops — such as satellite images, topographic maps or political boundary maps — on which to display the different types of mountain classes. A tutorial showing the full features for the Global Map Explorer is available <a href=”″>here</a>. <a href=”″ target=”_blank”></a></p> <span class=”date-display-single”>October 24, 2017</span> [email protected] 3746896c-7cd9-4fa5-a006-4e19012504f9 <p>Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, joined by colleagues from Natural Resources Canada, the University of Calgary, and the Sitka Sound Science Center in Alaska, spent 20 days at sea aboard the Canadian Coast Guard Ship, “John P. Tully.” The expedition covered more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the southern Haida Gwaii islands in British Columbia to Cross Sound near Juneau, Alaska. They were looking for clues to the future of a fault often compared to a more famous one in California.</p> <a href=”/media/images/sampling-core-fluid-sediment-cores-collected-southeast-alaska”></a>Mary McGann (left, USGS) and Rachel Lauer (University of Calgary) sample pore fluids from sediment cores collected aboard the Canadian Coast Guard Ship John P. Tully along the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather fault offshore of southeast Alaska. Expedition scientists will use their findings to better understand the history of the fault and the hazards it poses to coastal communities in the U.S. and Canada.(Credit: James Conrad, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.) <p>“We can think of this fault system as the San Andreas of the north,” said Danny Brothers, a USGS research geophysicist. “It appears to be the fastest moving continent-ocean strike-slip fault in the world.” Speedy faults like the Queen Charlotte can trigger earthquakes and tsunamis more frequently than slower faults.</p> <p>The scientists worked remotely through thousands of feet of water. Their tools included seismic-reflection surveys that use sound to reveal rock layers beneath the seafloor, piston cores that bring up the top several meters of ocean sediment for further scrutiny, and cameras with powerful lights dragged just above the seabed. The researchers plan to spend years analyzing their newly collected data to help regional residents, businesses, and governments prepare for the future.</p> <p>“Development of large-scale infrastructure, such as ports and [liquefied natural gas] plants in British Columbia and Alaska, need the best possible information on earthquake and tsunami risk,” said Vaughn Barrie, a research scientist with Natural Resources Canada, “and this collaborative project provides answers to many of these questions.”</p> <p>As with many scientific expeditions, the researchers uncovered more than they planned. “We’ve discovered some incredible features,” said Jamie Conrad, a USGS geologist, “such as methane seeps and chemosynthetic communities, large submarine landslides, offset seabed morphology from fault motion, and volcanic edifices.”</p> <a href=”/media/images/collecting-a-piston-core-seafloor-sediment-british-columbia”></a>Scientists prepare to lower a piston corer off Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, to sample seafloor sediment near the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather fault. Expedition scientists are studying layers of sediment in the cores they collected to identify and determine ages of past earthquakes along the fault. This information will help them assess future threats to coastal communities in the U.S. and Canada.(Credit: James Conrad, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.) <p>Gary Greene, from the Sitka Sound Science Center, added: “This investigation and cruise has revealed a spectacularly active fault zone that probably represents the best-defined and most extensive transform plate boundary found anywhere on Earth,” referring to the long, knife-edge fault line along which the Pacific tectonic plate is moving northward relative to the North American plate.</p> <p>“This cruise has been a great opportunity to work with scientists that are truly pioneering our understanding of this complex system, and has generated the first dataset focused on illuminating the hydrogeology of the QCF through targeted coring of active seep sites,” said Rachel Lauer, Assistant Professor of Geosciences at the University of Calgary.</p> <p>Canada and the United States joined forces in 2015 to begin focused explorations of this common offshore threat. “Faults don’t stop at the shoreline and they certainly don’t stop at political boundaries,” said USGS’ Brothers. “We are fortunate to have a strong partnership with the Natural Resources Canada’s Geological Survey of Canada, so that we can examine the fault system in its entirety.”</p> <a href=”/media/images/examining-bucket-seafloor-sediment-collected-southeast-alaska”></a>USGS research geophysicist Danny Brothers (right) and colleagues examine the surface of a sediment grab sample just pulled onto the deck of the Canadian Coast Guard Ship John P. Tully. The sample was collected from the top of a mud volcano north of the border between southeast Alaska and British Columbia. Expedition scientists are investigating the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather fault to better understand its history and the hazards it poses to coastal communities in the U.S. and Canada.(Credit: James Conrad, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.) <span class=”date-display-single”>October 19, 2017</span> Leslie C. Gordon bd622875-33bb-4774-b09f-423d4e9bcd3b <p>A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 2.1 million people in the U.S. may be getting their drinking water from private domestic wells considered to have high concentrations of arsenic, presumed to be from natural sources.</p> <p>“About 44 million people in the lower 48 states use water from domestic wells,” said Joe Ayotte, a USGS hydrologist and lead author of the study. “While we’re confident our research will help well owners understand if they live in an area of higher risk for arsenic, the only way for them to be certain of what’s in their water is to have it tested.”</p> <p>Using a standard of 10 micrograms of arsenic per liter — the maximum contaminant level allowed for public water supplies — the researchers developed maps of the contiguous U.S. showing locations where there are likely higher levels of arsenic in groundwater, and how many people may be using it.</p> <p>Nearly all of the arsenic in the groundwater tested for this study and used to map probabilities is likely from natural sources, and is presumed to be coming primarily from rocks and minerals through which the water flows.</p> <p>The findings highlight the importance of private well owners working with their local and state officials to determine the best way to test and, if necessary, treat their water supplies.</p> <p>“Fortunately, in most areas of the country and with appropriate safeguards, the majority of homeowners can get good quality drinking water from private wells,” said Ayotte. “But this study is a good reminder that prudent, routine testing of the water, including its interaction with the water supply system, is an essential first step so homeowners and their families can confidently drink water from their faucets.”</p> <p>Using water samples from more than 20,000 domestic wells, the researchers developed a statistical model that estimates the probability of having high arsenic in domestic wells in a specific area. They used that model in combination with information on the U.S. domestic well population to estimate the population in each county of the continental United States with potentially high concentrations of arsenic in domestic wells.</p> <p>“One of our study’s basic assumptions is that the probability of high arsenic can be estimated by a statistical model.  We also assume that the domestic water use population is represented by census information used in the study,” said Ayotte.</p> <p>Some of the locations where it’s estimated the most people may have high-levels of arsenic in private domestic well water include:</p> <p>·         Much of the West – Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California, Arizona, New Mexico</p> <p>·         Parts of the Northeast and Midwest – Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maryland, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois Ohio, Indiana</p> <p>·         Some of the Atlantic southeast coastal states – Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina</p> <a href=”/media/images/estimated-population-arsenic-greater-10-micrograms-liter”></a>This map shows estimates of how many private domestic well users in each county may be drinking water with high levels of arsenic.  An estimated 2.1 million people throughout the U.S. may be drinking domestic well water high in arsenic(Public domain.) <p>“Although high-arsenic wells can occur in all 48 contiguous states, it is more prevalent in some states than in others,” said Ayotte. “The study did not include Alaska and Hawaii.”</p> <p>The researcher provided a cautionary note that while the study provides state and county estimates, they are not intended to take the place of more detailed or local information that may already be available in some areas.</p> <p>Long-term exposure to arsenic in domestic wells may cause health-related problems, including an increased risk of cancer. Testing and, if necessary, treating the water is an effective way of reducing or eliminating the concern. A <a href=””>CDC fact sheet</a> provides more information, as does the <a href=”;tid=3″>CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry</a>.</p> <p>“Ultimately, this study should be helpful not only in assessing the likelihood of people being exposed to arsenic in domestic well water, but the results of the study may assist other researchers evaluate situations where adverse health outcomes such as cancers or adverse birth outcomes may be related to environmental factors,” said Ayotte.</p> <p>Public water supplies are regulated by the U.S. EPA, but maintenance, testing and treatment of private water supplies are the sole responsibility of the homeowner.  About 44 million people in the U.S. get their drinking water from private wells, yet surveys indicate many homeowners are unaware of some basic testing that should be done to help ensure safe drinking water in the home.</p> <p>The study, “Estimating the high-arsenic domestic-well population in the conterminous United States” by J.D. Ayotte, L. Medalie, S.L. Qi, L.C. Backer, and N. T. Nolan is <a href=”″>available online</a> in Environmental Science and Technology.</p> <p> </p> <span class=”date-display-single”>October 18, 2017</span> [email protected] 9f001d4e-f633-4d99-9f90-8bf2597a5cdd <p>These future conditions will cause an overall increase in the area suitable to support rainfed agriculture within dryland areas. Increases are projected in North America, western Asia, eastern Asia and South America. In contrast, suitable areas are projected to decline in European dryland areas.</p> <p>This study focused on understanding and projecting suitability for rainfed agriculture in temperate, or non-tropical, dryland regions. Drylands make up at least 40 percent of the earth’s land area and rainfed croplands account for approximately 75 percent of global cropland. Worldwide, temperate regions account for 31 percent of the area used to grow wheat and 17 percent used for corn.</p> <p>“Understanding the future potential distribution of rainfed agriculture is important for resource managers in meeting economic and food security needs, especially as the earth’s population grows,” said USGS scientist and lead author of the study, John Bradford.</p> <p>Future climate conditions are expected to increase the frequency of high temperature events and alter the seasonality of soil moisture in dryland systems, which are the factors found to be important in predicting regions suitable for agriculture in these water-limited areas. Findings for the temperate regions examined by this study indicate that many areas currently too cold for agriculture, particularly across Asia and North America, will likely become suitable for growing crops. However, some areas that are currently heavily cultivated, including regions of the United States such as the southern Great Plains, are likely to become less suitable for agriculture in the future.</p> <p>USGS scientists and an international team of collaborators from Switzerland, Germany, China, Canada and several U.S. universities found that rainfed agriculture is abundant in areas with adequate soil moisture but restricted in areas with regular high temperature extremes. Bradford and collaborators simulated future soil moisture and temperature conditions, and utilized these results to identify where rainfed agriculture may be located in the future. Scientists referenced previously published estimates of rainfed agriculture areas generated using satellite remote sensing. Models were used to determine conditions that support current rainfed agriculture, as well as future suitability under altered climate conditions.</p> <p>“Our results indicate the interaction of soil moisture and temperature extremes provides a powerful yet simple framework for understanding the conditions that define suitability for rainfed agriculture in drylands,” said Bradford. “Integrating this framework with long-term projections that include rising temperature and changing soil moisture patterns reveals potentially important future shifts in areas that could support agriculture in the absence of irrigation.”  </p> <p>Within the dryland regions that were the focus of this study, areas suitable for agriculture are those that experience relatively long periods of moist soils and reasonably warm temperatures. In contrast, areas that frequently experience extreme air temperatures above 93 degrees Fahrenheit are less suitable for rainfed agriculture, even if sufficient moisture is available. Even for relatively cool dryland areas, periods of high temperatures during the growing season can negatively affect agriculture suitability. </p> <a href=”/media/images/map-showing-areas-expected-be-suitable-rainfed-agriculture”></a>These maps illustrate areas that are expected to become more suitable for rainfed agriculture (shown in blue), and areas expected to lose suitable farmland (shown in red).   <a href=”/media/images/dryland-agriculture-northwestern-great-plains-ecoregion”></a>Dryland agriculture in the Northwestern Great Plains ecoregion. (Credit: Terry Sohl, USGS) <span class=”date-display-single”>October 17, 2017</span> [email protected] 77421055-b4a0-42bf-a151-6146117207eb <p>Almost 60 storm-tide sensors have been deployed by U.S. Geological Survey hurricane response crews along the Gulf coast, from Louisiana to the Florida panhandle, in preparation for Hurricane Nate.</p> <p>Under a mission assignment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 28 storm-tide sensors were installed in Louisiana, 10 in Florida, and about 20 are being installed in Alabama today, with the work expected to be complete this afternoon.   </p> <p>These scientific instruments are installed ahead of Nate to collect information about the hurricane’s effects on the coast. The retrieval of the sensors and the valuable data they hold will begin once Nate has passed sometime next week. To learn where the storm-tide sensors were deployed for Nate, visit the <a href=”″>USGS Hurricane Nate Flood Event Viewer</a>.</p> <p>The USGS studies the impacts of hurricanes and tropical storms to better understand potential impacts on coastal areas. Information provided through the sensor networks provides critical data for more accurate modeling and prediction capabilities and allows for improved structure designs and response for public safety.</p> <p>Many forms of technology are used to track and document the effects of hurricanes along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Here is an in-depth look at the storm-tide sensors USGS scientists are using to document Nate’s coastal impacts.</p> <a href=”/media/images/usgs-storm-tide-sensor-1″></a>This is an example of a USGS storm-tide sensor. USGS photo. (Public domain.) <p>1. What does a storm-tide sensor look like? It is a 1-1/2” aluminum or steel pipe strapped or bolted to a piling or other stable structure. The top will have a metal or PVC cap and the bottom will be open for the water to enter. The sensor housing protects a water-level pressure sensor inside. A unique USGS ID sticker will be on the outside. The sticker may be yellow or aluminum in color. If you find a sensor and have questions about it, please call the phone number on the sticker.</p> <p>2. What type of data do the sensors collect? Water-level and barometric pressure are recorded every 30 seconds for most sites. Sensors located on beaches record wave height every 2 seconds. The recording period lasts for 1 to 3 days depending on the magnitude of the storm and post-storm access to the sensor sites.</p> <p>3. What is a storm-tide sensor deployment? The USGS has developed a mobile network of rapidly deployable instruments with which to observe and document hurricane-induced storm-surge as they make landfall and interact with coastal features. Typically, these sensors are deployed along and inland of the coast about 50 miles left and 100 miles right of the projected path of hurricane landfall.</p> <p>4. Why are you undertaking this work? The work will enable USGS to compile data so that specialists can quantify storm-tide dynamics (wave heights, forces, speeds, and extent) for various storm conditions, topographies, ecologies, built environments, and land uses. This information will lead to better storm-tide models and more accurate flood forecasts, while informing decisions on designs of flood-protection infrastructure and future land use policies.</p> <p>5. What is the nature of the work? Storm-tide sensors (non-vented pressure transducers) are strapped to bridge piers, power and light poles, and other structures along the coast. Depending on the size of a storm and the potentially affected area, the effort can involve dozens of two-person teams deploying hundreds instruments 24 to 48 hours prior to a hurricane’s landfall.</p> <p>6. What are you going to do with the data? Data are uploaded to the web as as a series of water level and water pressure measurements taken over time stage and pressure time series. The USGS generates various graphics to create 3-D water-surface images, and depth and duration maps. Together they enable us to study surge flooding, including wave height, and moment by moment, visualize its interaction with the coastal features such as beaches, islands, estuaries, and streams. By tying these data together and with local topography, scientists can determine the rates at which flood waters transverse various water bodies and landforms, the major paths of penetration, their duration, and the height and frequency of waves that strike dunes and built infrastructure.</p> <p>Data of this nature is quite rare and very valuable for determination of flood insurance maps, building codes, and for calibration of the hurricane inundation models. Accurate model forecasts are critical for community preparation of storm response and evacuation plans.</p> <p>7. Are the surge data reported in real-time? The surge data are not reported in real time but are logged on-site. They are processed and calibrated for barometric pressure, water density, and elevation data, and are then made available to the public. The USGS also maintains a network of streamgages that provide real-time information on water levels and flow rates on many rivers and streams across the country. This network can be augmented by rapid deployed gauges that are installed at sites that do not currently have permanent streamgages.  </p> <p>8. What other kinds of data are needed? There are several kinds of data that would complement this work and for which the USGS seeks collaborators. These include offshore water-level and wave-height data, wind speed and direction, inland water salinity, post-storm ecological assessments, and geological evaluations of beach and landform behavior, and engineering evaluations.</p> <p>9. Who uses this information? USGS data is used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, and National Hurricane Center and the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, as well as state responders and emergency management officials.</p> <p>10. Where can I learn more? More information on Hurricane Nate can be found here <a href=””></a> Reports on previous USGS storm surge documentation efforts as well as additional information about storm-tide sensors is available <a href=””>here</a>.</p> <span class=”date-display-single”>October 7, 2017</span> [email protected] a8d9048c-d98a-43d0-a252-932a348af0f0