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USGS News: Water
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News about floods, droughts, water quality, and oceans from the USGS.
News about floods, droughts, water quality, and oceans from the USGS.

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USGS Continues Response to Four Hurricanes: When a major storm is on the horizon, the USGS uses its water monitoring, coastal change, mapping, and modeling expertise to help emergency managers, coastal planners and communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from hurricanes and tropical storms. Since Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Rockland, Texas August 25, the USGS has deployed hundreds of staff into the field responding to these back-to-back storms. Below are some of the efforts currently ongoing.   José Santiago-Saez, USGS Hydrologic Technician, installs a storm-tide sensor in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, before Hurricane Maria made landfall. USGS photo.(Public domain.) Hurricane Maria Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico Wednesday morning as a strong category 4 hurricane, with winds of 155 mph that knocked out power for the entire island, and greatly impacted communication channels. Prior to the storm making landfall, USGS crews were out installing storm-tide sensors and maintaining streamgages critical to helping with flood forecasting. While many of the 108 USGS streamgages installed throughout the island continued to read and report water levels in rivers, canals and lakes via satellite, approximately 35 streamgages were damaged by the storm. The USGS has a staff of 31 in Puerto Rico, most of whom sheltered in place during the storm. Once the staff is fully accounted for, and as conditions allow, the USGS will work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies to prioritize its efforts on the island. Typically, after a storm the USGS goes into the field to repair gauges used for flood forecasting, validate flood measurements, identify how high flood waters reached, and recover storm-tide sensors deployed before the storm to help FEMA distinguish between wind and water damage. USGS activities and data related to Maria will be posted at www.usgs.gov/maria.   Jim Duda, USGS hydrologic technician, installs a Rapid-Deployment Gauge near the Elizabeth River in Norfolk, Virginia, to monitor elevated water levels caused by Hurricane Jose. An RDG is a fully functional streamgage designed to be quickly deployed for real-time data monitoring of a stream or river in emergency situations. Photo by Howard Ross, USGS. (Public domain.) Hurricane Jose Downgraded from a hurricane, Post-Tropical Cyclone Jose is lingering off the mid-Atlantic to New England coast, bringing waves and storm surge to the region. Prior to the storm reaching the area, USGS specialists across three states installed 17 storm-tide sensors – seven in Connecticut, seven in Massachusetts and three in Rhode Island – along shorelines expected to receive large waves and storm surge from the hurricane. These scientific instruments were put in place ahead of Jose 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 Jose has passed, although discussions are already taking place on whether more may need to be deployed depending on Hurricane Maria’s track up the east coast. To learn where the storm-tide sensors were deployed for Jose, visit the USGS Hurricane Jose Flood Event Viewer. The USGS also uses models to calculate the dune impacts to expect during a hurricane. A new experimental Water Level Viewer shows whether a section of coastline can expect dune erosion, overwash or inundation during storms, with details on what coastal change took place available later on the USGS Coastal Change Hazards Portal. Learn more about USGS efforts for Hurricane Jose at www.usgs.gov/jose.   This USGS streamgage on Otter Creek in Florida was one of almost 100 gauges destroyed in Florida by Hurricane Irma. USGS photo. (Public domain.) Hurricane Irma Hurricane Irma made landfall September 10th in the Florida Keys as a category four storm and was the first major hurricane to hit Florida since Hurricane Wilma struck in 2005. Days before the powerful storm made landfall, USGS hydrographers began installing storm-tide sensors to monitor large waves and surge along the coasts of Puerto Rico, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Since then, dozens of USGS personnel have been tirelessly working to gather scientific data about the storm surge and flooding Irma caused across the Sunshine state as well as coastal areas of Georgia and South Carolina. Now, 12 days after Irma made landfall, USGS crews in Florida are still working to record the flooding Irma brought by flagging and surveying high-water marks in the Keys and in southwest Florida, from Naples to Everglades City. High water marks are seeds and other debris left behind by floodwaters, recording their extent and depth. FEMA uses this and related information gathered by USGS to steer relief to areas of greatest need. So far, more than 140 high-water marks have been found in Florida, with more expected to be found as the efforts continue through the next week. In addition to looking for high-water marks, Florida crews are also assessing and repairing damage to USGS streamgages across the southern part of the state. Almost 100 permanent streamgages were damaged by Irma, and crews have managed to repair about 70 of them. But, since some of the gauges are located in areas that are still difficult to get to, repairs at a few locations may not be complete until October. Irma’s rainfall contributed to more than 70 record peaks on the rivers and streams across the state of Florida. In response to the high water and flooding in Florida, USGS specialists have performed more than 200 high flow measurements to monitor the depths and discharges of the many rivers across the state, and more measurements are likely to happen through the end of the week on the larger rivers. Learn more about USGS efforts for Hurricane Irma at www.usgs.gov/irma.   USGS scientist Steve Hannes marks high water marks along the Colorado River after flooding from Harvey in Matagorda County, Texas.(Credit: Scott Green, USGS. Public domain.) Hurricane Harvey More than 130 USGS employees from 16 states have been in Texas this month, part of a massive effort to measure streamflow peaks and collect high-water marks documenting the extent and depth of floodwaters which, at various times during and immediately after Harvey’s August 25-30 journey along the coast, stretched more than 375 miles from Kingsville in southwest Texas to Lake Charles, Louisiana. USGS staffers from Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and other parts of Texas joined this intensive effort. FEMA tasked the USGS with collecting high water marks at 1,500 locations in Texas and Louisiana by September 30. As of September 20, field crews had flagged high water marks at 1,286 Texas sites. About 30 USGS workers remain in the field carrying out this assignment. The high-water marks also provide important verification for satellite imagery and data from the USGS’ network of storm-tide sensors and river and streamgages, which will be combined as the USGS develops flood inundation maps of the region. Workers have repaired or replaced at least 15 gauges that were damaged by flooding, which reached record high levels at more than 50 different locations in the Colorado, San Bernard, Brazos, San Jacinto, Neches and Sabine river basins. Detailed information on the flooding in Texas and Louisiana is available on the USGS’ Hurricane Harvey Flood Event Viewer. Of special concern were two reservoirs, Barker and Addison, which captured water from Buffalo Bayou, upstream from downtown Houston. At the height of the record-breaking flooding USGS crews replaced storm-damaged streamgages at the reservoirs under police escort, to ensure accurate flow measurements as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made decisions regarding emergency releases of water from those reservoirs. At the request of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, USGS also installed webcams to communicate information about the status of releases. The USGS continues to closely monitor water levels in that area. USGS scientists have also developed a tool to help natural resource managers assess where zebra mussels and other problematic species might have spread during the flooding associated with Harvey, and to help inform where decontamination efforts might be needed. By entering in the species of interest, viewers can see where a species is present in a watershed, and where it may spread to during flooding. Learn more about the USGS work before, during and after Hurricane Harvey at https://www.usgs.gov/harvey. #water

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USGS Tidal Network Monitoring Elevated Water Levels Off Hampton Roads: Jim Duda, USGS hydrologic technician, installs a Rapid-Deployment Gauge near the Elizabeth River in Norfolk, Virginia, to monitor elevated water levels caused by Hurricane Jose. An RDG is a fully functional streamgage designed to be quickly deployed for real-time data monitoring of a stream or river in emergency situations. This temporary RDG was installed to bolster the existing tide gauge network already in place in the Hampton Roads area and to monitor an area experiencing minor flooding. Photo by Howard Ross, USGS. (Public domain.) A network of 23 U.S. Geological Survey tide gauges installed throughout Hampton Roads and along the Eastern Shore of Virginia is monitoring elevated water levels caused by Post-Tropical Cyclone Jose. Even though Jose never made a direct impact on the United States, it generated large waves along it’s entire path and coastal effects have been felt from Florida to New England and the flood prone Hampton Roads region in Virginia is no exception. As Jose churned in the Atlantic it pushed water from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay into the heavily populated Hampton Roads harbor, raising water up to two feet in some places, causing some minor flooding around the Hauge inlet in Norfolk, Virginia. The water levels have started declining and are expected to continue to fall over the next few days as Jose continues to weaken, but it is possible Hurricane Maria could drive levels up again as it passes off the coast early next week. The tide gauges in the network, which span across almost a dozen cities and counties in the area, measures continuous water levels every six minutes in areas where land subsidence – the gradual caving in or sinking of land – and sea level rise are contributing to more frequent nuisance flooding. The data is helpful to emergency management, storm water, and public works departments across the region as well as to landowners and business owners who own property near the many water bodies in the area. In conjunction with publicly available applications such as WaterAlert – where the public can sign up to receive notifications of rising water in their area – these gauges can provide up-to-date information around the clock about water levels, rainfall amounts, and wind speed and direction. “City officials can use this data to make emergency decisions during a storm, such as when to close roads and issue evacuation orders,” said Russ Lotspeich, USGS Hydrologist. “These gauges give emergency managers and our cooperators the ability to make important decisions in real time and the long term benefits provide them with more data that can be used to assess coastal changes and monitor sea level rise.” This tide gauge network has been actively collecting tide elevation data since the first gauge was installed on the Severn River in January, 2015. The project is funded by numerous city, county, municipal and federal cooperators in the area. While these tide gauges provide valuable data to several jurisdictions in the Hampton Roads area, others will benefit from the information as well, which is available on the USGS National Water Information System webpage. The water level and meteorological data these gauges collect is also used by the National Weather Service to assist with their flood warnings. Boaters, fishermen and others heading to the beach will also find the information of use to determine conditions before they head to the shore. For more than 125 years, the USGS has monitored flow in selected streams, rivers and coastlines across the United States and does so in cooperation with over 850 federal, state and local agencies. #water

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More than a dozen USGS Storm-Tide Sensors Deployed for Hurricane Jose: U.S. Geological Survey specialists across three states installed 17 storm-tide sensors – seven in Connecticut, seven in Massachusetts and three in Rhode Island – along shorelines likely to receive some large waves and storm surge from Hurricane Jose. These scientific instruments were put in place ahead of Jose 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 Jose has passed. To learn where the storm-tide sensors were deployed for Jose, visit the USGS Hurricane Jose Flood Event Viewer. The U.S. Geological Survey use many forms of technology to track and document the effects of hurricanes along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Here is an in-depth look at one of the tools USGS scientists are using to track Jose’s coastal impacts, the storm-tide sensor. This is an example of a USGS storm-tide sensor. USGS photo.  (Public domain.) 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. 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. 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. From Maine to North Carolina, the USGS Surge, Wave, and Tide Hydrodynamics Networks, also called SWaTH, is a system of hundreds of pre-positioned, pre-surveyed brackets where storm-tide sensors can quickly be installed. With the SWaTH network, the USGS is able to improve its response time when monitoring coastal-storm tide and riverine flooding related to hurricanes and nor’easters. More information about the SWATH network can be found in this recently published report. 4. Why are you undertaking this work? The work will enable USGS to compile data so that we 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. 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. 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. We generate 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, we 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. 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. 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. Real-time information is available from rapid deployed gauges that are installed at sites where we do not currently have permanent gauges. These rapid deployed gauges will augment a network of existing U.S. Geological Survey gauging stations already in place before the storm arrives. 8. What other kinds of data are needed? There are several kinds of data that would complement this work and for which we seek 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. 9. Who uses this information? Our 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. 10. Where can I learn more? Recent efforts by the USGS to deploy these storm-tide sensors in response to Hurricane Maria can be read here. Reports on previous USGS storm surge documentation efforts as well as additional information about storm-tide sensors is available here. #water

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Groundwater Modeling Software MODFLOW 6 Now Available: MODFLOW 6, the newest version of the world’s most widely used groundwater modeling software, is now available for download from the U.S. Geological Survey. Redesigned to improve user experience and accommodate future features, MODFLOW 6 introduces a model coupling framework to the program that, for more than 30 years, has been used by academics, private consultants, and government scientists to accurately, reliably, and efficiently simulate groundwater flow. Originally released in 1984 and updated in 1988, 1996, 2000, and 2005, the sixth core version of MODFLOW was redesigned from the ground up to incorporate many of the new advances in groundwater modeling developed over the past decade. Many of these new advances are based on the use of more flexible grids to discretize an aquifer system or the capability to couple other hydrologic processes with groundwater flow. MODFLOW 6 uses an object-oriented framework that allows new packages and models to be added to the software and allows any number of models to be tightly coupled together at the matrix level, with special emphasis placed on designing a program that can be expanded in the future. The Groundwater Flow (GWF) Model is the first model to be released in the MODFLOW 6 framework. It supports regular MODFLOW grids consisting of layers, rows, and columns, and it also supports more flexible grids that may conform to irregular boundaries or have increased resolution in areas of interest. Solutions for solving groundwater flow can be formulated using a Newton-Raphson approach or the traditional approach available in previous versions. There are also methods for handling full three-dimensional anisotropy. To modernize user interaction with the program, the MODFLOW 6 input structure was redesigned. Within package input files, information is divided into blocks, and informative keywords are used to label numeric data and activate options. This new input structure was designed to make it easier for users to adjust simulation options in an intuitive manner, reduce user input errors, and allow new capabilities to be added without causing problems with backward compatibility. The U.S. Geological Survey is beginning to transition to the MODFLOW 6 model code for the simulation of groundwater systems.  The program has been rigorously tested and reviewed, and new capabilities are under development. It is expected that this new version will keep MODFLOW as the simulation code of choice by the groundwater community. The MODFLOW 6 software and user guides are available for download at https://water.usgs.gov/ogw/modflow/MODFLOW.html. Questions about MODFLOW can be directed to modflow@usgs.gov. #water

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Florida Streamgages Measure Record Peaks Following Hurricane Irma: Rivers and streams reached record levels as a result of Hurricane Irma’s rainfall, with about 60 U.S. Geological Survey streamgages measuring record peaks. “During peak flooding, about 32 streamgages in  Florida recorded water levels at flood stage,” said Richard Kane with the USGS Caribbean-Florida Water Science Center. “Several gauges, including Santa Fe River at Worthington Springs, FL  that have been in operation for more than 50 years, have recorded new peaks.” As crews continue to assess and recover from damage caused by Irma, USGS hydrologists and hydrologic technicians in Florida and from other parts of the country have been deployed to measure high flood flows. The crews are also calibrating and repairing streamgages damaged by the storm to ensure they continue to transmit information in real time to users working to protect lives and property.   In Florida, the USGS has over 900 real-time stream, lake, reservoir, precipitation, water quality, and groundwater stations. The USGS, in cooperation with state, local, and federal agencies, operates a nationwide network of more than 8,200 streamgages on inland rivers and streams. These gauges provide real-time data important to the National Weather Service, FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other state and local partners involved in issuing flood and evacuation warnings, coordinating emergency responses to communities, and operating flood-control reservoirs. Information on record peaks and flows is still being gathered and is subject to change. In Florida, provisional data shows new records have been set on the following waterways: Sante Fe River Wekiva River Josephine Creek Joshua Creek Charlie Creek Reedy Creek North and South Prongs Alafia River Apopka-Beauclair Canal Little Withlacoochee River Shingle Creek Whittenhorse Creek Withlacoochee River Shell Creek Prairie Creek Palatlakaha River Ft. Drum Creek Carter Creek Green Swamp Run Hillsborough River Rocky Creek North Prong Saint Sebastian River South Lake Outlet Lateral 101 Canal Tiger Creek St. Johns River Baker Creek Deep Creek Wolf Branch Tamiami Canal Lake Jesup Outlet Spring Creek Saddle Creek Econlockhatchee River Little Econlockhatchee River Howell Creek Curiosity Creek Long Creek Cypress Creek Canal Fisheating Creek Popash Slough Fish Slough Cypress Slough Phosphate Mine Outfall Ortega River Myakka River Little Creek Blue Springs Lake Lena Run Cedar River Peace River Nassau River Anclote River View current monitoring data for almost 900 USGS real-time stream, lake, reservoir, precipitation, and groundwater stations in Florida in context with current weather and hazard conditions at USGS WaterWatch for Florida or the USGS Caribbean-Florida Water Science Center website. To learn more about the USGS’s role providing science to decision makers before, during, and after Hurricane Irma, visit the USGS Hurricane Irma. For more information on being prepared for storms, go to ready.gov or ready.gov/es. #water

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USGS field crews in Puerto Rico are preparing for Hurricane Maria: Screen shot of the USGS Flood Event Viewer for Hurricane Maria, showing storm-tide sensors and gauges in Puerto Rico (Public domain.) USGS will deploy 14 storm-tide sensors along the eastern and southern coasts of the island. These storm-tide sensors, housed in vented steel pipes a few inches wide and about a foot long, are being installed on bridges, piers, and other structures that have a good chance of surviving a storm surge during a hurricane. The information they collect will help define the depth and duration of a storm-surge, as well as the time of its arrival and retreat. That information will help public officials assess storm damage, discern between wind and flood damage, and improve computer models used to forecast future floods.   Storm-surges are increases in ocean water levels generated at sea by extreme storms and can have devastating coastal impacts. Direct impacts are expected in Puerto Rico later this week. 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. In cooperation with state and federal agencies, USGS also operates more permanent sensor networks installed along the East Coast of the U.S. These networks provide real-time data important to the National Weather Service, FEMA and other USGS partners involved in issuing flood and evacuation warnings and in coordinating emergency responses to communities. As USGS continues to take all appropriate preparedness and response actions as Hurricane Maria continues moving northward those in the storm’s projected path can visit www.ready.gov  or www.listo.gov  for tips on creating emergency plans and putting together an emergency supply kit. #water

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USGS to Conduct Dye Tracer and Aerial Mapping Surveys on Kootenai River: Aerial view of a USGS dye tracer study done on the Kootenai River in Idaho. (Public domain.) USGS scientists will inject a harmless, bright red fluorescent dye into the Kootenai River downstream of its confluence with Deep Creek near Bonners Ferry. The goal of the dye study is to understand where and how fast larval sturgeon and burbot move downstream to Kootenay Lake in British Columbia. “Data from the dye tracer study will be instrumental in helping us better understand how and where young sturgeon and burbot move in the river after they hatch from their eggs,” said T.J. Ross, Senior Fisheries Research Biologist with IDFG. “This knowledge will get us one step closer to providing the conditions necessary for these fish to naturally reproduce in the Kootenai River as they once did.” The red dye is approved for use as a water tracer by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is harmless to people, fish and plants at the concentration being used for this study. For a few hours after the start of the study, several miles of the river will appear reddish in color because of the dye. The red color will dissipate rapidly and should disappear after it travels downstream near the town of Copeland. Citizens may also notice an airplane regularly passing over the river. The airplane will be equipped with Light Detection and Ranging technology to map the land surface around the river (topography) and under the water (bathymetry) as part of the USGS 3D Elevation Program. This study will be one of the first to combine topographic and bathymetric lidar data collection. “The lidar flight will provide detailed elevation data in areas that would otherwise be challenging to survey,” said Susan Ireland, Fish and Wildlife Department Director for the Kootenai Tribe. “The data will support our existing habitat restoration projects and could be useful for future restoration project design, implementation and biological assessment work.” USGS scientists will use the data collected from both studies to improve computer models that let fisheries managers simulate various river conditions to see how those conditions might affect fish spawning. The scientists also hope to be able to use lidar imagery to estimate the river’s water-quality conditions such as turbidity. If successful, this innovation would save time and money compared with manual water-quality sampling. #water

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Borehole Geophysical Logs Now Easily Accessible through new USGS Online Map: USGS scientists J. Alton Anderson and Carole D. Johnson prepare to collect a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) log at a well. (Credit: Eric A. White, USGS) This tool releases more than 7,000 digital borehole geophysical logs at over 1,700 locations to the public—many for the first time. Users like hydrogeologists, groundwater hydrologists and geologists  can search and explore the online database, which primarily includes information collected by the USGS, as well some data compiled from other sources with permission. “I have been test driving the new GeoLog Locator web application for a few days, and it will undoubtedly prove an incredibly useful tool for geologists and hydrologists seeking downhole geophysical logs for boreholes at our facility, and elsewhere,” said Jeffrey Forbes, a hydrogeologist specializing in environmental restoration at Fluor Idaho. “The map feature is very user friendly, and I’ve had no problems locating the wells and boreholes of interest. Hats off to the USGS for creating yet another powerful online tool to make geoscience information and data readily available to everyone!” At the map interface, users can zoom and click on individual borehole locations to view and download available logs. The interface is fully searchable by state, county, USGS National Water Information System, or NWIS, site number or station name, or by using a geographic bounding area. Users can search by log criteria, such as log category (generally logging tool type), file format, minimum logging depth, or log collection date range. Logs can be downloaded in batches that result from search criteria or can be downloaded individually. A wide range of borehole log types are available, including acoustic, caliper, electric, electromagnetic, fluid, lithologic, nuclear, optical, well construction, or a combination or composite of these types. File formats include ASCII, DOC, IMG, LAS, PDF and original. Where possible, geophysical logs are available in Log ASCII Standard (LAS) v2.0, a format developed by the Canadian Well Logging Society. The LAS format is a widely accepted standard for storage and transmittal of log data in the geophysical and groundwater science community. Image logs typically are exported in other formats where features can be delineated. As new logs become available, they will be added to the database.  Borehole geophysics is the science of recording and analyzing measurements of physical properties made in wells or test holes. Borehole geophysical logging is a procedure to collect and transmit specific information about the geologic formations penetrated by a well by raising and lowering a set of probes that contain watertight instruments in the well. Borehole geophysics is used in groundwater and environmental investigations to obtain information on well construction, rock lithology and fractures, permeability and porosity, and water quality.   Map of locations where more than 7,000 borehole geophysical logs are currently available at about 1,700 sites in the GeoLog Locator web application. USGS scientists J. Alton Anderson and Dennis W. Risser prepare to collect a full-waveform sonic log from a 1,000-foot deep stratigraphic test hole drilled by the Pennsylvania Geological Survey at the edge of a Marcellus Shale production well pad in Lycoming County, PA.(Credit: John H. Williams, USGS)   #water

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USGS Measures the Impacts of Hurricane Irma: Reporters can accompany USGS crews as they repair and check streamgages, measure streamflow, collect high water marks and/or retrieve the storm surge sensors from various locations along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Points of Contact Florida: Mark Dickman, mdickman@usgs.gov, cell (954) 849-4465             Kevin Grimsley, kjgrims@usgs.gov, cell (813) 267-2321             Darrell Lambeth, dlambeth@usgs.gov, cell (407) 367-8831 Georgia: Chris Smith. smithca@usgs.gov, cell: (678) 953-1604 South Carolina: Tim Lanier, thlanier@usgs.gov, cell:(803) 727-9040   Hurricane Irma’s heavy rains and storm surge caused severe flooding in parts of the Southeast. Some rivers and streams have yet to crest as water moves through tributaries into larger rivers. Hurricane response crews from the U.S. Geological Survey are in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina repairing and checking streamgages, making high flow measurements and retrieving storm-tide sensors now that Hurricane Irma has passed.   Measuring the Flow Over the next several days  the USGS will be making streamflow measurements that will help determine the magnitude and extent of the flooding. Later, the information will help homeowners and insurers recover from their losses, help FEMA map the flood plains where property is at risk, and help scientists improve future flood forecasting. The Height of the Water High water mark data collected from Hurricane Irma will allow FEMA to revise its current maps for the affected areas. This data is also part of the flood frequency calculations that FEMA uses to identify areas that are likely to experience high water in the event of a flood that has a 1 percent chance of happening in any given year. These floods, known as 100-year floods, serve as the foundation for flood management planning. Another significant use for these high-water marks is the USGS Flood Inundation Mapping effort. A flood inundation map library is a set of maps that shows where flooding may occur over a range of water levels in the community’s local stream or river. Inundation maps are one factor used to determine where changes should take place in building codes to help communities be more resilient; where evacuation routes should be; where (and how high) a bridge or road should be; and other community planning efforts. Once these flood inundation maps are complete, they’re uploaded to the USGS Flood Inundation Mapper, which allows users to explore the full set of inundation maps that shows where flooding could occur given a selected stream condition. Users can also access historical flood information and potential loss estimates based on the severity of the flood. (Public domain.) Storm-Tide USGS crews will be retrieving storm-tide sensors from along the coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, and begin to analyze the data as part of a FEMA Mission Assignment. The information will help define the depth and duration of the storm-surge, as well as the time of its arrival and retreat. That information will help assess storm damage, discern between wind and flood damage, and improve computer models used to forecast future floods.  These storm-tide sensors, housed in vented steel pipes a few inches wide and about a foot long, were installed on bridges, piers, and other structures that had a good chance of surviving a storm surge during a hurricane.  You can review the storm-surge sensor deployment and see some of the incoming data via the USGS Flood Viewer at http://water.usgs.gov/floods/FEV/.  Learning from Irma’s Impact 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. The USGS, in cooperation with state and federal agencies, also operates more permanent sensor networks installed along the East Coast of the U.S. These networks provide real-time data important to the National Weather Service, FEMA and other USGS partners involved in issuing flood and evacuation warnings and in coordinating emergency responses to communities. To stay up-to-date on Hurricane Irma science from the USGS visit: https://usgs.gov/irma   #water

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Throughout Hurricane Season, USGS Science is There Before, During, and After the Storm: The 2017 hurricane season is more than halfway over and has already seen nine major storms, on par with the prediction by the National Weather Service of as many as 11 to 17 named storms and two to four major hurricanes. But this year, as in the past, whenever a major hurricane is forecast to hit the nation’s Atlantic or Gulf Coast, U.S. Geological Survey scientists are ready to go well before the red-and-black hurricane warning flags unfurl. Starting about three days before a major storm’s predicted landfall, the USGS begins collecting data that can improve forecasting, guide relief work, and speed up recovery from the powerful storms’ effects. Storm tides, coastal erosion, and inland flooding are among the most dangerous natural hazards unleashed by hurricanes, with the capacity to destroy homes and businesses, wipe out roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, and profoundly alter landscapes. The USGS has experts in these hazards, ready and willing to provide their expertise and to support the relief and recovery effort. Throughout the hurricane season, the USGS Coastal Storm Response Team, made up of managers and scientists, works closely with the National Hurricane Center and other federal agencies and confers daily when forecasters indicate that a hurricane is likely to make landfall in the U.S. Before: Preparation A USGS hydrologic technician deploying instrumentation before a storm. (Public domain.) Installing Sensors and Gauges That Ride Out the Storm The USGS Coastal Storm Response Team decides the timing and extent of the USGS’ storm response based on the storm’s forecast intensity and track. If the storm is a Category 3 (with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour) or greater, or if especially vulnerable communities or ecosystems lie in its forecast path, USGS crews will be deployed in advance. Among the early decisions the team makes are when and where to position the special storm-tide sensors that can measure the height, extent, and timing of the storm tide that happens when the hurricane makes landfall. These storm-tide sensors, housed in vented steel pipes a few inches wide and about a foot long, are part of the USGS Storm Tide Monitoring Network. The storm tide sensors are designed to be rapidly installed on bridges, piers, and other structures that have a good chance of surviving a hurricane. The sensors collect water pressure readings that help define the depth and duration of a storm tide, the time of its arrival, and its retreat. That information helps public officials assess storm damage, tell the difference between wind and flood damage, and improve computer models. Another important decision: whether specially designed rapid deployment gauges will be needed in areas where flooding is likely but that are not covered by the USGS’ network of more than 8,200 permanent streamgages. Data from the streamgage network is used by the National Weather Service to develop flood forecasts, by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make flood control decisions, and by local agencies in emergency response. Forecasting Coastal Change Research scientists at the USGS’ St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center have developed a coastal change hazard forecast model, a sophisticated computer program that provides detailed predictions of a hurricane’s likely effects on sand dunes and other coastal features. The forecasts cover the Atlantic and Gulf coast regions where storm effects are expected, at one-kilometer intervals. They predict where protective sand dunes are likely to be eroded at their bases or overtopped by storm waves, and where coastal areas could be inundated by seawater. These forecasts can help emergency managers decide which areas to evacuate, which roads to use, and where to position heavy equipment for post-storm clean-up. The forecasts begin 48 hours before a storm is expected to make landfall and are updated based on the latest forecasts from the National Hurricane Center. The forecasts are available to the public at the USGS Coastal Change Hazards Portal. This season the team is also testing and refining new forecasts of coastal water levels, using a model developed with the National Weather Service. These experimental forecasts will predict how far up the beach waves will push seawater, showing hour-by-hour estimates of wave runup, updated several times a day. This work uses stationary video cameras installed in Tampa Bay and on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. During: Response Tracking Flood Effects Post-Hurricane Irma flooding on Atlantic Avenue in Garden City, SC on September 11, 2017. (Credit: John Erbland, USGS. Public domain.) Hurricane rains can cause flooding far from the coast. To track inland flooding, the USGS gathers data from its network of streamgages, as well as from rapid deployment gauges. When flooding occurs, USGS field crews make real-time streamflow measurements to verify the streamgages’ readings. The crews also quickly replace storm-damaged or lost gauges. During and right after hurricane flooding, these records help the Federal Emergency Management Agency target emergency relief to the hardest-hit areas. You can track storm-surge sensor deployment and see streamgage readings in real time at the USGS Flood Viewer. Monitoring Protective Dunes This year, for the first time, scientists at the USGS’ St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center are using unmanned aerial systems – commonly known as drones –  to study hurricane impacts. It is part of an extensive effort to forecast and document the impact of hurricanes and other weather events on Gulf and Atlantic shorelines. When a major hurricane strikes the U.S. coast, the team collects thousands of aerial photographs to document coastal changes. This year the scientists plan to deploy the new drones – quadcopters that resemble oversized video game controllers – before and after storm strikes. The drones collect high-resolution images before and after the storm. Scientists will use a technology called “structure from motion” to convert information from the images into dune elevations. The image processing algorithms will allow the team to document how sand dunes changed during the storm and improve the models’ future coastal erosion forecasts. Maps and Apps That Show the Big Picture The USGS strives to ensure that the disaster response community has rapid access to timely, accurate, and relevant geospatial imagery, products, and services before, during, and after a hurricane or other disasters. The USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science Center provides access to remotely sensed imagery and geospatial datasets in response to requests from agencies engaged in disaster response. These products enable agencies to plan the response to conditions on the ground. The hosting of imagery through a common delivery portal such as the USGS Hazards Data Distribution System (HDDS) facilitates the sharing of imagery and other geospatial datasets. With information pouring in, often while USGS staffers are still coping with the storm’s consequences, managers need a way to quickly shape the data into a clear picture of the situation on the ground. The USGS’ Geospatial Information Response Team (GIRT), a group of scientists with expertise in many different facets of mapping, handles that vital task during hurricanes and other natural disasters. Using a web app designed to help storm team members, scientists, and others working on storm response, the GIRT collects and makes available key pieces of information, such as the storm’s track, the USGS facilities that lie in its path, Lidar elevation data, detailed local maps and more. The app is designed to provide managers with a basic overview of the information they need to understand the situation and respond to it effectively. The GIRT also works with the USGS Earth Resource Observation and Science Center to coordinate the archiving of place-based storm data, from high water marks to photographs, and make it accessible. Finally, the GIRT provides the geographical information that USGS staffers and first responders need, including the USGS’ legendary topographical maps. After: Recovery fullscreen Collecting and Assessing Flood Data Measurements collected during the storm, including high-water marks — the telltale lines of seeds, leaves, silt and other debris left behind on buildings, bridges, and trees after floodwaters recede — and storm tide sensor and streamgage data, are integral to storm recovery. So are peaks of record, measurements of how much water flowed through a river or stream during a storm. These data help insurers and property owners document damage, help affected areas rebuild, inform the forecasting, response, and recovery efforts of agencies like the National Weather Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and provide real-world information to update the USGS’ flood inundation maps and validate and improve forecasts that inform future disaster response. Understanding and Documenting Coastal Change After a storm, aerial photographs taken post-event are compared to pictures taken before in order to document changes to the coast. This process helps chronicle changes to the protective dunes and other coastal characteristics as well as improve modeling of coastal change for the future. Information for the Future From beginning to end, USGS science informs and assists the response to major storms. Whether it be through modeling and forecasting, mobilizing teams around the country to help where they’re needed, responding to emergencies or assisting other agencies, the USGS has and will continue to weather whatever storm may come. #water
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