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USGS News: Climate Change
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News about global warming, carbon storage, and sea level rise from the USGS.
News about global warming, carbon storage, and sea level rise from the USGS.

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MEDIA ADVISORY: Upcoming Low-Level Flights in Oklahoma to Image Unmapped Faults and Underground Geology: Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and Oklahoma Geological Survey are teaming up to better understand the location of deep faults and subsurface geology via airborne technology.   USGS and OGS are contracting Goldak Airborne Surveys to conduct surveys that will fly over 18 counties in the southwestern and north-central part of the state. The goal is to capture 3-D images of geology beneath the Earth’s surface for earthquake hazard and mineral resources.   Weather permitting, the surveys will take approximately 6-10 weeks to complete. Operations will be based out of Altus, Oklahoma.   1:750,000, 1 sheet.(Public domain.) A media availability will occur on August 14 at 1:30 p.m. in Altus, and on August 15 at 1:30 p.m. in Norman. Monday, August 14, Altus: View the planes and technology that will be used for the surveys. USGS scientist Dr. Anji Shah will be available for interview. Where: Altus Quartz Mt. Regional Airport, 5605 N Main St, Altus, OK 73521 When: 1:30 p.m. - 3 p.m.   Tuesday, August 15, Norman: Dr. Shah and Dr. Jeremy Boak, Director, Oklahoma Geological Survey, will be available to discuss the project and provide interviews. Where: University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Geological Survey, 100 East Boyd Street, Suite N131, Norman, Oklahoma 73019 When: 12 p.m.   PLEASE CONTACT Heidi Koontz, 720-320-1246 or hkoontz@usgs.gov, if you plan to attend or send crews either event.   “Oklahoma has been experiencing increased seismicity since about 2009. Many of these earthquakes occur on faults that haven’t been mapped,” said USGS scientist and project lead Dr. Anji Shah. “In order to better understand local seismic hazards, the USGS and OGS will use the new data to work towards improved fault maps.”   Instruments on the airplane will measure variations in the Earth’s magnetic field created by different rock types up to several miles beneath the surface. The magnetic field maps will help with imaging faults as well as intrusions, which are rocks formed by ancient volcanic eruptions that never reached the surface. The scientific instruments on the airplane are completely passive, with no emissions that pose a risk to humans, animals, or plant life.   Survey areas will include parts of Alfalfa, Beckham, Comanche, Greer, Harmon, Kiowa, Jackson, Lincoln, Logan, Major, Noble, Pawnee, Payne, Pottawatomie, Stephens, Tillman, Woods and Woodward counties. Map of Oklahoma low-level flight airborne survey areas, along with previous earthquakes and existing faults. Earthquakes are from the NEIC, faults from OGS, full reference for faults is Northcutt, R. A., and J. A. Campbell (1995), Geologic provinces of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Geol. Surv. Open File Rep., 5-95, scale   (Credit: Bill Heath, Goldak Airborne Surveys. Public domain.) #climatechange

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Study Links Major Floods in North America and Europe to Multi-Decade Ocean Patterns: Understanding the forces that influence major floods can help inform the design of more resilient infrastructure. Image shows a major flood on the St. John River on the border of Maine, United States and New Brunswick, Canada, April 29, 2008. This site was part of the study. USGS Public Domain. This new study is by far the largest scale analysis of major flood trends for watersheds that are minimally disturbed by human activities. It provides vital information to help understand the most common and widespread of all natural hazards on Earth—a hazard that causes substantial losses of life and property. “This study is unique in that it examined trends in major floods only—those with 25-year or longer return periods—that typically cause the most damage to infrastructure,” said USGS research hydrologist Glenn Hodgkins, who led an international team of scientists in the study. “We examined historical streamflow data from more than 1200 diverse but minimally altered watersheds across two continents.” "We are fortunate that agencies in many countries had the foresight to establish reference hydrologic networks that provide the high quality long term streamflow records that make this type of study possible,” said co-author Paul Whitfield of the University of Saskatchewan. These study findings are consistent with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conclusion that globally there is no clear and widespread evidence of changes over time in flood magnitude or frequency in observed flood records. A common assumption is that because warmer air holds more water, climate warming will cause more frequent and intense precipitation and therefore more major flooding. However, flood generating processes are often more complex. Other factors influencing the magnitude of floods include snowmelt runoff and soil moisture prior to rain events. Significant trends over time in the number of major floods varied according to watershed size, location, climate region, flood threshold, and period of record, indicating that generalizations about flood trends across large areas or a diversity of watershed types are ungrounded. This study linked major flooding across Europe and North America to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation -- a natural pattern of warm and cool phases in North Atlantic sea-surface temperatures. We’ve been in a warm phase since the late-1990s. By Giorgiogp2 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. The number of major floods in both North America and Europe varied with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), a measure of North Atlantic sea-surface temperature variability. During warm phases of the AMO, the number of major floods for many large watersheds in North America was reduced while the number increased for medium-sized watersheds in Europe. Image shows flood event on the river Dyfi, mid-Wales, taken January 27, 2016. Image used with permission from the UK National River Flow Archive and Natural Resources Wales. “Little research has been completed on the relation between major floods and ocean patterns such as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Our study shows that more research is needed to fully understand these connections,” said study co-author Jamie Hannaford of the United Kingdom-based Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. To be informative about climate-driven flood trends, watersheds that were subject to confounding human influences on flooding, such as urbanization and reservoir regulation, were screened out of this study. Watersheds used in this study varied in size and other characteristics and were chosen to provide the most reliable and pertinent data. The study has produced the most comprehensive international dataset of minimally altered watersheds yet assembled and is notable for the coverage of 13 countries across two continents. #climatechange

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Point and Click to Track Wildfire Activity in the United States: Wildfires continue to burn across much of the western United States, and 39,000 fires have scorched 5,899,245 acres this year as of August 7, 2017 according to the National Interagency Fire Center. (Public domain.)   During a particularly heavy fire season 17 years ago, the USGS and partners identified the need to locate fires quickly for first responders, and started a consortium called the Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination Group. eventually building a website called GeoMAC to fill that void.  The website provides one-stop shopping for emergency managers, fire responders and public eager to track where fires are burning, and their intensities.   “GeoMAC integrates daily wildfire perimeters for the public and wildland fire community,” said Elizabeth Lile, USGS scientist and GeoMAC project manager. “This tool is also a great resource for the public seeking more information about exactly where fires are burning.”   GeoMAC is an internet-based mapping application that allows the public to access online maps of current fire locations and perimeters using standard web browsers. It is operated by the USGS in partnership with the Department of the Interior’s Office of Wildland Fire, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, and state agencies.   Since GeoMAC’s inception in 2000, technological advances have enabled the site to integrate various data layers into a single, comprehensive map image.   “These data layers don’t independently provide a complete view of the national wildland fire situation,” said Lile. “But, when they are integrated together with the capability to search and view the information, GeoMAC becomes useful tool for distributing timely information about U. S. wildland fires to interested parties around the world.”   Another unique feature of GeoMAC is the ability to choose various data layers to populate the map. Users can select current fire perimeters or display past fires dating back to 2002. The system also has the capability to show if previous fires were natural or human caused, and the size of the fire in acres.   Fire perimeter data are updated daily based on input from incident intelligence sources, GPS data and IR imagery from fixed wing and satellite platforms. The GeoMAC website allows users to manipulate map information displays, zoom in and out to show fire information at various scales and detail, including downloading desired perimeter data. The fire maps also have relational databases so that the user can display current information on individual fires such as name of the fire, current acreage, and other fire status information with just the click of a mouse. By including fire detection data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite in conjunction with the active fire perimeters, the user is able to see the amount of area a fire has grown as well as the direction the fire is moving. (Public domain.)   Other applications use the GeoMAC data by using Rich Site Summary (RSS) feeds, OpenGIS Web Map Service (WMS) Capabilities and other services. RSS is a format for delivering regularly changing web content. Many news-related sites, weblogs and other online publishers access the GeoMAC data in this fashion.  WMS provides a simple HTTP interface for requesting geo-registered map images.   (Public domain.)   In 2016, there were 138,606,391 visitor hits to the GeoMAC application.   #climatechange

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USGS Now Archiving, Redistributing Indian Resourcesat Data: This image of the Las Vegas /Lake Mead / Grand Canyon area was acquired June 16, 2017 with the Resourcesat-2 AWiFS sensor. Images of this region can help detect changes in vegetation and water availability for growing desert communities. (Public domain.) An agreement signed July 9, 2016, between the Indian Space Research Organization and USGS allows ISRO to receive and use Landsat 7 and 8 data over India, while USGS receives ISRO’s Resourcesat-2 data collected over the U.S. This image of the New Orleans/Lake Pontchartrain area was acquired March 31, 2017 from the LISS-3 sensor. Land loss and hurricane hazards are key landscape issues here. (Public domain.)   Resourcesat-2 carries the Advanced Wide-Field sensors AWiFS A and B, and the Linear Imaging Self-Scanning sensors LISS-3 and LISS-4. Full U.S. coverage, including Hawaii and Alaska, is available from AWiFS and LISS-3.   Resourcesat-2 operates in a sun-synchronous orbit 817 km (about 508 miles) above the Earth. It takes about 100 minutes to orbit the Earth once, and completes about 14 orbits per day. LISS-3, with its 140-km swath, covers the entire Earth in a 24-day cycle. AWiFS, with its wider 740-km swath, covers Earth in 5 days. This LISS-3 image of the Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay region, acquired January 25, 2017, shows landscape along the densely populated U.S. East coast. Ecosystems and sea-level rise are among the regional landscape changes that satellite imagery helps to monitor. (Public domain.)   Both sensors acquire four distinct spectral bands in the green, red, near infrared, and short-wave infrared portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. These bands line up approximately with Landsat Thematic Mapper, Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus, and Operational Land Imager green, red, near infrared, and short-wave infrared 1 bands. The LISS-3 sensor is more comparable to the OLI sensor in resolution – 24 meters – and coverage, while the AWiFS sensor has a 56-meter resolution but a much wider swath.    Users can download AWiFS and LISS-III imagery through EarthExplorer. Product options include a Level 1 geometrically corrected standard product, and a Level 1 precision terrain corrected product where precision correction is feasible.   Along with all data acquired over the U.S. from Resourcesat-2 starting in August 2016 and continuing today, USGS distributes data from ISRO’s earlier Resourcesat-1 satellite collected over the U.S. from 2003 through 2007. #climatechange

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Flexibility in Behavior of Some Animals Helps Them Accommodate a Changing Climate: Photo of pika vocalizing. (Credit: Erik Beever, USGS. Public domain.) The three primary types of successful response to new environmental conditions involve species moving, adapting or acclimating to the changing conditions. Scientists have been studying animal behavior in response to various environmental changes for multiple centuries, but this study is the first attempt to systematically and comprehensively identify the circumstances in which animal species have been found to exhibit behavioral flexibility in response to changing climatic conditions. “Given that species must cope with variability in environmental conditions over multiple time scales, behavioral flexibility can allow some animals a means by which to rapidly and effectively cope with such variability, yet without committing to more-permanent characteristics that won’t always be beneficial,” said the study’s lead author, USGS researcher Erik Beever. Scientists performed a worldwide literature search and found 186 studies that identify situations where animals displayed behavior flexibility as a way of coping with climate variability. The most common behavioral response exhibited by species involved changing the timing of life events such as laying eggs, giving birth, mating or starting migration. Such behavioral flexibility was found most frequently among studies of invertebrates, followed by birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fishes. Sixty-seven percent of the studies point to aspects of temperature as the most-likely driving force of behavioral changes. In contrast, factors such as precipitation, changes in food sources or habitat, relative humidity, and wind were less frequently associated with the behavioral changes. The study highlighted the American pika as an example of a species that copes with climatic variability by occasionally using many of these flexible behaviors. Pikas are typically limited to high-elevation, cool and moist rocky habitats in the mountains of western North America. However, in areas that have complex habitat, they employ a suite of behaviors to avoid and accommodate climatic stress, including changes in foraging strategy, habitat use and heat-regulating postures. Although pikas have experienced climate-related declines in some parts of their range, behavioral flexibility may allow other populations of pikas to make use of alternative habitats in seemingly unsuitable landscapes. Because animals must also engage in other activities essential for survival and reproduction, behavioral responses to environmental changes may be limited by such trade-offs and thus may allow species to accommodate more-extreme conditions only up to a certain point. Consequently, there remain unknowns regarding, for example, how species will respond to ongoing and increased climatic variability and higher frequency of extreme-weather events. The study also illustrates how managers can incorporate an improved understanding of behavioral flexibility into natural-resource management and policy decisions. “Although further work can refine particular applications and implementation, our study provided a number of examples of how wildlife and natural-resource managers can capitalize on better understanding of behavioral flexibility to more strategically manage animal species,” said Beever. The article, published online this week in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, is titled “Behavior as a mechanism for coping with climate change,” and can be viewed at the following website. This project was funded in part by the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. More information about species response to a global change can be found on the USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center website. #climatechange

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Peering into the Future of Agricultural Change: USGS scientists led by Terry Sohl at the Earth Resources Observation and Science Center have created a crystal ball to better depict future agricultural land change and project outcomes. Sohl and his colleagues have modified the Forecasting Scenarios of Land-Use Change model to project agricultural change by parcel across a large region in the U.S. Great Plains. USGS EROS scientists developed a model that portrays what it would take for the U.S. to produce a billion tons of dry biomass for biofuel production. In this scenario, magenta patches in the 2030 image represent fields converted to perennial grass for use by a cellulosic-based ethanol industry. The black lines represent field boundaries from the USDA's Common Land Unit data. (Public domain.) The new FORE-SCE model is unique in that instead of using small pixels, it uses ownership and land management boundaries from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. So scientists can mimic how farmers make decisions on the use of individual parcels of land, and then scale that up to regional and national levels. So, let’s say growing switchgrass to produce ethanol becomes more profitable for North Dakota farmers in the future. Or non-agricultural lands north of the Twin Cities prove advantageous for growing potatoes. The new FORE-SCE model can portray a broader geographic extent, higher spatial resolution at 30 meters, and higher thematic resolution with 28 land cover classes—including 14 different crop types—to project more realistic landscape pattern scenarios and better assess the ecological, economic, and climate outcomes from agricultural changes. That’s valuable knowledge not only in assessing how well agriculture in North Dakota can accommodate the need for more biofuel in the future, but also how large-scale agricultural change might affect biodiversity in the area—honey bees’ ability to pollinate, for example. With more realistic scenarios of increased potato farming in the Upper Mississippi River basin, the parcel-based model can help inform decision makers on how increased agricultural nutrients in groundwater might change water treatment requirements in the Twin Cities. Read more about the work of Sohl and his colleagues at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1747423X.2017.1340525. #climatechange

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Water is Life for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community: The Tribe has lived within the Skagit River-Delta of Puget Sound for centuries, fishing the region’s brackish waters for food and maintaining their homes along the shoreline while also working to keep them clean and healthy. The Swinomish homelands and way of life are affected by the combined threat of intense stream and coastal flooding, both of which are associated with sea-level rise and warmer air and sea-surface temperatures. The regional economy is affected as salmon and shellfish populations decline. Increased stress is also placed on important Pacific Northwest agricultural areas, which provide 75 to 95 percent of the U.S. supply of spinach, cabbage, and beet seed. "Swinomish fishermen have been out there since time immemorial, but climate change brings extra facets," said Jamie Donatuto, an environmental health analyst with the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community. This year alone, storms destroyed valuable fishing equipment and threatened to cut off the Swinomish people from their traditional seafood diets. These diets, tribal elder Larry Campbell stressed, mean much more than nutrition. "They're also spiritual foods for us," Campbell said. "We call it feeding our spirits when we eat these foods." Rising waters also threaten many of the Swinomish's most important archaeological and cultural sites, in addition to flooding their homes. And unlike most coastal residents, the Swinomish cannot pick up and relocate. "There's no place to go," Donatuto said. "The Reservation boundaries don't move as sea level rises." The Swinomish needed a way to predict where and when the waters rise so they can warn people and take action. After a destructive, 100-year storm event in 2006, tribal leaders in the United States and Canada reached out to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for help. USGS CoSMoS forecast showing the predicted winds (left) and wave heights (right) 48 hours in advance as the tide and storm surge increased and decreased (bottom) during the March 10, 2016 storm. The peak winds and waves coincided with a high tide and storm surge that led to extensive flooding of the Swinomish Reservation and coastal areas of northern Puget Sound.(public domain)   Large wood debris deposited on March 10, 2016 above Martha’s Beach and Park, blocking the access road on the Swinomish Reservation. Credit: Eric Grossman, USGS (public domain) For a decade, USGS geologist Eric Grossman has worked with the Swinomish Tribe and others in the Puget Sound region to better understand coastal processes and drivers of change. “Much attention has been paid to the effects of rising waters across open-coast beaches and islands,” Grossman said, “but less research has been conducted in coastal bays like Puget Sound and the rapidly changing Pacific Northwest coast and climate.” In its 137 years of surveying and studying the landscape of the United States, the USGS has become adept at modeling the dynamic relationship between land and water that occurs near coasts. With support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the USGS began developing the Puget Sound Coastal Storm Modeling System (PS-CoSMoS). The model is used to forecast sea-level changes and coastal impacts in real time—up to 48 hours in advance and over the coming decades. The model forecasts where flooding and damage are likely to occur by estimating where storm water levels, which can reach from 2 to 3 feet above predicted tides, can cause waves from 3 to10 feet high to impact the shoreline.   Marine flooding of Wiley Slough dike and new tide gate structure, March 10, 2016. Credit: John Wolden, Skagit Dike District 22 (public domain)     "They look to us for guidance on how to help formulate a coastal climate change adaptation plan," Grossman said. The models and tools developed by the USGS help decision makers make more informed and resilient investments for communities, infrastructures, and ecosystems. Tribe members can anticipate flooded Reservation roads and stock supplies, move valuable fishing equipment to safe locations, and avoid fishing dangerous waters. The Tribe and its partners can design and implement plans that recover declining salmon populations and address threats to infrastructure, agriculture, and the regional economy. Donatuto and Campbell are ultimately using the coastal change assessments to evaluate adaptation strategies to enhance Swinomish community health. "Changes in patterns of storms, sea-level rise, and other natural hazards along our coast are not things that most people think about when they first wake up in the morning," Donatuto said. "The CoSMoS forecasts allow people to visualize what the future holds." Photographs showing the CoSMoS forecasted extent of flooding (blue) across the western Swinomish Reservation compared to the actual location of maximum flooding (black line) in March 2016. This helped to validate the accuracy of the USGS CoSMoS model. The projections are made by the USGS and overlaid on a 2011 photograph credited to the National Agricultural Insurance Program. (public domain)       #climatechange

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New USGS Science Plan Designed to Help Plan for Drought Effects on People, Communities, and Ecosystems: The U. S. Geological Survey is poised to bring a dynamic array of science and tools to help decision-makers manage and offset effects of increased drought across the United States, according to a drought plan report released today. The Vegetation Drought Response Index (VegDRI) incorporates satellite observations of vegetation to monitor at a finer spatial detail than other commonly used drought indicators. (USGS, Public domain.) A hydrologic technician from the USGS Idaho Water Science Center measures streamflow in Homer Creek near Herman, ID. The USGS is collecting data at hundreds of sites on rivers and streams in six western states to document the 2015 drought. USGS scientists will analyze the data to identify which rivers and streams may be most vulnerable to future droughts.(Credit: Jay Bateman, USGS. Public domain.) Human population growth, which exacerbates land- and water-use issues, and a warming world, mean that more frequent and severe droughts are scientifically forecasted to occur in many U.S. regions. Consequently, USGS scientists from a variety of disciplines developed this plan as a forward-looking map for understanding the complexity of drought issues and the impact of drought on people and natural systems.  “Drought is a slow-onset disaster, and understanding its impacts to prepare drought-resilience actions is critical,” said USGS scientist and Drought Coordinator Andrea Ostroff.  “The key to helping offset its often-devastating effects on people, the economy and the environment is to provide managers with comprehensive science-based information for their decisions.” The plan lays out a comprehensive response to stakeholders’ needs and to inform effective, research-based decisions and actions to help the nation’s communities and natural areas adapt to and offset the drought effects.  It also details improved integration and coordination in the ways the USGS provides drought science to help decision-makers manage and mitigate effects of drought.  “Over the past several years, many regions in the United States have experienced extreme drought conditions, fueled by prolonged periods of reduced precipitation and exceptionally warm temperatures,” said Clint Muhlfeld, a USGS research ecologist and a USGS drought team member. “As global temperatures continue to rise, the frequency, intensity and duration of droughts are predicted to increase across many regions of North America, with enormous consequences for people and natural ecosystems.” The coordinated and integrated USGS drought science plan, said Muhlfeld, represents a new path forward toward understanding drought processes and impacts on humans and ecosystems to build effective national drought-resilience capabilities. The National Drought Resilience Partnership, an interagency federal working group initiative started in 2013, developed an action plan to promote drought resilience nationwide. The action plan identified USGS as an essential agency for this because of its scientific capabilities to address drought issues directly or indirectly at regional and national levels.  Corn showing the effects of drought in Texas. (Credit: Bob Nichols, USDA. Public domain.)   The USGS drought science plan, said Ostroff, brings to bear the agency’s considerable expertise in numerous scientific disciplines to understand complex interactions that determine drought and drought effects; describe uncertainties associated with drought causes and effects; develop robust models to predict drought risk and vulnerability for planning and mitigation purposes; advance efforts in coordinated drought science that will lead to development of drought-monitoring systems; and deliver decision-support science to help federal, state, tribal, regional and local stakeholders prepare and manage for the future across the country. Ultimately, this coordinated and integrated approach will help the nation prepare for and cope with drought to protect human health and safety, natural ecosystems, national security, the economy and quality of life in changing world. The USGS Circular, USGS Integrated Drought Science, was published today and was written by the USGS Drought Team and includes scientists Andrea C. Ostroff, Clint C. Muhlfeld, Patrick M. Lambert, Nathaniel L. Booth, Shawn L. Carter, Jason M. Stoker and Michael J. Focazio.   #climatechange

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As Hurricane Season Opens, USGS Is Ready: There’s a good chance the 2017 hurricane season will be busier than normal, with National Weather Service forecasters predicting 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, 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, state-of-the-science computer models for forecasting them, and sophisticated equipment for monitoring actual flood and tide conditions. Throughout the hurricane season the USGS Coastal Storm Response Team, made up of managers and scientists, confers with the National Hurricane Center and other federal agencies. When forecasters think a hurricane is likely to make landfall on the U.S. mainland, the storm team confers every day, says hydrologist Athena Clark, the USGS storm team leader. Installing Sensors That Ride Out Storm Waves, Then Measure Them USGS hydrologic technician Jym Chapman (above) installs a rapid deployment gauge to measure water-surface elevation and other data in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, prior to Hurricane Matthew’s approach in October 2016. Hydrologist Tim Pojunas (below) measures an elevation reference point used to calibrate the newly installed RDG. The data collected by RDGs are transmitted in real time by satellite, and are used for flood forecasting and emergency response. Photo by Chris Henry, USGS. Public domain. The team decides the timing and extent of USGS’ storm response based on the storm’s forecast intensity and track, says Clark. 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: 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.  As Storm Rains Sweep Inland, USGS Tracks Flood Effects Hurricane rains can cause flooding far from the coast. To track inland flooding, the USGS gathers data from its existing network of streamgages, which measure water levels, streamflow and rainfall at more than 8,100 sites across the country. 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. In addition, the USGS quickly installs specially-designed rapid deployment gauges in areas where flooding is likely, but no permanent stations exist. 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. And to further document the extent and depth of flooding, the experts in the field document high water marks – the telltale lines of seeds, leaves, silt and other debris left behind on buildings, bridges, and trees after floodwaters recede. During and right after hurricane flooding, these records help the Federal Emergency Management Agency target emergency relief to the hardest-hit areas. Later, the data help insurers and property owners document damage, and provide real world information to validate and improve computer-modeled flood forecasts. You can track storm-surge sensor deployment and see streamgage readings in real time at the USGS Flood Viewer. Predicting How the Storm Will Shift 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. Research scientists at the 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. Scientists will use a unique algorithm to analyze this quadcopter's photos, comparing dune heights before and after hurricanes. The resulting information will help improve USGS' coastal erosion forecasts. Photo by Shawn Harrison, USGS. Public domain. 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, says research oceanographer Joseph Long, a member of the USGS’ coastal change hazards team. 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. 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. Maps and Apps That Show the Big Picture 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), an ad hoc 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, said USGS physical scientist Lance Clampitt, the GIRT chairman. 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.     #climatechange

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President Proposes $922 Million FY18 Budget for USGS: Annual Federal Appropriations Process — Here you will find documents such as Budget Justifications (Greenbook), press releases, funding tables, fact sheets, and more, organized by fiscal year. Read the full details. #climatechange
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