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USGS News:Mapping, Remote Sensing, Geospatial Data
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News about topographic maps, The National Map, remote sensing, geography, and GIS from the USGS.
News about topographic maps, The National Map, remote sensing, geography, and GIS from the USGS.

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USGS Geologists Join Efforts in Montecito to Assess Debris-Flow Aftermath: Days after fatal debris flows devastated Southern California’s Montecito community,  a team of U.S. Geological Survey geologists joined county, state, and federal partners to survey and  evaluate the aftermath. Commonly known as mudslides or mudflows,  debris flows are slurries  of water, rock, soil, vegetation, and boulders with the consistency of wet concrete that can move rapidly  downhill and down channel. USGS geologists from the Landslide Hazards Program and Earthquake Science Center  deployed to Santa Barbara County to support a geohazard assessment of the Montecito area; lead by the California Geological Survey,  with the support of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). “We’re  mapping the area that’s been inundated by debris flows so that we are able to get some sense of the spatial extent of the area  debris flows impacted,  as well as the magnitude of the flows,”  said USGS geologist Dennis Staley. “We will also be able to produce a forensic reconstruction of what happened throughout the event.” Download this videoA team of USGS geologists provide science support following Montecito post-fire debris-flow event. Donyelle K. Davis,(Public domain) Based on the information the group collects from the area, they can estimate  the velocity and other dynamics of the flow to better understand  and forecast how similar events might behave in the future. Real-time Techniques Help to Monitor Hazards The Dec. 4, 2017 Thomas fire, Southern California's largest wildfire on record, burned more than 280,000 acres across Ventura and Santa Barbara counties for nearly a month.  After the wildfire, the USGS completed a Post-Fire Debris-Flow hazard assessment to determine debris-flow susceptibility. The hazard assessment uses information on burn severity, topography, and soil characteristics to estimate the likelihood and volume of debris flows in response to a design storm.  The maps need to be created rapidly after the fire, but before the first storm,  in order to provide as much time as possible to develop emergency response plans. The maps are also used by the National Weather Service offices in southern California to inform debris-flow and flash-flood alerts. “In this case, the maps showed that many drainages across the fire are highly susceptible to debris flows even during a garden-variety storm,” said USGS hydrologist Jason Kean. “The burst of rain that triggered the debris flows was more than  three times greater than the design storm that was used to create the maps.” According to the maps, the Montecito area, as well as other parts of the Thomas Fire, may remain susceptible to flooding and debris for the next two years. Weeks after the fire, which destroyed thousands of structures,  heavy rainfall eroded the burned areas  — saturating the Montecito community with between 3-5 inches of rain. fullscreen Status: PublishedScience Support: Communications and Publishing Areas of steep topography subjected to intense rainfall, following a large fire, are particularly susceptible to damaging  debris-flow episodes.   Debris flows can start on steep hillsides as shallow landslides that liquefy and accelerate to speeds that are typically about 10 mph, but can exceed 35 mph. However, in recently burned areas, debris flows may also initiate from erosion on hillsides and from stream channels. The flows then reach canyon mouths or flatter ground, where the material spreads over a broad area, sometimes accumulating in thick deposits that can wreak havoc in developed areas. “Post-fire debris flows are particularly hazardous because they can occur following very short bursts of intense rainfall,” said Jonathan Godt, USGS Landslide Hazards Program Coordinator. “Because debris flows move fast with great momentum they, can strip vegetation, block drainage ways, damage structures, and endanger human life.”   Boots-on-Ground Evaluations Among the remains of demolished infrastructure, the team of scientists trudged through miles of  thick, deep mud, rubble and wreckage to map the edges of the flow. They recorded flow features such as deposit thickness, size of boulders and inundation depth on GPS-connected electronic tablets.  The location data are used to help emergency responders and will be used to model the flow.    After a debris flow event, satellite imagery helps document the scope of the event, but in order to provide the best data to emergency responders and to learn from this event, scientists must physically canvass the scene.   fullscreen Status: PublishedScience Support: Communications and Publishing “It’s important for scientists  to  be in the field shortly following the debris flow to collect perishable measurements of the depth, character and perimeter of the debris flows,” said research geologist Dr. Kate Scharer. “By working on the ground, we can evaluate the features that influence how the debris flow spreads across the land and then use these data in models to inform federal, state and local partners how future events can unfold.”     For this project, the scientists were also focused on understanding how the terrain controlled the path of the debris flows, and how the area inundated by the debris flow deposits was different or similar  than what was estimated using flood models.   Partner Collaborations Advance Hazard Understanding Understanding and mapping post-fire debris flow inundation serves multiple objectives for all organizations involved. The partnership between Santa Barbara County, CAL FIRE’s Watershed Protection Program,  the disaster incident command, CGS and USGS, will meet immediate and long-term needs. fullscreen Status: PublishedScience Support: Communications and Publishing After the team identifies areas that were inundated by the January 9, 2018 event, as well as areas that could be inundated in future, the data collected now will be used in a long-term effort to develop models of debris-flow runout and inundation. “This effort assists Santa Barbara County and the State of California with additional tools to map post-wildfire landslide hazards in areas at risk,” said Jeremy Lancaster, CGS Regional Geologic Mapping Program Manager. “The results of this information can also be used in post-wildfire hazards evaluations and risk reduction efforts in California, and may be broadly applicable to large regions of the United States.”   USGS geologists from the Landslide Hazards Program and Earthquake Science Center  deployed to Santa Barbara County to support a geohazard assessment of the Montecito area. This effort was led by the California Geological Survey, with the support of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE).(Credit: Donyelle K. Davis , USGS . Public domain.)              More Resources & Information                                         Post Wildfire, Flash Flood and Debris Flow Guide                      Post-Fire Debris-Flow Hazards Debris Flow Hazard in The United States Emergency Assessment of Post-Fire Debris Flow Hazards Southern California Landslides: An Overview Southern California—Wildfires and Debris Flows Learn More About Landslides Landslides 101 Real-time Monitoring for Potential Landslides What To Do and Look For During and Immediately After Heavy Rains Landslide Hazards Peligros de Deslizamientos #mapping

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USGS Scientist Mobilizes with Recon Team to Learn from Mexico's Earthquake Early Warning System: A few weeks after a magnitude-7.1 earthquake struck central Mexico on Sept. 19, 2017 — leaving hundreds dead and dozens of buildings destroyed — USGS seismologist Elizabeth Cochran and a team of experts mobilized to Mexico City to assess the performance of the Mexico Seismic Warning System (Sistema de Alerta Sísmica Mexicano or SASMEX)  and the public’s perception of the alerts. In the company of only Japan and Taiwan, Mexico is one of few countries equipped with a seismic warning system that currently broadcasts publicly. Mexico has been broadcasting in a public regional capacity since 1993 via the Mexico Seismic Warning System, which currently has more than 90 sensors in central and southern Mexico.   The EERI team visited Centro de Instrumentación y Registro Sísmico (CIRES), which operates SASMEX(Credit: Dr. Elizabeth Cochran, USGS. Public domain.) Although no one can reliably predict earthquakes, today’s technology is now advanced enough to rapidly detect seismic waves as an earthquake begins and send alerts to surrounding areas before damaging shaking arrives. “Mexico is one of just a few number of  places around the world that has a warning system and this was also one of the rare times  an early warning system had been activated for a significant earthquake,” said Cochran. “We were interested in how people reacted to the alerts and their overall perceptions of the system in the immediate aftermath of this destructive earthquake.” Discussions the team had included the technical development of the system, and challenges to ensure the alerts have the maximum benefit to the population of Mexico.  “We wanted to learn from the experiences of SASMEX in order to apply some of those lessons to the earthquake early warning system we are developing here in the U.S.,” Cochran said.   fullscreen Status: PublishedScience Support: Communications and Publishing       The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute selected Cochran to join their reconnaissance team of  recognized expert scientists to assess the warning system’s performance.  The team also included Dr. Richard Allen (University of California, Berkeley),  Dr. Scott Miles (University of Washington), and Diego Otegui (University of Delaware). Earthquake Aftermath: Recon Team Studies System Performance Upon arrival to Mexico City, the  EERI team visited the Centro de Instrumentación y Registro Sísmico (CIRES) that operates SASMEX. There, they learned details about how the system performed, including when alerts were issued to Mexico City during the magnitude 7.1 quake. The system issued an alert 3-5 seconds after the initial seismic wave arrivals, which were strongly felt throughout the system.    The team spent several days visiting a series of locations, including a private school equipped with a dedicated siren system since 1993. The school experienced significant damage to two buildings on their campus, which were the administrative and preschool structures. During the earthquake, the teachers and students began evacuation as soon as shaking began but were unable to complete evacuations due to the strength of shaking. They chose to shelter in place and no injuries occurred at the school.  Dr. Elizabeth Cochran visited the Centro de Instrumentación y Registro Sísmico (CIRES) in Mexico City. The group  operates SASMEX, Mexico's earthquake early warning system.  (Credit: Dr. Elizabeth Cochran, USGS. Public domain.)   The recon team also interviewed dozens of locals -- from Uber drivers to business owners --to understand what they expected from the system, in addition to how they responded to the alert. The warning came only after earthquake shaking began because the epicenter was so close to the city. “Despite the late warning in Mexico City for the nearby M7.1 earthquake, people view the early warning system as necessary and valuable. They feel that since the technical capability exists to issue warnings, it should be used.  It doesn’t prevent all damage or losses from earthquakes, and we knew that, but it does provide information to people,” Cochran said.  “And, it turns out to also be a useful tool for strengthening their earthquake awareness and response to earthquakes.” Coincidentally, the  Sept. 19, 2017,  7.1-magnitude Mexico earthquake occurred  two hours after a national earthquake drill to commemorate the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. That devastating 1985 quake was what prompted the implementation of SASMEX. Siren system for Seismic Warning System (Sistema de Alerta Sísmica Mexicano or SASMEX)  (Credit: Dr. Elizabeth Cochran, USGS. Public domain.)   The earthquake occurred only a short time after the sirens were sounded for the national exercise, but since shaking started prior to the alert sounding there was no confusion that this alert was an extension of the drill. People noted that they reacted more quickly when shaking started because the recent drill reminded them how to respond during shaking or when the siren sounds. U.S. Earthquake Early Warning: ShakeAlert Nearly 50 million Americans are at risk due to earthquakes on the West Coast of the United States.  Massive earthquakes on the Cascadia Subduction Zone or the San Andreas Fault system could cause billions of dollars in damage and cost thousands of lives. “When fully operational, the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system will save lives and reduce injuries and property damage,” said Robert  de Groot, Coordinator for Communication, Education, and Outreach for the USGS ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning Project. The USGS ShakeAlert system does not yet support public warnings, but in the near  future a limited rollout will enable selected early adopters to develop pilot implementations that take automatic protective actions or notify trained personnel. The goal is to demonstrate the system’s utility and develop technologies that pave the way for broader use.   Learn More Published report from reconnaissance team: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6367/1111 Other resources: https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/us2000ar20#executive https://earthquake.usgs.gov/archive/product/poster/20170919/us/1506025242898/poster.pdf #mapping

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STEP-UP to Science: Engaging Young Adults with Disabilities: Modeled after a successful program in USGS headquarters near Washington, DC, the program is expanding to three school districts in the San Francisco Bay Area. Starting the week of January 16, eleven students from three school districts in Santa Clara County, California, will begin projects at USGS’s Menlo Park campus. The partner school districts are the Palo Alto Unified School District, Fremont Union High School District and the Santa Clara Unified School District. USGS is recognized as a leader among federal science agencies in training, leveraging the unique strengths of students with cognitive disabilities while allowing them to explore STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers, expand their employment opportunities, and become part of a diverse USGS workforce for the future. What: Kick-off reception for USGS STEP-UP hiring program for disabled young adults. Who: Participating students, teachers, job coaches, district superintendents and school board members from: Palo Alto Unified School District, Fremont Union High School District, and Santa Clara Unified School District Representatives from Bay Area congressional offices, elected state officials USGS host supervisor scientists, and USGS leadership and staff When: Wednesday, January 17, 2018, 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. (Reception) and 11:00 a.m. (Observation of students working) Where: U.S. Geological Survey California Conference Room, Bldg. 3, 2nd floor 345 Middlefield Road Menlo Park, California RSVP: Leslie Gordon, lgordon@usgs.gov, 650-329-4006   The USGS is forming partnerships at its various offices across the nation with local school districts and universities with established job training and transition programs. USGS identifies specific projects relevant to the work of its scientists, and then matches students to the projects based on their individual interests and aptitude. The school districts provide job coaches and onsite oversight. The USGS STEP-UP Program will: - Advance USGS science by making USGS data more quickly available to more scientists. - Support the USGS Fundamental Science Practices by properly archiving data and collections. - Supplement the USGS budget by using volunteers to achieve measurable work. - Support the Federal Government’s goal of building a more inclusive and diverse workforce by becoming a model for job-training of people with cognitive disabilities. - Increase the diversity of the USGS workforce by hiring some of the STEP-UP program graduates.   Student and job coach participting in the STEP-UP progam at U.S. Geological Survey.(Public domain) Young woman employeed at the U.S. Geological Survey as part of the STEP-UP program.(Public domain.) #mapping

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NHD and WBD Map Services Moving to the Cloud: National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) and Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD) dynamic web-based map services currently served directly from USGS endpoints are migrating to new Cloud endpoints  The migration will improve performance and reliability while keeping separate and independently consumable NHD and WBD services. These new Cloud endpoints also provide a more logical hierarchy for accessing USGS Hydrography web-based map services. This change will impact applications presently consuming the NHD and WBD layers from the previous service addresses. USGS will provide a transition period through December 31, 2017. The previous endpoints from USGS servers will continue to be publicly accessible during this transition period. Users will need to use the new Cloud service endpoints to access the NHD or WBD dynamic services after the transition period ends. In addition, users consuming the services from the previous endpoints will need to update application configurations for display of the desired layers. An announcement will be posted in the “What’s New” section on the The National Map website and information related to services on the “Links to Data Products and Map Services” page of the USGS Hydrography website will document these changes. For more information on the National Hydrography Dataset, Watershed Boundary Dataset, and NHDPlus High Resolution, visit the USGS Hydrography and The National Map websites. Screenshot of the topographic map layer with labeled water features from the ArcGIS “My Map” web service(Public domain.) Summary of changes to National Map Hydrography service endpoints New USGS Hydrography web-based map service endpoints: National Hydrography Dataset Function: Provides national hydrography data at 1:288,000 scale and below. Previous Endpoint: https://services.nationalmap.gov/arcgis/rest/services/nhd/MapServer New Cloud Endpoint: https://hydro.nationalmap.gov/arcgis/rest/services/nhd/MapServer This new NHD endpoint no longer contains a (0) National Hydrography Dataset layer. All other layers options remain unchanged, other than layer ordering/numbering. Reference above endpoint for full descriptions of layer ordering. National Watershed Boundary Dataset Function: Provides watershed boundary data at 1:74,000,000 scale and below. Previous Endpoint: https://services.nationalmap.gov/arcgis/rest/services/wbd/MapServer New Cloud Endpoint: https://hydro.nationalmap.gov/arcgis/rest/services/wbd/MapServer This new WBD endpoint no longer contains a (0) Watershed Boundary Dataset layer. All other layers options remain unchanged, other than layer ordering/numbering. See links above for full descriptions of layer ordering. Reference above endpoint for full descriptions of layer ordering. Hydrography (cached) Function: Provides a fast USGS Topo styled hydrography overlay at 1:74,000,000 to 1:9,000 scale. Endpoint: https://basemap.nationalmap.gov/arcgis/rest/services/USGSHydroCached/MapServer This service was announced and made public March 2017 and is also available as a WMTS service. No changes to endpoint. For any questions, comments, or concerns regarding this update, contact Ariel Doumbouya (atdoumbouya@usgs.gov). Also, check out the October 2017 NHD Newsletter for more information regarding impacts to specific web map applications. #mapping

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Mapping Challenge: Illinois Schools: The National Map Corps (TNM Corps) is an online crowdsourcing mapping project with citizen volunteers editing structures in all 50 States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. As part of The National Map, structures include schools, hospitals, post offices, police stations, cemeteries, and other important public buildings. By updating and verifying structures data, volunteers are making significant contributions to USGS National Structures Database, The National Map, and ultimately U.S. Topo Maps. Mapping Challenges are launched periodically as a way to focus volunteers on areas that need editing. A new Challenge has been released that is focused on education related structures in Illinois in advance of US Topo quadrangle revisions for the state.  This data collection and verification includes all of the following school feature types: General Schools, Elementary Schools, Middle Schools, High Schools, Technical / Trade Schools, and Colleges / Universities This Challenge will be the biggest request yet, with more than 3,140 points to be reviewed. Due to the size, this specific task is planned to run through the end of October, 2017. NOTE: Nov 1, 2017 UPDATE - To get as many Illions schools edited as possible, this challenge will now be active until mid-November. Don't forget, when the challenge ends we still would like for you to edit the remaining schools in Illinois; those updates just won't make it onto the latest revision of the US Topo maps for the state.  As a reminder, volunteers who contribute in the Mapping Challenge can be recognized (if desired) on TNMCorps Challenge page, the USGS website and also tweeted on The National Map Twitter account. Anyone with an interest and internet connections can contribute to mapping the Nation. Before starting, you may want to check out some of the common questions and answers posted about Schools on our Q&A page. If you haven't edited Schools yet (or lately), we also recommend you review specifics about editing Schools in the user guide, especially the Resources section, which explains what types of websites are authoritative and what types are not. Additionally, there are several informative articles about editing Schools in the May 2017 TNM Corps Newsletter. TNM Corps and the USGS appreciate the hundreds of citizen cartographers who have participated in the volunteer geographic information program. If you are not part of this movement, we suggest you check it out today. Happy mapping!   #mapping

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Recent Changes to Dynamic Services in The National Map: The following changes were made throughout August and September 2017, when new services were published to replace previous content: GovUnits All land unit types broken out into individual layers. Rather than a single layer with "Other Reserves" that included USFS, Military, and others, each FTYPE (from GU_Reserve) has its own layer, created with definition queries. Affected layers: National Park National Forest National Wilderness Wildlife Reserve National Grassland National Cemetery Military Reserve NASA Facility Metropolitan Washington Airport BLM land (no labels) Tennessee Valley Authority land (no labels) Incorporated Place, Unincorporated Place, Minor Civil Division, Native American Area, Congressional District, County, and Large/Small-scale States remain the same. Layer order changed. Labels updated to new typeface. Most labels have their drop shadows or fills changed to be visible against newly designed layers, whether the PADUS style polygons or others. Labels use drop shadows instead of halos. Polygon fills of most national lands updated to match color scheme in PADUS viewer . Outlines/fills of all other features updated to be visible against new USGS Topo base map and grayscale shaded relief. Visibility restrictions by scale removed from all layers except States which are still divided into large-scale and small-scale layers. Currently, only States and Counties are on by default while all other layers will have to be manually turned on. States are visible at all scales; Counties are visible in beyond 1:600,000. Map Indices Layer order changed. Label font and halo changed. Colors of 1x1 degree and 30x60 minute cells changed. 1x1 degree cell features are visible at all scales; 1x1 degree cell labels are visible larger than 9M in scale. 30x60 minute cell features are visible larger than 20M, and 30x60 minute cell labels are visible larger than 5M in scale. 15 minute cell features are visible larger than 4M, and 15 minute cell labels are visible larger than 2M in scale. 7.5 minute cell features are visible larger than 1M, and 7.5 minute cell labels are the same (visible at 577K and larger in scale). 3.75 minute cell features are visible larger than 500K, and 3.75 minute cell labels are the same (visible at 288K and larger in scale). All layers are on by default (which is same behavior as previous service). Structures Label layers and feature layers separated. Labels/features regrouped by type, and reordered. Labels/features are created as single layers (one layer per feature class) by using definition queries. Layer order changed. Label font and halo changed. Some symbols updated. Post offices and State capitols are on by default while all other layers need to be manually turned on. Geonames Label layers and feature layers separated. Labels/features regrouped by type, and reordered. Labels/features are their own layer and can be toggled on/off, rather than being grouped into a single layer (for example, schools, airports, and buildings are separate layers, rather than grouped into a Structure layer as they used to be). Labels/features are created as single layers (one layer per feature class) by using definition queries. Layer order changed. Label font and halo changed. Historical features are grouped by type (cultural-political, hydrographic, and physical). Symbols for most features updated. Communities (populated places) are on by default while all other layers need to be manually turned on. Contours Label font and halo changed. Index contours have thicker lines than intermediate contours. Large-scale, 50-foot, and 100-foot contours are regrouped by type and sub-type, and all available sub-types are included in the layer list. Layer order numbers have changed as a result. Small-scale contours for the continental US, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have been included, and are visible at 1:1,000,000-scale. Slight changes were made to visibility-through-scale settings. Transportation Label font and halo changed. Small-scale transportation data originally from the National Atlas has been refreshed to replace previous content shown in the service. Additional road types are now included in the small-scale data layers, ferries, and railroads. Large-scale local roads, ferries, tunnels, 4WD trails, and U.S. Forest Service roads are now able to be shown up to 1:300,000-scale. However, these layers are turned off by default, so users will have to manually turn them on to see them. However, these layers are turned off by default, so users will have to manually turn them on to see them. For additional details, go to The National Map Data Download and Visualization Services webpage and search under “What’s New”. A view of selected feature types in the Governmental Units dynamic service around Albuquerque, New Mexico(Public domain.) #mapping

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The National Map Legacy Viewer Retirement: The USGS National Geospatial Program (NGP) will be decommissioning its legacy National Map viewer application on September 29 2017. This is part of a continuing effort to move towards data visualization frameworks that support the new HTML5 advances in web environments, improve mobile access, and add GIS capabilities while minimizing the government's role in maintaining custom viewer code. The legacy National Map Viewer being retired on September 29, 2017.(Public domain.) The NGP technical staff recommends that users transition to using the National Map Advanced Viewer application. Users have been directed towards this new viewer application through the launch web page since April 2017. The primary purpose of the new viewer is to provide our users with a means of visualizing and working with our data over the web. Note that the USGS already has a separate application focused on data download and that download functionality is not part of the replacement application at this time. The new viewer application was built using the ArcGIS Online Web AppBuilder. Featured “Widgets” are: Base Map Gallery Layer List Legend Add Data Share Query Measurement Elevation Profile Spot Elevation Print Draw Select For assistance, refer to the Help documentation. Additional information is found at other visualization capabilities.  If there are features that you used in the legacy National Map viewer that are not yet in the new viewer, please contact The National Map Help Desk to communicate those needs to the appropriate technical representative. The new replacement National Map Advanced Viewer.(Public domain.)     #mapping

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Imagery Services Update to The National Map: The National Geospatial Program (NGP) is planning to complete the retirement of the High Resolution Orthoimagery (HRO) portion of imagery data and services on September 29, 2017.  Access to standard HRO data products and HRO services through the National Map will be discontinued at that time. HRO data generally consists of 1 meter or better resolution, leaf-off, orthorectified imagery products acquired over the nation’s major urban regions and provided through The National Map. The data were acquired through 2014 in collaboration with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency with cover routinely expanded in partnership with local, regional, and state governments. The NGP is continuing support of access to National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) orthoimagery data and services, provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The source imagery used in the generation of the standard HRO data products and services will continue to be made available through Earth Explorer by the USGS Land Remote Sensing Program. The sunset of HRO data and services is part of a shift in USGS priorities towards the accelerated development of the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP). “The USGS anticipated that imagery data acquired through 2014 would have a useful lifecycle of three years”, said Paul Wiese, NGP Orthoimagery Theme Lead, “and we are now approaching the end of this three year period.” As new imagery platforms become available and as other imagery programs evolve, the NGP will work with the data and service providers to support orthoimagery as a base reference data layer for the users of the National Map. Links to data and services that will be retired:    High Resolution Orthoimagery Data    High Resolution Orthoimagery Service Current High Resolution Orthoimagery coverage map on The National Map.(Public domain.) #mapping

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Landsat Images Before and After Harvey Illustrate Flooding in Texas: The U.S. Geological Survey has released new Landsat satellite images that show some of the flooding and coastal change Hurricane Harvey’s historic rains and storm surge produced across much of eastern Texas. Harvey’s deluge set a number of records in Texas streams and rivers during the peak period of flooding with 40 streamgages measuring record highs and more than 80 streamgages recording water levels at or above flood stage – the point at which water can start overflowing banks – on 21 rivers, streams and bayous, with preliminary reports showing some rivers have already crested reaching their highest levels. Among the many waterways in southeastern Texas that exceeded flood stage was the Brazos River, which flows west of Houston into the Gulf of Mexico. A USGS streamgage on the Brazos near Rosharon showed that a river level normally at around 10 feet peaked to 52.65 feet, almost 10 feet above flood stage, on August 29. Even with scattered clouds in the images, the extent of flooding on the landscape just south of Houston is evident. The Landsat 8 image from August 12 shows the area before the storm hit while Landsat 7 passed over the same area on September 5 to show the flooded Brazos River. The hurricane’s eye made landfall in Rockport, Texas, and this before and after Landsat image clearly shows shoreline retreat on barrier islands caused by Harvey’s storm surge. Landsat 8 captured the before image August 19, 2017 and Landsat 7 acquired the after image on September 12 with changes to the coastline still visible 18 days after the storm hit. Corpus Christi and surrounding communities did not experience the extreme rainfall Houston and other nearby regions received, however, winds gusting to 130 miles per hour were the main source of business and residential damage in the Corpus Christi area. Landsat is a joint effort of both USGS – ran by the Earth Resources Observation and Science Center – and NASA. USGS conducts Landsat operations and NASA develops and launches new satellites that meet science requirements. In addition to imagery of natural hazard events, Landsat provides valuable data for land use research. The before and after Landsat images can be seen by visiting https://eros.usgs.gov/hurricane-harvey-flooding or https://eros.usgs.gov/shoreline-retreat-near-corpus-christi-texas. View current monitoring data for almost 800 USGS real-time stream, lake, reservoir, precipitation and groundwater stations in Texas in context with current weather and hazard conditions at USGS Texas Water Dashboard. Two fully-autonomous Twitter feeds distribute water level and precipitation data during flooding or severe rainfall: @USGS_TexasFlood and @USGS_TexasRain. #mapping

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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 Flooding caused by Hurricane Irma 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. #mapping
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