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Streamgages Measure Drought, Earthquake Impacts on Water

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Sep 16, 2014.

Summary: While the national streamflow database is documenting evidence of California’s historic drought, the database is also confirming another recently seen hydrologic phenomenon: earthquake-induced increases in streamflow

Contact Information:

Laurel  Rogers ( Phone: 619-980-6527 ); Leslie  Gordon ( Phone: 650-329-4006 );




caption below.
Hydrograph showing stream flow in cubic feet per second on USGS streamgage on Sonoma Creek near Agua Caliente, from about August 23 - September 13, 2014. The sharp rise starting on August 24 reflects an increased streamflow due to the South Napa Earthquake. (High resolution image)
caption below.
Hydrograph showing stream flow in cubic feet per second on USGS streamgage on Sonoma Creek near Agua Caliente, from April 1 - mid-September, 2014. The steady decline in streamflow reflects current drought conditions in California. The sharp decrease and increase aroundAugust 1 is a regional trend, reflecting an upstream irrigation diversion.The sharp rise starting on August 24 reflects an increased streamflow due to the South Napa Earthquake. (High resolution image)
caption below.
Hydrograph showing an increase of gage-height in feet (.01 increments) at the Sonoma Creek at Agua Caliente gage, in the early morning of August 24, 2014. The sharp rise in water level between 4:15 - 4:30 a.m. reflects an increased streamflow due to the South Napa Earthquake an hour earlier. (High resolution image)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — While the national streamflow database is documenting evidence of California’s historic drought, the database is also confirming another recently seen hydrologic phenomenon: earthquake-induced increases in streamflow.

Rivers and streams across California are flowing at record lows. Streamflow data from 182 U.S. Geological Survey streamgages in California with at least 30 years of record, currently show that 62 percent of streamgages are recording flows less 25 percent of normal, and 44 percent are recording flows less than 10 percent of normal. At several streamgage sites, scientists have had to extend measurement scales and rating formulas that help calculate accurate streamflow, because of record low water flows.

Increased flow over rock riffle in Sonoma Creek seen after South Napa Earthquake of August 24, 2014.
Increased flow over rock riffle in Sonoma Creek seen after South Napa Earthquake of August 24, 2014. (High resolution image)

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the August 24 magnitude 6.0 South Napa Earthquake in California, water has begun to flow again in some previously-dry surrounding creeks, rivers and streams prompting many nearby residents to scratch their heads.

Hydrogeologic responses to earthquakes have been known by scientists for decades. In the case of the South Napa Earthquake, the discharge of springs and groundwater to some streams has increased. Based on experience in previous earthquakes, stream and spring flows are expected to decline again over the next several months, assuming that the Napa region does not get significant rainfall over that time period.

Post-earthquake changes in streamflow were recorded at a USGS streamgage on Sonoma Creek, near the city of Sonoma where measured increases in streamflow began after 4:15 a.m. on August 24, about an hour after the earthquake occurred. Streamflow has increased intermittently since the earthquake from 0.1 cubic feet per second to nearly 3 cfs on September 12. The median historical streamflow for this time period is about 0.5 cfs. Scientists theorize that this increase in streamflow is due to groundwater flow entering the river, and the intermittent nature of the streamflow is due to the non-uniform release of groundwater across the basin. 

Related Links and Resources

Media Advisory: USGS to Host Congressional Briefing: #StrongAfterSandy--The Science Supporting the Department of the Interior's Response

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Sep 15, 2014.

Summary: Department of the Interior scientists are generating and sharing critical information to aid the recovery of the areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy, helping to protect our valuable coastal resources and to make communities more resilient against future extreme storms

Contact Information:

Hannah Hamilton ( Phone: 703-648-4356 (work) 703-314-1601 (cell) );




Department of the Interior scientists are generating and sharing critical information to aid the recovery of the areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy, helping to protect our valuable coastal resources and to make communities more resilient against future extreme storms. Moving forward DOI is positioned to help answer questions such as: What locations along the coast are forecasted to be the most vulnerable to future hurricanes? What were the storm impacts to ecosystems, habitats, fish and wildlife? What is being learned about the importance of undeveloped land? Come learn how the U.S. Geological Survey and its partners are working to assemble and apply better data to keep citizens safe.

Speakers:

  • Neil K. Ganju –  Research Oceanographer, U.S. Geological Survey
  • Mary Foley – Regional Chief Scientist, Northeast Region, National Park Service
  • Eric Schrading – New Jersey Field Office Supervisor,  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Emcee:

Claude Gascon, Executive Vice President and Chief Science Officer, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

Where:

Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2325, Washington, D.C.

When:

Friday, September 19, 2014 – 11:00 a.m.

Host:

Refreshments provided courtesy of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

To learn how USGS is combining interdisciplinary science with state-of-the-art technologies to achieve a comprehensive understanding of coastal change caused by Hurricane Sandy, read our new fact sheet: Using Science to Strengthen our Nation’s Resilience to Tomorrow’s Challenges—Understanding and Preparing for Coastal Impacts.

New Oregon Maps Feature National Scenic Trails

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Sep 15, 2014.

Summary: Newly released US Topo maps for Oregon now feature segments of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Larry  Moore ( Phone: 303-202-4019 );




Newly released US Topo maps for Oregon now feature segments of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Several of the 1,835 new US Topo quadrangles for the state now display parts of the Trail along with other improved data layers.

“Having the Pacific Crest NST finally show up on Oregon US Topo maps is significant for all of the recreational users of the wild spaces the trail traverses,” said Tom Carlson, Geospatial Liaison for the Pacific Northwest. “Hiking the trail provides commanding views of the volcanic peaks of the Cascade Range as well as the verdant forests of the western side of the mountains and down into the farmlands of the Willamette Valley. You also see parts of the open Ponderosa Pine forest and high desert on the eastern slopes of the mountains.”

The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail is a treasured pathway through some of the most scenic terrain in the nation. Beginning in southern California at the Mexican border, the PCT travels a total distance of 2,650 miles through California, Oregon, and Washington until reaching the Canadian border. The PCT is one of the original National Scenic Trails established by Congress in the 1968 National Trails System Act and fifty-four percent of the trail lies within designated wilderness.

The USGS partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to incorporate the trail onto the Oregon US Topo maps. This NST joins the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail and the North Country National Scenic Trail as being featured on the new US Topo quads. The USGS hopes to eventually include all National Scenic Trails in The National Map products. 

These new maps replace the first edition US Topo maps for Oregon and are available for free download from The National Map and the USGS Map Locator & Downloader website.

Another important addition to the new Oregon US Topo maps in the inclusion of Public Land Survey System. PLSS is a way of subdividing and describing land in the US. All lands in the public domain are subject to subdivision by this rectangular system of surveys, which is regulated by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

To compare change over time, scans of legacy USGS topo maps, some dating back to the late 1800s, can be downloaded from the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection

To download US Topo maps: http://nationalmap.gov/ustopo/

caption below
The National Trails System was established by Act of Congress in 1968. The Act grants the Secretary of Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture authority over the National Trails System. The Act defines four types of trails. Two of these types, the National Historic Trails and National Scenic Trails, can only be designated by Act of Congress. National scenic trails are extended trails located as to provide for maximum outdoor recreation potential and for the conservation and enjoyment of nationally significant scenic, historic, natural, and cultural qualities of the area through which such trails may pass.

There are 11 National Scenic Trails:
  • Appalachian National Scenic Trail
  • Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail
  • Continental Divide National Scenic Trail
  • North Country National Scenic Trail
  • Ice Age National Scenic Trail
  • Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
  • Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail
  • Florida National Scenic Trail
  • Arizona National Scenic Trail
  • New England National Scenic Trail
  • Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail
(high resolution image)
caption below caption below
New 2014 US Topo quadrangle of the Three Fingered Jack, Oregon, area. Scale 1:24,000, with the orthoimagery layer turned on. (high resolution image) Scanned copy of the 1929 USGS Three Sister’s, Oregon, quadrangle. Scale 1:25,000 – from the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection. (high resolution image)

20-Year Study Shows Levels of Pesticides Still a Concern for Aquatic Life in U.S. Rivers and Streams

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Sep 11, 2014.

Summary: Levels of pesticides continue to be a concern for aquatic life in many of the Nation’s rivers and streams in agricultural and urban areas, according to a new USGS study spanning two decades (1992-2011)

Contact Information:

Ethan Alpern ( Phone: 703-648-4406 ); Wesley Stone ( Phone: 317-600-2786 );




Levels of pesticides continue to be a concern for aquatic life in many of the Nation’s rivers and streams in agricultural and urban areas, according to a new USGS study spanning two decades (1992-2011). Pesticide levels seldom exceeded human health benchmarks.

Over half a billion pounds of pesticides are used annually in the U.S. to increase crop production and reduce insect-borne disease, but some of these pesticides are occurring at concentrations that pose a concern for aquatic life.

Percent of streams with one or more pesticide compounds exceeding a chronic aquatic-life benchmark.
High resolution image

The proportion of streams with one or more pesticides that exceeded an aquatic-life benchmark was similar between the two decades for streams and rivers draining agricultural and mixed-land use areas, but much greater during the 2002-2011 for streams draining urban areas.

Fipronil, an insecticide that disrupts the central nervous system of insects, was the pesticide most frequently found at levels of potential concern for aquatic organisms in urban streams during 2002-2011.

“The information gained through this important research is critical to the evaluation of the risks associated with existing levels of pesticides,” said William Werkheiser, USGS Associate Director for Water.

Since 1992, there have been widespread trends in concentrations of individual pesticides, some down and some up, mainly driven by shifts in pesticide use due to regulatory changes, market forces, and introduction of new pesticides. “Levels of diazinon, one of the most frequently detected insecticides during the 1990s, decreased from about 1997 through 2011 due to reduced agricultural use and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory phase-out of urban uses,” said, Wesley Stone, USGS hydrologist.

The potential for adverse effects on aquatic life is likely underestimated in these results because resource constraints limited the scope of monitoring to less than half of the more than 400 pesticides currently used in agriculture each year and monitoring focused only on pesticides dissolved in water.

The USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program is continually working to fill these data gaps by adding new pesticides that come into use, such as the neonicotinoid and pyrethroid insecticides, improving characterization of short-term acute exposures, and enhancing evaluations of sediment and other environmental media.

The study “Pesticides in U.S. Streams and Rivers:  Occurrence and trends during 1992-2011” is a feature article in the Environmental Science and Technology journal. The article and additional information including data, reports, and maps on pesticide status, trends, and use are available online.

Ocean Warming Affecting Florida Reefs

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Sep 09, 2014.

Summary: Late-summer water temperatures near the Florida Keys were warmer by nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit in the last several decades compared to a century earlier, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey

Increased Temperatures Spell Trouble for Corals

Contact Information:

Ilsa Kuffner ( Phone: 727-502-8048 ); Christian Quintero ( Phone: 813-498-5019 );




ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.Late-summer water temperatures near the Florida Keys were warmer by nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit in the last several decades compared to a century earlier, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Researchers indicate that the warmer water temperatures are stressing corals and increasing the number of bleaching events, where corals become white resulting from a loss of their symbiotic algae.  The corals can starve to death if the condition is prolonged.

“Our analysis shows that corals in the study areas are now regularly experiencing temperatures above 84 F during July, August and September; average temperatures that were seldom reached 120 years ago,” said Ilsa Kuffner, a USGS research marine biologist and the study’s lead author. “When corals are exposed to water temperatures above 84 F they grow more slowly and, during extended exposure periods, can stop growing altogether or die.”

The new analysis compares water temperatures during two time periods a century apart at two of Florida’s historic offshore lighthouses – Fowey Rocks Lighthouse, off Miami, and Carysfort Reef Lighthouse, off Key Largo, Florida. The first period included data from 1879 to 1912, while the second period spanned from 1991 to 2012. Temperatures at a third area, a reef off Islamorada, Florida, were also monitored from 1975 to 2007.

“What’s interesting is that the temperature increase observed during this recent 32-year period was as large as that measured at the lighthouses spanning 120 years,” said Kuffner. “This makes it likely the warming observed at the lighthouses has actually occurred since the 1970s.” 

The study indicates that August is consistently the month when Florida’s ocean temperatures peak. In the analysis of recent decades, average temperatures for August have been at or very close to 86 F.  At Fowey Lighthouse from 1879 to 1912, the average August temperature was just 84.2 F. Temperatures this August at the same location, though not included in the study, averaged 87 F. 

Coral bleaching is currently underway in the Florida Keys, highlighting the real-time impact that warmer ocean temperatures are having on reefs. Corals can recover from bleaching if the waters cool down within a few weeks, but mortality usually ensues if corals remain bleached longer than a month or two.

The study, “A century of ocean warming on Florida Keys coral reefs: Historic in-situ observations,” was recently published in the journal Estuaries and Coasts and is available via open access.  

Research Shows Historic Decline in Pacific Walrus Population

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Sep 08, 2014.

Summary: The Pacific walrus population roughly halved between 1981 and 1999, the last year for which demographic data are available. A recent study by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey quantifies this historic population decline

Contact Information:

Rebecca Taylor ( Phone: 907-786-7004 ); Chris Trent ( Phone: 703-648-4451 );




ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Pacific walrus population roughly halved between 1981 and 1999, the last year for which demographic data are available. A recent study by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey quantifies this historic population decline. The 18 year decline identified by the study was not steady across that period. The decline was most severe in the mid-1980s, and then moderated in the 1990s. 

If the moderating trend has continued up to the present time then the population might be stabilized. That, however, cannot be determined until more recent data are collected and analyzed. USGS is working to obtain the data needed to close the gap from collection of the last demographic data to the present day. This information will be vital because the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is expected to determine whether the Pacific walrus should be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2017. Population dynamics, such as those investigated in this USGS study, will be a critical factor in the decision.

“We integrated data from many sources,” said lead author of the study research statistician Rebecca Taylor, with the USGS Alaska Science Center in Anchorage. “These included annual harvest records, 6 age structure surveys and 5 population size surveys conducted at various times over the 32 year study. The age structure data—collected between 1981 and 1999—were particularly informative, and enabled us to quantify the population decline and the birth and death rates that caused it.”

Scientists think past walrus population dynamics were affected mainly by harvest. Previous work suggests the population probably increased rapidly in the 1960s due to reduced hunting and reached or exceeded the size that could be supported by food resources in the late 1970s to early 1980s.  The decline quantified by the USGS analysis was probably initiated by this overabundance of walruses and exacerbated by a return to the relatively high harvests of the 1980s.

“The decline probably was prompted by these historical reasons, but we can’t rule out other possible contributing factors,” said Taylor. “The environment isn’t static, and food may have become less available to walruses over time, possibly because of sea ice loss.”  Sea ice is important to walruses because they rest on it between dives to the ocean floor to eat clams and other invertebrates.

Taylor’s analytical approach allows the incorporation of new data to understand more recent population dynamics.  In 2013 and 2014, the USGS, USFWS and the Alaska Department of Fish & Game jointly surveyed walruses in Bering Strait and the Chukchi Sea to estimate current age structures and test a new method of estimating population size using a genetic mark-and-recapture approach. Another survey is planned for 2015.

In 2011, due to the combined threats of harvest and sea ice loss, the USFWS determined that listing of the population as threatened under the Endangered Species Act was warranted but was precluded by higher priorities. The agency is under a court order to make a listing decision in 2017.

This research effort is part of the USGS Changing Arctic Ecosystems Initiative. The results of this new study were published in the online journal Marine Mammal Science on September 5, 2014. 

For further information:

Multimedia Gallery links:

Media Advisory: Earthquake 101: Resources for Reporting on Earthquakes

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Sep 04, 2014.

Summary: The U.S. Geological Survey will host an educational event for the news media focused on earthquakes on Wednesday September 24, 2014

Contact Information:

Susan  Garcia ( Phone: 650-346-0998 ); Leslie  Gordon ( Phone: 650-329-4006 );




Media Advisory – Save the Date

MENLO PARK, Calif. — The U.S. Geological Survey will host an educational event for the news media focused on earthquakes on Wednesday September 24, 2014. The goal of the event is to provide the press an opportunity to work with USGS staff to build knowledge about and confidence in our information delivery systems and people to create more timely and accurate reporting of earthquakes.

At this event, USGS scientists and public affairs staff will lead sessions in which journalists can refresh knowledge about basic principles about earthquakes, how to improve scientific accuracy when reporting on earthquakes, and about USGS resources to make your job easier. Find out about USGS public domain maps, images, and graphics that can be quickly and freely downloaded and reused following an earthquake.

Who:

USGS geologists, geophysicists, and public affairs. See list below.


What:

30-minute plenary session with presentations on reporting on earthquakes and relevant USGS resources, followed by concurrent small group discussions with USGS researchers on various aspects of earthquake science. Subjects will include:

  • Earthquake Early Warning vs. Earthquake Prediction, by Doug Given, Geophysicist
  • Natural vs. Induced Seismicity, by Justin Rubinstein, Geophysicist
  • Emerging New Technology: GPS, InSAR, LiDAR, by Ben Brooks, Geologist
  • Shaking Intensity versus Earthquake Magnitude, by Brad Aagaard, Geophysicist
  • Liquefaction, Landslides, & Fault Rupture, by Tom Holzer, Engineering Geologist
  • USGS Real-time Online Earthquake Products, by David Wald, Geophysicist
  • Is the Number of Large Earthquakes Increasing? by Jeanne Hardebeck, Geophysicist
  • Earthquake Resources on the Web, by Lisa Wald, Geophysicist/Web Content Manager, Webmaster
  • Foreshocks, Main Shocks, and Aftershocks, by Andrea Llenos, Geophysicist and Ruth Harris, Geophysicist
  • Who/how/when and where to go for an interview concerning an earthquake, by Leslie Gordon, Public Affairs Specialist and Susan Garcia, Outreach Coordinator 

When:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014, 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. PDT


Registration:  

Please register online to participate in the workshop.


Where:

U.S. Geological Survey
Main Auditorium, Bldg. 3, 2nd floor
345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, Calif.


Online:

The first 30 minutes of the event will be live video-streamed over the web, and archived online for later viewing.

Pollutant Risk Changes When Bugs Take Flight

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Sep 04, 2014.

Summary: Insects feed fish and wildlife higher on the food chain, but they can also transfer harmful contaminants to their predators according to new research conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and published in Environmental Science and Technology

Contact Information:

Heidi  Koontz ( Phone: 303-202-4763 );




Insects feed fish and wildlife higher on the food chain, but they can also transfer harmful contaminants to their predators according to new research conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and published in Environmental Science and Technology.

Because insects can transform from sedentary juveniles (larvae) to winged adults, contaminants accumulated as larvae can be carried to different locations potentially far from the pollution source.

The paper documents critical changes in insect contaminant concentrations and chemical tracers used to estimate position on the food chain during this transformation (a.k.a. metamorphosis).

“Most metals are lost during metamorphosis and are in higher concentrations in larvae than adults. Contaminants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are retained during metamorphosis and are in higher concentrations in adults than larvae,” said Johanna Kraus, a USGS scientist based in Ft. Collins, Colorado, and lead author of the ES&T paper. “As a result, the animals that eat insects, like bats, birds and fish may be exposed to higher contaminant concentrations depending on the contaminants and whether they are eating larval or adult insects.”  

These results have large implications for managing and studying how far and how long it takes for contaminants to spread, and their effects on food webs across ecosystem boundaries. Metabolic regulation of contaminants generally predicts whether contaminants are excreted or concentrated in insect bodies during metamorphosis. Pollutants that magnify up the food chain tend to be retained and concentrated during metamorphosis. 

This is the first paper to synthesize the general patterns and variation in contaminant transfer during a major developmental and habitat shift (e.g., water to land, ground to aerial) in animals with complex life cycles, as well as the first compilation of effects of metamorphosis on isotopic tracers used to estimate food web structure. The article was also selected as the American Chemical Society’s Editors' Choice paper (Sept. 2, 2014). 

National Scenic Trails Added to Revised Michigan Maps

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Sep 04, 2014.

Summary: Newly released US Topo maps for Michigan now feature segments of the North Country National Scenic Trail. Several of the 1,290 new US Topo quadrangles for the state now display parts of the Trail along with other improved data layers.

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Larry  Moore ( Phone: 303-202-4019 ); Mark Weaver, National Park Service ( Phone: 616-430-3495 );




Newly released US Topo maps for Michigan now feature segments of the North Country National Scenic Trail. Several of the 1,290 new US Topo quadrangles for the state now display parts of the Trail along with other improved data layers.

"USGS maps are excellent planning and navigation tools for hikers and other trail users” said Mark Weaver, Superintendent of the Trail.  “The North Country Trail is a truly special recreational resource and we are quite thrilled to have the trail incorporated onto the maps.”

The North Country Trail is one of the 11 National Scenic Trails in the U.S.  It is the longest national scenic trail, extending over seven states and 168 distinct land management units, from the vicinity of Crown Point State Park New York, to Lake Sakakawea State Park on the Missouri River in North Dakota, to the route of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.  Plans are underway to expand the trail to include the Arrowhead region of northern Minnesota, and extend the eastern terminus to the Appalachian Trail in Vermont, eventually bringing the trail to approximately 4,600 miles long.

"The North Country Trail tells the unique story of the people and the places in America's northern heartlands- the hardship of an unforgiving landscape, the joys of recreating in the Great North Woods and the challenges of making a living from the land without destroying it,” explained Bruce Matthews, Executive Director of the North Country Trail Association. “Being present on the USGS maps mean more people will become more deeply engaged with this story and with the North Country Trail.”                                   

The USGS partnered with the National Park Service to incorporate the trail onto the Michigan US Topo maps. This NST joins the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail and the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail as being featured on the new Topo maps. The USGS hopes to eventually include all National Scenic Trails in The National Map products.

These new maps replace the first edition US Topo maps for Michigan and are available for free download from The National Map and the USGS Map Locator & Downloader website.

Another important addition to the new Michigan US Topo maps in the inclusion of Public Land Survey System. PLSS is a way of subdividing and describing land in the US. All lands in the public domain are subject to subdivision by this rectangular system of surveys, which is regulated by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

“The inclusion of a layer for the PLSS with township, range, and section information on the new US Topo maps for Michigan is a valuable addition,” said Charley Hickman, Geospatial Liaison to Ohio and Michigan. “Many of the stakeholder groups in Michigan who use USGS topographic maps and data have noted the importance of PLSS as a key reference layer.  Thanks to the Bureau of Land Management and the State of Michigan for making this data available.”

To compare change over time, scans of legacy USGS topo maps, some dating back to the late 1800s, can be downloaded from the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection

To download US Topo maps: US Topo Quadrangles — Maps for America

caption below caption below
The National Trails System was established by Act of Congress in 1968. The Act grants the Secretary of Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture authority over the National Trails System. The Act defines four types of trails. Two of these types, the National Historic Trails and National Scenic Trails, can only be designated by Act of Congress. National scenic trails are extended trails located as to provide for maximum outdoor recreation potential and for the conservation and enjoyment of nationally significant scenic, historic, natural, and cultural qualities of the area through which such trails may pass.(Larger image) The North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST) stretches 875 miles from New York to North Dakota. The trail enters Michigan near Morenci in the southeastern corner of the state. From there it heads northwest through both urban and rural settings toward certified trail segments in Manistee National Forest. It then takes a decided turn northward through the Jordan Valley and Wilderness State Park to cross the Straits of Mackinac. The Upper Peninsula segment of the trail system goes east to west starting in Hiawatha National Forest. It passes Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and parts of Ottawa National Forest before it exits Michigan at the town of Ironwood. Special attractions: A complete look at urban and rural Michigan, including Mackinac Bridge, Mackinac Island, Tahquamenon Falls, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Porcupine Mountains. Click here for more info (Larger image)

Media Advisory: Washington Governor Jay Inslee to Speak About Building Resilience at the Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Sep 03, 2014.

Summary: As part of the Planning Committee for the Fifth Annual Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference, the Department of the Interior’s Northwest Climate Science Center is pleased to invite you to join more than 250 scientists and practitioners from the Northwest to learn the latest on Pacific Northwest climate science and adaptation, including presentations on landslides, wildfires, sea level rise, extreme weather events, natural resource and infrastructure vulnerability, human health and cultural impacts.

Contact Information:

Chris  Trent ( Phone: 703-648-4451 ); Lisa  Hayward Watts ( Phone: 206-616-5347 (o) );




As part of the Planning Committee for the Fifth Annual Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference, the Department of the Interior’s Northwest Climate Science Center is pleased to invite you to join more than 250 scientists and practitioners from the Northwest to learn the latest on Pacific Northwest climate science and adaptation, including presentations on landslides, wildfires, sea level rise, extreme weather events, natural resource and infrastructure vulnerability, human health and cultural impacts.

At 1:30 PM on Wednesday Washington Governor, Jay Inslee, will give a Keynote Address on increasing resilience in Washington State and the Northwest. 

Who: Scientists, managers and administrators addressing climate change across a range of sectors. Plenary by Washington Governor, Jay Inslee. 

When: The conference will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, September 9-10, 2014

Where: Kane Hall on the University of Washington Seattle campus. Click here for directions.

Members of news organizations and of science writers' associations are encouraged to attend the conference. To learn more and to RSVP contact Lisa Hayward Watts at lhayward@uw.edu or 206-795-8843.

Avian Flu in Seals Could Infect People

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Sep 03, 2014.

Summary: The avian flu virus that caused widespread harbor seal deaths in 2011 can easily spread to and infect other mammals and potentially humans

Contact Information:

Gail Moede Rogall ( Phone: 608-270-2438 ); Heidi Koontz ( Phone: 303-202-4763 ); Marisa Lubeck ( Phone: 303-526-6694 );




The avian flu virus that caused widespread harbor seal deaths in 2011 can easily spread to and infect other mammals and potentially humans.

A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital shows that the avian influenza H3N8 strain that infected New England harbor seals could be transmitted to other mammals through the air without physical contact. Transmission by respiratory droplets through coughing, for example, is the main way influenza viruses spread among people. The study also showed that current seasonal flu vaccines do not protect against this seal virus, meaning a new vaccine would be necessary if there ever was an outbreak in humans.

"The ability to transmit through the air is an important step in the path toward any influenza virus becoming pandemic," said USGS scientist Hon Ip. "The lack of protection against the seal virus from the annual seasonal vaccine highlights the risks posed by this H3N8 group of viruses."

The article, led by St. Jude in collaboration with the USGS and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was published today in the journal Nature Communications and is available online.

The scientists tested a sample of the influenza virus taken from an infected harbor seal in New Hampshire in 2011, and found that the virus was closely related to influenza viruses from wild birds. However, the H3N8 virus isolated from the seal contained mutations that allowed it to reproduce efficiently in human lung cells, cause disease in mice and infect ferrets through the air.

"Findings from this study highlight the need for continued surveillance and study of avian influenza genetics, particularly in areas like coastal regions where wild birds, wild mammals and human populations come into contact with each other,” said USGS scientist Jeff Hall.

H3N8 viruses, common in wild birds, have been associated with ongoing outbreaks in dogs and horses and have also been detected in pigs, donkeys and now seals. Beginning in September 2011, more than 160 young harbor seals were found dead or dying along the New England coast as a result of this infection. In previous H3N8 mortality events, up to 20 percent of the local seal population died.

For more information on zoonotic diseases, or diseases that spread between animals and humans, please visit the USGS National Wildlife Health Center website.

Media Advisory: Officials, Scientists to Dedicate Showcase Gage on Rapid Creek

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Sep 02, 2014.

Summary: A U.S. Geological Survey streamgage will be dedicated by Congressional and city officials on September 3 in Rapid City

Contact Information:

Marisa Lubeck ( Phone: 303-526-6694 ); Mark Anderson ( Phone: 605-394-3220 );




Reporters: A photograph of the showcase gage is available online.   

A U.S. Geological Survey streamgage will be dedicated by Congressional and city officials on September 3 in Rapid City. This showcase streamgage is located on Rapid Creek at Rapid City in Founders Park and will provide visitors with critical information about how streamflow is measured and other water-resource issues related to floods, droughts, water supply and recreation.

What: Media and public are invited to attend a dedication ceremony and open house for the historical USGS showcase streamgage on Rapid Creek at Rapid City.

Who: U.S. Senator John Thune (invited) or representative
Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker
Mark Anderson, Director, USGS South Dakota Water Science Center
Dave Carpenter, National Weather Service
Other agencies and users of streamflow information

When: Wednesday, September 3, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Please gather on-site at 9:30 a.m.; comments will be at 10 a.m., followed by open house.

Where: North side of Rapid Creek across the footbridge in Founders Park (map of streamgage location)
Rapid City, S.D.
 

The Rapid Creek at Rapid City streamgage has one of the longest periods of record in South Dakota, with continuous discharge since July 1942.  The new showcase gage has an outreach or public education purpose in addition to measuring flow. The gage house was designed to fit in and be part of Founder's Park.

The streamgage features three display windows that can be changed and updated over time. Current displays explain how a streamgage operates, describes the history of flooding along Rapid Creek, and provides a summary of the efforts by the City of Rapid City to improve water quality of urban runoff.  A graph of the historical flows is provided with a QR code that will allow visitors to rapidly learn the current gage height and streamflow discharge from a smartphone or other mobile device.

The largest peak discharge at this location was estimated as 50,000 cubic feet per second during the historic 1972 flood. This flash flood took 238 lives and was among the deadliest flash floods in U.S. history.

The streamgage is operated in cooperation with the City of Rapid City and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

For more than 125 years, the USGS has monitored flow in selected streams and rivers across the U.S. The information is routinely used for water supply and management, monitoring floods and droughts, bridge and road design, determination of flood risk and for many recreational activities. 

Tuesday Midday Update on South Napa Earthquake

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Aug 26, 2014.

Summary: This release of information serves as an updated summary of U.S. Geological Survey information as it relates to the current understanding of the South Napa earthquake. Yesterday’s more comprehensive news release can be found here.

Contact Information:

Justin  Pressfield ( Phone: 916-335-1211 ); Susan  Garcia ( Phone: 650-329-4668 );




This release of information serves as an updated summary of U.S. Geological Survey information as it relates to the current understanding of the South Napa earthquake. Yesterday’s more comprehensive news release can be found here.

The area surrounding the epicenter of the mainshock is continuing to experience a number of aftershocks. As of Tuesday Aug. 26, 4 PM PDT, there have been more than 80 aftershocks; only four of these have had magnitudes greater than 3. The greater-than-magnitude 3 aftershocks include:

  • M3.0 Tuesday 6:45 AM PDT
  • M3.9 (largest aftershock) Tuesday 5:33 AM PDT
  • M3.6 Sunday 5:47 AM PDT
  • M3.5 (4 minutes after mainshock) Sunday 3:24 AM PDT

There are also updated probabilities of additional aftershocks. These will continue to be updated on the USGS website for this event.

At this time (two days after the mainshock) the probability of a strong and possibly damaging aftershock (M5 or greater) in the next 7 days is approximately 12 percent.

Most likely, the recent mainshock will be the largest in the sequence. However, there is a small chance (approximately 2 percent) of an earthquake equal to or larger than this mainshock in the next 7 days.

In addition, USGS anticipates approximately 1 to 10 small (M3-M5) aftershocks in the next 7 days.

“Scientists from the USGS continue to work day and night to do careful field research in the area of the South Napa earthquake,” said Tom Brocher, Director of the USGS’s Earthquake Science Center. “The flow of new and refined information is allowing us to continue to inform the emergency managers and the public about this incident as well as to grow the knowledge about earthquakes to allow society to better prepare for future occurrences.”

The USGS is continuing to incorporate the new data into existing models to refine our estimates. While USGS publishes prompt approximations of economic losses based on real-time and later-arriving data, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services is expected to issue an official economic loss estimation after a comprehensive, and more accurate, damage assessment is completed.

The USGS is interested in finding volunteers willing to host seismic instruments so that scientists can obtain more records from aftershocks and learn more about this sequence of earthquakes.  Those interested, who are in the area of strong shaking, should go to http://earthquake.usgs.gov/monitoring/netquakes/ and complete the "sign up" page.

The Earthquake Early Warning test system functioned as designed in Sunday's earthquake.  Within five seconds of the earthquake it produced a warning (estimated at magnitude 5.7 within three seconds of its occurrence), sufficient to provide warning to Berkeley, San Francisco, and areas farther south. The EEW prototype was developed by the USGS in partnership with the UC Berkeley, California Institute of Technology, University of Washington, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Update on the Magnitude 6 South Napa Earthquake of August 24, 2014

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Aug 25, 2014.

Summary: Yesterday at 3:20 AM local time, the northern San Francisco Bay Area was struck by the largest earthquake to impact the Bay Area since the 1989 M6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake

Contact Information:

Justin  Pressfield ( Phone: 916-335-1211 ); Susan  Garcia ( Phone: 650-329-4668 );




Yesterday at 3:20 AM local time, the northern San Francisco Bay Area was struck by the largest earthquake to impact the Bay Area since the 1989 M6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake. Yesterday’s earthquake appears to have ruptured on or just west of mapped traces of the West Napa Fault, the most seismically active of the faults mapped between the longer Rodgers Creek Fault on the west and the Concord-Green Valley Fault to the east. USGS has named the earthquake the “South Napa earthquake.”

Yesterday’s M6.0 earthquake caused significant damage in south Napa County.  It occurred in the broad zone of deformation that accommodates the relative motion of the North American and Pacific Plates.  The 2000 M5.0 Yountville earthquake occurred on the West Napa Fault and also damaged Napa.  The 1898 M6.3 Mare Island earthquake occurred in the vicinity of yesterday’s earthquake.

“USGS scientists are working around the clock to understand the earthquake and relay information to emergency managers and the public,” stated Tom Brocher, Director of the USGS’s Earthquake Science Center.  “In less than a day we made tremendous strides in understanding what happened and have crews of scientists continuing to investigate this event.”

Damage is localized in the region surrounding Napa due to the rupture directivity to the north-west. River valley sediments in Napa Valley likely contributed to the amplification of shaking around Napa.

Yesterday, USGS and California Geological Survey (CGS) geologists mapped surface rupture produced by the earthquake from the epicenter NNW at least 10 km (6 miles) on a previously mapped strand of the West Napa Fault.  At that point the surface rupture may have jumped eastward about half a mile toward Napa and extended NNW another few miles along a previously unmapped strand of the West Napa Fault.  USGS and CGS geologist continue to conduct field reconnaissance to refine these interpretations and to look for additional surface rupture.  The surface ruptures show a northward shift west of the West Napa fault of about two inches.

GPS receivers operated by the USGS and others also measured a shift of the earth of a few inches caused by the earthquake.  Yesterday, USGS geophysicists made additional measurements of the earth’s movement that will refine models for the earthquake movement.

USGS analysis of the seismic recordings indicates the earthquake rupture propagated to the NNW and upward, directing the brunt of the earthquake energy to the NNW towards Napa.  The dozens of aftershocks that have been recorded to date are also aligned on this NNW trend.  At this time (one day after the mainshock) the probability of a strong and possibly damaging aftershock in the next seven days is approximately 1 in 4.

Today, USGS technicians will be retrieving additional seismic data from several seismic stations that either do not automatically communicate their data to us or failed to do so.  They will also be deploying additional recorders in Napa.  These data should help refine the ShakeMap showing the intensity of shaking throughout the Bay Area and better understand the strong shaking experienced in Napa.

The Earthquake Early Warning test system functioned as designed in yesterday’s earthquake.  Within five seconds of the earthquake it produced a warning (estimated at magnitude 5.7 within three seconds of its occurrence), sufficient to provide warning to Berkeley, San Francisco, and areas farther south.  No warning would have been possible within 20 miles of the earthquake.  EEW prototype was developed by the USGS in partnership with the UC Berkeley, California Institute of Technology, University of Washington, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Natural Methane Seepage on U.S. Atlantic Ocean Margin Widespread

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Aug 25, 2014.

Summary: Natural methane leakage from the seafloor is far more widespread on the U.S. Atlantic margin than previously thought, according to a study by researchers from Mississippi State University, the U.S. Geological Survey, and other institutions

Contact Information:

Carolyn Ruppel ( Phone: 617-806-6768 ); Adam  Skarke ( Phone: 662-268-1032 ext. 258 ); Hannah Hamilton ( Phone: 703-648-4356 );




Natural methane leakage from the seafloor is far more widespread on the U.S. Atlantic margin than previously thought, according to a study by researchers from Mississippi State University, the U.S. Geological Survey, and other institutions.

Methane plumes identified in the water column between Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and Georges Bank, Massachusetts, are emanating from at least 570 seafloor cold seeps on the outer continental shelf and the continental slope.  Taken together, these areas, which lie between the coastline and the deep ocean, constitute the continental margin.  Prior to this study, only three seep areas had been identified beyond the edge of the continental shelf, which occurs at approximately 180 meters (590 feet) water depth between Florida and Maine on the U.S. Atlantic seafloor.

Cold seeps are areas where gases and fluids leak into the overlying water from the sediments.  They are designated as cold to distinguish them from hydrothermal vents, which are sites where new oceanic crust is being formed and hot fluids are being emitted at the seafloor.  Cold seeps can occur in a much broader range of environments than hydrothermal vents.

“Widespread seepage had not been expected on the Atlantic margin. It is not near a plate tectonic boundary like the U.S. Pacific coast, nor associated with a petroleum basin like the northern Gulf of Mexico,” said Adam Skarke, the study’s lead author and a professor at Mississippi State University.

The gas being emitted by the seeps has not yet been sampled, but researchers believe that most of the leaking methane is produced by microbial processes in shallow sediments.  This interpretation is based primarily on the locations of the seeps and knowledge of the underlying geology.  Microbial methane is not the type found in deep-seated reservoirs and often tapped as a natural gas resource. 

Most of the newly discovered methane seeps lie at depths close to the shallowest conditions at which deepwater marine gas hydrate can exist on the continental slope.  Gas hydrate is a naturally occurring, ice-like combination of methane and water, and forms at temperature and pressure conditions commonly found in waters deeper than approximately 500 meters (1640 feet). 

“Warming of ocean temperatures on seasonal, decadal or much longer time scales can cause gas hydrate to release its methane, which may then be emitted at seep sites,” said Carolyn Ruppel, study co-author and chief of the USGS Gas Hydrates Project.  “Such continental slope seeps have previously been recognized in the Arctic, but not at mid-latitudes.  So this is a first.”

Most seeps described in the new study are too deep for the methane to directly reach the atmosphere, but the methane that remains in the water column can be oxidized to carbon dioxide. This in turn increases the acidity of ocean waters and reduces oxygen levels. 

Shallow-water seeps that may be related to offshore groundwater discharge were detected at the edge of the shelf and in the upper part of Hudson Canyon, an undersea gorge that represents the offshore extension of the Hudson River. Methane from these seeps could directly reach the atmosphere, contributing to increased concentrations of this potent greenhouse gas.  More extensive shallow-water surveys than described in this study will be required to document the extent of such seeps.

Some of the new methane seeps were discovered in 2012.  In summer 2013 a Brown University undergraduate and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hollings Scholar Mali’o Kodis worked with Skarke to analyze about 94,000 square kilometers (about 36,000 square miles) of water column imaging data to map the methane plumes.  The data had been collected by the vessel Okeanos Explorer between 2011 and 2013.  The Okeanos Explorer and the Deep Discoverer remotely operated vehicle, which has photographed the seafloor at some of the methane seeps, are managed by NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.

"This study continues the tradition of advancing U.S. marine science research through partnerships between federal agencies and the involvement of academic researchers,” said John Haines, coordinator of the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program “NOAA's Ocean Exploration program acquired state-of-the-art data at the scale of the entire margin, while academic and USGS scientists teamed to interpret these data in the context of a research problem of global significance."

The study, Widespread methane leakage from the sea floor on the northern US Atlantic Margin, by A, Skarke, C. Ruppel, M, Kodis, D. Brothers and E. Lobecker in Nature Geoscience is available on line.

USGS Gas Hydrates Project

The USGS has a globally recognized research effort studying natural gas hydrates in deepwater and permafrost settings worldwide.  USGS researchers focus on the potential of gas hydrates as an energy resource, the impact of climate change on gas hydrates, and seafloor stability issues.

For more information about the U.S. Geological Survey’s Gas Hydrates Project, visit the Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey Gas Hydrates Project website.

For more information, visit the Mississippi State University website.

Map of the northern US Atlantic margin showing the locations of newly-discovered methane seeps mapped by researchers from Mississippi State University, the US Geological Survey, and other partners. None of the seeps shown here was known to researchers before 2012.
Map of the northern US Atlantic margin showing the locations of newly-discovered methane seeps mapped by researchers from Mississippi State University, the US Geological Survey, and other partners. None of the seeps shown here was known to researchers before 2012. (High resolution image)

 

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