While the U.S. Geological Survey recorded 22 magnitude-7 or larger earthquakes in 2010, almost all the fatalities were produced by one — the major quake that hit Haiti on Jan. 12.
In 2010, about 227,000 people were killed due to earthquakes, with over 222,570 from the magnitude-7.0 Haiti event, as reported by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
According to official estimates, the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti injured 300,000 people, displaced 1.3 million, and left 97,294 houses destroyed and 188,383 damaged in Port-au-Prince and much of southern Haiti. This includes at least four people killed by a local tsunami in the Petit Paradis area near Léogâne. According to the USGS, this large, shallow earthquake produced violent shaking in Léogâne, west of Port-au-Prince. This shaking level can cause damage even to well-built buildings anywhere in the world. In Haiti, this high-intensity shaking together with both buildings vulnerable to earthquakes and high population exposure resulted in catastrophe.
A magnitude-8.8 earthquake that hit offshore Bio-Bio, Chile, on Feb. 27 was the largest recorded in 2010. It killed at least 577 people, with about half of those deaths caused by an earthquake-generated tsunami. While the energy released by this earthquake was more than 500 times that of the one that struck Haiti, the fatalities were far fewer due to strict building codes in Chile and lower maximum shaking intensities.
The second-deadliest event in 2010 was a magnitude-6.9 earthquake that hit southern Qinghai, China, on April 14 (April 13, UTC time), leaving 2,968 dead. Overall, during 2010 earthquakes took the lives of people in 11 countries on four continents, including the countries of Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Chile, China, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Serbia and Turkey. The numbers for all events listed include those missing and presumed dead.
Earthquakes injured people in nine additional countries, including Australia, New Zealand, India, Ethiopia, Peru, Solomon Islands, Taiwan, Venezuela and the United States, in California and Oklahoma.
As usual, the biggest earthquake in the United States in 2010 was in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. This year it was a magnitude-6.6 event on July 18 in the Fox Islands, and it caused no damage or casualties. The biggest 2010 earthquake in the contiguous United States was a magnitude 6.5 that shook Northern California on Jan. 10. About 30 people were injured and moderate damage occurred to hundreds of homes and buildings in the Eureka-Ferndale area. The event was felt as far away as Portland, Ore. A series of minor earthquakes peppered Oklahoma throughout the year, including a magnitude 4.4 on Oct. 13 that injured two people in Norman.
An unusual earthquake occurred near the edge of the Continental Shelf about 125 km south-southeast of Westhampton, Long Island, New York, on Nov. 30. Because it was offshore, the magnitude-3.9 tremor caused no damage, but it was felt throughout Long Island, in large parts of Connecticut and New Jersey, and as far away as Maine and West Virginia.
A magnitude-2.1 earthquake in New Jersey on Christmas Day and a magnitude-3.4 in Washington, DC, on July 16 round out the more unique seismic events recorded. The latter shook the windows in the White House, and the USGS received over 21,724 reports on the Did You Feel It? website.
The USGS estimates that several million earthquakes occur throughout the world each year, although most go undetected because they hit remote areas or have very small magnitudes. The USGS National Earthquake Information Center publishes the locations for about 40 earthquakes per day, or about 14,500 annually, publishing worldwide earthquakes with a magnitude of 4.5 or greater or U.S. earthquakes of 2.5 or greater. On average, only 18 of these earthquakes have a magnitude of 7.0 or higher each year.
In 2010, 22 earthquakes reached a magnitude of 7.0 or higher, including the Chile quake that exceeded magnitude 8.0. These numbers are higher than those of 2009, which experienced 17 earthquakes over magnitude 7.0, including one over 8.0. While 22 earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater is more than the average per year, and is the largest number of big events since 1968, it is still substantially fewer than 1943, which experienced 32 earthquakes of that size. Factors such as the size of an earthquake, the location and depth of the earthquake relative to population centers, and the fragility of buildings, utilities and roads all influence how earthquakes will affect nearby communities.
A complete list of 2010 earthquake statistics can be found on the Earthquake Information for 2010 website.
To monitor earthquakes worldwide, the USGS National Earthquake Information Center receives data in real-time from nearly 990 stations in 85 countries, including the 150-station Global Seismographic Network, which is jointly supported by the USGS and the National Science Foundation and operated by the USGS in partnership with the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) consortium of universities.
In the United States, earthquakes pose significant risk to 75 million people in 39 states. The USGS and its partners in the multi-agency National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program are working to improve earthquake monitoring and reporting capabilities via the USGS Advanced National Seismic System. More information about ANSS can be found on the ANSS website.
Craig D. Allen, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
This year 503 members have been awarded this peer-nominated honor by AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. New Fellows for 2010 were announced today in the journal Science and will be formally recognized during the 2011 AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., in February.
Allen was elected as an AAAS Fellow, "for outstanding leadership in the synthesis of global forest responses to climate change, built from worldwide collaboration and a deep understanding of the environmental history of the southwestern United States."
As leader of the USGS Fort Collins Science Center's Jemez Mountains Field Station, located at Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos, N.M., Dr. Allen investigates the ecological dynamics of forests, semi-arid woodlands, and montane landscapes, including climate stress thresholds for tree mortality and broad-scale forest die-off. Allen also is a principal investigator with the Western Mountain Initiative (WMI), an integration of research programs that study global change in mountain ecosystems of the western United States.
Since first publishing on the topic of drought and heat-induced forest die-off in the late 1990s, Allen has developed collaborations with a diverse range of scientists from all forested continents to document and better understand global patterns of the phenomenon. To encourage additional research on the global risks, he organized several symposia and actively participated in global forums, most recently at the 2010 International Union of Forest Research Organizations World Congress held in Seoul, Korea.
Allen said he "took the depth of knowledge gained from 28 years of research on the historical and recent dynamics of New Mexico forests and woodlands, and began working with colleagues around the world to put this local, place-based knowledge into regional, continental, and global contexts."
In a 2010 USGS report published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management, Allen and his international coauthors found that recent tree loss in forests worldwide, driven by climate stress, could signal increased tree mortality under projected climate change. Their review shows that many of the world's forests are sensitive to climate-related drought and heat stress, raising the concern that forests may become increasingly vulnerable to future mortality and posing risks to valuable forest ecosystem services, such as timber production, watershed and biodiversity protection, carbon sequestration, and recreation.
"We have examples of drought and heat-induced stress leading to significant levels of tree mortality in every forest type on Earth – no forest type is immune," Allen said.
The research of Allen and his colleagues also identifies key information gaps and scientific uncertainties that currently hamper the ability to identify climate-related trends in tree mortality and predict future losses in response to projected climate changes.
"Dr. Allen's efforts have helped generate both public and scientific interest in the patterns, processes, and especially rates of tree mortality," noted USGS and WMI climate scientist Jill Baron, who is a member of the AAAS Section on Geology and Geography. "Craig has served as a catalyst for research into how to sustain the world's forests – and the huge reservoirs of carbon and biodiversity and other ecosystem services that they contain – in the face of anticipated further increases in climate stress."
For more information, visit:
- Craig Allen staff page
- A global overview of drought and heat-induced tree mortality reveals emerging climate change risks for forests
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science as well as Science Translational Medicine and Science Signaling. AAAS was founded in 1848, and includes 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.
Large wildlife die-off events are fairly common, though they should never be ignored, according to the U.S. Geological Survey scientists whose preliminary tests showed that the bird deaths in Arkansas on New Year’s Eve and those in Louisiana were caused by impact trauma.
Preliminary findings from the USGS National Wildlife Health Center's Arkansas bird analyses suggest that the birds died from impact trauma, and these findings are consistent with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's statement. The State concluded that such trauma was probably a result of the birds being startled by loud noises on the night of Dec. 31, arousing them and causing them to fly into objects such as houses or trees. Scientists at the USGS NWHC performed necropsies—the animal version of an autopsy—on the birds and found internal hemorrhaging, while the pesticide tests they conducted were negative. Results from further laboratory tests are expected to be completed in 2-3 weeks.
"Although wildlife die-offs always pose a concern, they are not all that unusual," said Jonathan Sleeman, director of the USGS NWHC in Madison, Wis., which is completing its analyses of the Arkansas and Louisiana birds. "It's important to study and understand what happened in order to determine if we can prevent mortality events from happening again."
In 2010, the USGS NWHC documented eight die-off events of 1,000 or more birds. The causes: starvation, avian cholera, Newcastle disease and parasites, according to Sleeman. Such records show that, while the causes of death may vary, events like the red-winged blackbird die-off in Beebe, Ark., and the smaller one near Baton Rouge, La., are more common than people may realize.
And Sleeman should know – he directs a staff of scientists whose primary purpose is to investigate the nation's wildlife diseases from avian influenza to plague and white-nose syndrome in bats.
"The USGS NWHC provides information, technical assistance, research, education, and leadership on national and international wildlife health issues," Sleeman added.
According to USGS NWHC records, there have been 188 mortality events across the country involving 1,000 birds or more during the past 10 years (2000 - 2010). In 2009, individual events included one in which 50,000 birds died from avian botulism in Utah; 20,000 from the same disease in Idaho; and 10,000 bird deaths in Washington from a harmful algal bloom.
Mass mortality events occur in other animal populations as well, according to the USGS NWHC. For example, prairie dog colonies in the West can be destroyed by sylvatic plague, which can then kill off the highly endangered black-footed ferret that preys on prairie dogs exclusively. The USGS NWHC is involved with developing vaccines, delivered through bait, which can immunize prairie dogs against plague.
In the 1970's and 1980's, most USGS NWHC die-off investigations involved large numbers of waterfowl deaths from avian cholera, avian botulism, and lead poisoning; in the 1990's, the USGS NWHC was highly involved in investigating the emergence of West Nile virus in North America. In 2008, the USGS NWHC discovered the cause of white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that has devastated cave hibernating bat species in the Northeastern U.S.
Public reporting of wildlife mortality events is important, and in 2010, the USGS Wildlife Disease Information Node initiated an experimental reporting system to facilitate this. Visit http://www.whmn.org/wher/ for more information.
More information on the USGS NWHC and its involvement in the recent bird die-off events can be found on the NWHC web site.
Gainesville, Fla.—. A team of U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and academic scientists are analyzing samples of coral and surrounding sediments from an area damaged near the Deepwater Horizon site in the Gulf of Mexico.
These samples, collected in December, are being used to investigate how and why the corals on these reefs died.
The cruise revisited MC 338, the site where dead and dying coral were found covered by an unknown brown substance in November 2010. USGS ecologist Amanda Demopoulos, Ph.D., collected samples of animals living on the seafloor as part of an expedition led by Penn State University professor Charles Fisher, Ph.D., to study how deep-sea reefs in the Gulf of Mexico have been affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
In a series of dives in the manned submersible Alvin, USGS ecologists collected tissue samples from corals known as Madrepora and gorgonians at the damaged reefs found during the November expedition. Alvin is equipped with collection chambers that allow scientists to preserve the corals as they exist at their original depth for further analysis. The samples are being used to examine the health of coral tissues including damage at the genetic level. Cell structure in corals can change in response to stress, such as by increasing the number of mucous-producing cells. Corals may also up-regulate certain genes in response to stressors, so researchers are comparing the proteins expressed in certain genes of the corals found at the MC 338 site with coral from control areas.
Using push cores, scientists collected sediments at the damage site. They also suctioned the unknown brown material off of the corals. These materials are being sent for hydrocarbon analysis and used to study the sediment-dwelling animals using traditional taxonomy and new DNA-based techniques.
Samples are being analyzed to test for the chemical signature of oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill, known as MC 252 oil. The full array of samples – including corals, the unknown substance coating them, surrounding sediments, and associated animals – make it possible for scientists to examine whether exposure to oil or dispersants was related to the damage observed on the site.
“These samples will allow us to assess whether these areas have been exposed to the MC 252 oil and how healthy the animals are in this area,” said Demopoulos.
Scientists also used Alvin to visit a nearby chemosynthetic tubeworm community for similar analyses. There are numerous chemosynthetic communities throughout the Gulf of Mexico, and organisms that live there are also vulnerable to impacts from the oil spill. Although they live in a seemingly hostile environment, chemosynthetic animals still need oxygen to survive. Any material that clogs their tissues or limits their respiration can be deadly.
The USGS Announces The National Map Users Conference and the Geospatial Information Science Workshop
The U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) National Geospatial Program (NGP) and the Office of Enterprise Information are pleased to announce The National Map (TNM) Users Conference, and the Geographic Information Science Workshop to be held May 10-13, 2011 in Lakewood, Colo.
This inaugural event will assemble a wide range of participants including scientists, managers and geospatial professionals from government, industry, academia and other organizations.
A goal of TNM UC is to share accomplishments and progress, acknowledge best practices, and exchange innovative ideas concerning The National Map in supporting science initiatives. The role of the GIS Workshop will be learning specific techniques for using GIS in support of science. Interactive dialog will be encouraged through panel and lightning sessions, poster presentations, workshops, and demonstrations.
Currently, the Conference Agenda Committee is encouraging the submission of abstracts for presentations, demonstrations, and posters.
More information and abstract submission: http://nationalmap.gov/uc
Projected Losses of Arctic Sea-Ice and Polar Bear Habitat may be Reduced if Greenhouse Gas Emissions are Stabilized
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Sea-ice habitats essential to polar bears would likely respond positively should more curbs be placed on global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new modeling study published today in the journal, Nature.
The study, led by the U.S. Geological Survey, included university and other federal agency scientists. The research broke new ground in the “tipping point” debate in the scientific community by providing evidence that during this century there does not seem to be a tipping point at which sea-ice loss would become irreversible.
The report does not affect the decision made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2008 to list the polar bear as a threatened species.
This new study builds and expands upon studies published by the USGS in 2007. The new study evaluates additional scenarios in which greenhouse gas emissions are reduced in comparison to the business-as-usual scenario that was exclusively used in the previous research. Modeling outcomes for the additional scenarios provided evidence that the projected continuation of Arctic sea-ice decline could be altered if greenhouse gas emissions were mitigated in a manner that stabilizes atmospheric CO2 levels at or less than around 450 parts per million. Current CO2 levels are around 390 ppm.
The 2007 studies by the USGS had projected that under the business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions scenario, future reduction of Arctic sea ice could result in a loss of two-thirds of the world's polar bear population by mid-century. They had also shown that under this scenario, loss of sea ice would have such a drastic negative effect on polar bears that other efforts to reduce stress on their populations would have negligible benefits. Other stress factors considered in the modeling include disease and predation, overutilization, contaminants, tourism, bear-human interactions, oil and gas activity, and shipping. The earlier study did not examine other greenhouse gas emission scenarios.
The new analyses published in the journal, Nature, indicate that with lower greenhouse gas emissions, coupled with reductions in other population stressors, polar bears could persist in all four ecoregions where they presently occur, said Steve Amstrup, lead author of the study and a scientist emeritus with the USGS Alaska Science Center.
Amstrup noted that their new work emulated the rapid sea-ice loss that occurred in the Arctic between September 2006 and September 2007 when the loss of sea ice equaled the total amount of ice lost during the previous 27 years. This exponential loss of ice during such a short time was one of the reasons why so many scientists were concerned that there might be a tipping point beyond which sea ice would be irreversibly lost.
“Instead, we found that the relationship between the loss of sea ice and the average global temperature is linear,” said Amstrup. “In fact, the models indicate that major losses of summer sea ice can occur without pushing ice into a tipping point with permanent ice-free summers. If such a tipping point had existed, it would have meant that efforts to reduce greenhouse gases would have had little value in stemming the loss of polar ice critical for polar bears.”
Polar bears depend on sea ice as a platform to hunt seals, their primary food. Current declines in habitat have been associated with declines in body stature, survival rates, and population size in broad areas of the current polar bear range.
The new paper, Greenhouse gas mitigation can reduce sea-ice loss and increase polar bear persistence, will be published by the journal, Nature, on December 16. The study was authored by Steve Amstrup (USGS), Eric DeWeaver (National Science Foundation), David Douglas (USGS), Bruce Marcot (USDA Forest Service), George Durner (USGS), Cecilia Bitz (University of Washington), and David Bailey (National Center for Atmospheric Research).
Tattered Wings: Bats Grounded by White-Nose Syndrome's Lethal Effects on Life-Support Functions of Wings
Madison, Wisconsin—Damage to bat wings from the fungus associated with white-nose syndrome (WNS) may cause catastrophic imbalance in life-support processes, according to newly published research.
This imbalance may be to blame for the more than 1 million deaths of bats due to WNS thus far, proposes Carol Meteyer, a pathologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center and a lead author of the research published in BMC Biology.
Physiological problems caused by the novel fungus, may, in fact, represent a completely new disease paradigm for mammals, Meteyer and her colleagues wrote. Other skin infections in mammals due to fungi (ringworm, athlete’s foot) remain superficial and do not invade living tissue—typically they only affect the surface of skin, hair and nails.
Not so for the aptly named Geomyces destructans.Related Podcasts
Tattered Wings: Bats Grounded by White-Nose Syndrome’s Lethal Effects on Life-Support Functions of Wings
“This fungus is amazingly destructive — it digests, erodes, and invades the skin — particularly the wings — of hibernating bats,” said Meteyer. “The ability of this fungus to invade bats’ wing skin is unlike that of any known skin fungal pathogen in land mammals.”
The authors examined nearly 200 bats that had died from WNS, and also reviewed the critical function and physiology of bat wings during hibernation. As a result, they propose that G. destructans may cause unsustainable dehydration in hibernating bats, triggering thirst-associated arousals. In addition to the direct damage to the wings that would alter flight control, the erosion and invasion of skin may also cause significant changes in circulation, body-temperature regulation and respiratory function.
Since signs of the disease were first observed in New York during the winter of 2006-07, the fungus has spread through 11 states and 2 Canadian provinces, resulting in the first sustained high-mortality disease affecting bats in recorded history. Biologists assume that as the disease spreads to new areas, cave-hibernating bats in those areas will also be at risk, including some that are endangered.
“The high number of bat deaths and range of species being affected far exceeds the rate and magnitude of any previously known natural or human-caused mortality event in bats, and possibly in any other mammals,” said Paul Cryan, a lead author of the paper and a USGS bat ecologist at the Fort Collins Science Center.
Although the powdery white muzzles of affected bats gave the disease its name, the authors believe that the skin of bat wings is the most significant, though often less obvious, target of the fungus.
The order of bats is called Chiroptera, Greek for “hand-wing,” appropriately named since bat wings are essentially modified arms. Imagine, for a moment, your human hand with its fingers spread apart. Then imagine your fingers are 6 feet long, and the whole skeletal affair is covered with two layers of thin, somewhat transparent membranes attached to the sides of your torso and legs. Sandwiched between the membranes are blood and lymphatic vessels, delicate nerves, muscles and special connective tissues that help you fly and help keep you physiologically healthy.
“The disproportionately large areas of exposed skin that make up bat wings play critical roles in maintaining safe internal body conditions during hibernation,” noted Cryan. “Healthy wings are essential for day-to-day survival, even during winter when bats are mostly just hanging around. Wings damaged by the fungus may not always look so bad to the naked eye, but under the microscope things get ugly fast.”
When Meteyer examined wings of diseased bats microscopically, she discovered wing damage was often so severe that it led her and her colleagues to suggest multiple life-threatening effects on hibernating bats.
“A bat’s wings,” said Meteyer, “are obviously critical for flying, but they also play a vital part in essential functions such as body temperature, blood pressure, water balance and blood and gas circulation and exchange.”
Healthy bats occasionally rouse themselves from hibernation, probably to change roosts, drink, mate and even overcome sleep deprivation, biologists think. But bats afflicted with WNS arouse much more often. In fact, a characteristic of hibernation sites with WNS is daytime flights of affected bats outside caves.
“The prevailing hypothesis is that daytime winter flight is a last-ditch effort for starving bats to find insect prey,” Cryan said. “What we propose is that thirst, and maybe not always hunger, is driving these arousals. Unusual thirst during hibernation may result from water essentially leaking out of wings damaged by the fungus.”
Anecdotally, bats at hibernacula affected by WNS are sometimes seen flying over and drinking from water surfaces or eating snow, highlighting the plausibility of this hypothesis, the authors noted.
Hibernation itself is one reason this emerging disease is so successful. During hibernation, a bat’s immune function and metabolism are dramatically reduced, and body temperature drops significantly. Also, some of the worst-affected bat species roost in humid areas in dense clusters to conserve energy and decrease moisture loss.
“These ideal environmental conditions, combined with the hibernating bat’s suppressed immune system, likely allow the fungus to invade body tissues for nutrients without resistance, making the hibernating bat a most accommodating host for this new disease,” Meteyer said.
The researchers compare the ability of this novel bat fungus to destabilize internal functions with the electrolyte imbalance that occurs in frogs infected by chytrid fungus, which, like G. destructans, is a novel disease of vertebrates. Chytrid infection impairs the ability of frog skin to regulate hydration and internal equilibrium, causing electrolyte imbalance and ultimately cardiac arrest.
“The skin plays a critical role in the physiology of both amphibians and bats,” Meteyer said. “We suggest that a similar, but less subtle, disturbance could be occurring in the wing membranes of bats with WNS.”
The journal article can be accessed online.
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For the first time in history, a change will be made to the atomic weights of some elements listed on the Table of Standard Atomic Weights of the chemical elements found in the inside covers of chemistry textbooks worldwide.
The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry’s (IUPAC) Commission on Isotopic Abundances and Atomic Weights is publishing a new table that will express atomic weights of ten elements as intervals, rather than as single standard values. The new table is the result of cooperative research supported by the U.S. Geological Survey, IUPAC, and other contributing Commission members and institutions.
Standard atomic weights commonly are thought of as constants of nature, despite the fact that atomic weights of many common chemical elements show variations as a result of physical, chemical and biological processes.
“For more than a century and a half, many were taught to use standard atomic weights — a single value — found on the inside cover of chemistry textbooks and on the periodic table of the elements,” said Ty Coplen, director of the USGS Reston Stable Isotope Laboratory. “Though this change offers significant benefits in the understanding of chemistry, one can imagine the challenge now to educators and students who will have to select a single value out of an interval when doing chemistry calculations.”
The standard atomic weights for hydrogen, lithium, boron, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, silicon, sulfur, chlorine and thallium previously were expressed as central values with uncertainties that reflected natural atomic-weight variations. The weights of these elements now will be expressed as intervals to more accurately convey this variation in atomic weight. For example, boron is commonly known to have a standard atomic weight of 10.811. However, its actual atomic weight can be anywhere between 10.806 and 10.821, depending on where the element is found.
The atomic weight of an element depends upon how many stable isotopes it has and the relative amount of each stable isotope. Isotopes are atoms of the same element that have different masses. Variations in atomic weight occur when an element has two or more naturally occurring stable isotopes that vary in abundance.
Modern analytical techniques can measure the atomic weight of many elements precisely, and these small variations in an element’s atomic weight are important in research and industry. For example, precise measurements of the abundances of isotopes of carbon can be used to determine purity and source of food products, such as vanilla and honey. Isotopic measurements of nitrogen, chlorine and other elements are used for tracing pollutants in streams and groundwater. In sports doping investigations, performance enhancing testosterone can be identified in the human body because the atomic weight of carbon in natural human testosterone is higher than that in pharmaceutical testosterone.
Elements with only one stable isotope do not exhibit variations in their atomic weights. For example, the standard atomic weights for fluorine, aluminum, sodium and gold are constant, and their values are known to better than six decimal places.
The USGS has a long history of research in determining atomic weights of the chemical elements. As far back as 1882, Frank W. Clark, chief chemist of the USGS, prepared a table of atomic weights.
The year 2011 has been designated as the International Year of Chemistry. The IYC is an official United Nations International Year, proclaimed at the UN as a result of the initiative of IUPAC and UNESCO. IUPAC will feature the change in the standard atomic weights table as part of associated IYC activities.
This fundamental change in the presentation of the atomic weights is based upon work between 1985 and 2010 supported by IUPAC, the USGS, and other contributing Commission members and institutions. IUPAC oversees the evaluation and dissemination of atomic-weight values.
Fundamental research underlying the changes in the atomic weight presentation for selected elements is compiled in the report “Compilation of minimum and maximum isotope ratios of selected elements in naturally occurring terrestrial materials and reagents.” An abbreviated version of this report is published in the IUPAC journal Pure and Applied Chemistry, Vol. 74, No. 10, pp. 1987–2017 (2002). (doi:10.1351/pac200274101987). An overview of the standard atomic weights through the 20th century is also available.
Slower-growing trees. More severe fires. More bark beetle outbreaks. A lot more dead trees. And big changes in where various tree species are dominant in southwestern U.S. forests.
This is the worrisome forecast suggested for southwestern forests if temperature and aridity rise as projected, according to research published today by U.S. Geological Survey and other federal and university researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Forests in the southwestern United States may experience all of these changes because they appear particularly sensitive to warming temperatures and increased dryness," said USGS research ecologist Craig D. Allen, a co-author of the report. "The presence of forest vegetation in semi-arid regions, like the U.S. Southwest, starts with the availability of adequate moisture, which depends on both precipitation and temperature."
Allen and his co-authors noted that since the 1970s, temperatures have increased particularly rapidly in the Southwest relative to the rest of the continental U.S. This, combined with the regional drought conditions common since 2000, means that trees in these forests have already undergone significant and sustained stress, growth declines, and increased mortality.
Mountain forests across the Southwest are already experiencing forest die-offs and rapid shifts in the relative dominance of trees that live in them, Allen said. The authors estimate that up to 18 percent of southwestern forests – that is, millions of acres – have experienced high levels of bark-beetle and wildfire-related tree mortality during recent warm droughts, an extent and rate unprecedented in the documentary period of the past century.
These trends – weaker trees, more insect infestations, higher tree death rates, and more severe and frequent fires – will get worse, the authors warn, if temperature and aridity in the Southwest rise according to current climate projections.
The authors compared tree-ring growth records from more than 1,000 tree populations across the United States with historical climate data to determine how tree growth within each population is related to climate variability. They concluded that southwestern forests are particularly sensitive to drought and warmth. Of particular concern, they noted, is that drought-related forest die-off events and severe forest fires can result in vegetation type conversions from forest to shrub- and grass-dominated ecosystems in the dry Southwest, presenting risks to both the socioeconomic and environmental sustainability of the region.
"Such big, fast changes in Southwest forest vegetation could have significant effects on a wide range of ecosystem goods and services, from watershed protection and timber supplies to biodiversity and recreation," Allen said. "These emerging vulnerabilities present increasingly clear challenges for managers of southwestern forests to develop strategies to mitigate or adapt to the coming changes, in order to sustain these forested ecosystems and their benefits into the future."
This paper is part of a special feature, "Climate Change and Water in Southwestern North America," of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. For more information, see Williams, A.P., C.D. Allen, T.W. Swetnam, C.I. Millar, J. Michaelsen, C.J. Still, and S.W. Leavitt. 2010. Forest responses to increasing aridity and warmth in southwestern North America. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. Vol. 107, No. 50. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0914211107.
Interior Announces New Method to Measure Potential for Carbon Storage in U.S. Lands -- and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions to the Atmosphere
WASHINGTON, DC — A new methodology to assess the potential to store carbon in U.S. wetlands, forests and rangelands ecosystems--and thus to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere—will help find ways to mitigate the impacts of climate change, the Department of the Interior announced today.
SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Geological Survey participates in the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting with hundreds of technical presentations. Selected here are some highlights of USGS science at AGU. Tips about the technical sessions are presented in chronological order with session numbers, and room numbers in Moscone Convention Center (either Moscone South, MS, or Moscone West, MW). For more information, visit the 2010 AGU Fall meeting website.
News media representatives are invited to visit the USGS booth in the AGU Exhibit Hall. This is an easy place to connect with USGS data, publications, and information.
USGS participation in AGU press conferences:
(all AGU press conferences are scheduled in Room 3000 Moscone West)
Monday, 12/13, 5 p.m.
Forest tipping points and climate change in southwestern US
If temperature and aridity rise as projected, the worrisome forecast suggested for southwestern forests includes slower-growing trees, more severe fires, more bark beetle outbreaks, a lot more dead trees, and big changes in where various trees species are dominant in southwestern U.S. forests.
Tuesday, 12/14, 9 a.m.
Ice volcanoes on Titan
Topography on Saturn's moon Titan that makes the best case yet for an ice volcano on Titan and reveals the most Earth-like volcano in the outer solar system.
Tuesday, 12/14, 11 a.m.
Carbon consumption and Earth’s carrying capacity
Increasing consumption of Earth’s plant material raises questions about carrying capacity, biodiversity, landscapes, imbalances, and vulnerabilities to climate change.
Wednesday, 12/15, 11 a.m.
Volcanic ash and aviation
Tom Casadevall and Marianne Guffanti
The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano earlier this year brought questions of volcanic ash and global aviation traffic to the forefront. How can science help shape aviation safety policy?
Thursday, 12/16, 9 a.m.
The last Arctic sea-ice refuge?
Arctic ocean circulation models suggest enough ice would accumulate in an area of the Canadian Archipelago and northern Greenland to potentially serve as a refuge for polar bears as Arctic sea ice is otherwise projected to decline.
USGS town hall meeting and customer listening session
Seeking your help to shape the development of our 10-year strategic science plans
Talking Hazards: A dialogue on the future of USGS Natural Hazards science, Thursday, 12/16, 12:30-1:30 p.m., MW 3006
Talking Water: A dialogue on the future of USGS Water science Thursday, 12/16, 6:15-7:30 p.m., Courtyard San Francisco Hotel, 299 Second St, Rincon Hill Room, 2nd Floor
AGU recognizes USGS scientists:
Wednesday, 12/15, 7- 9 p.m.
AGU's 2010 honors ceremony, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Yerba Buena Ballroom
John R. Filson will receive the Edward A. Flinn III Award, given to an “individual who personifies the AGU’s motto ‘unselfish cooperation in research’ through their facilitating, coordinating, and implementing activities.”
Carol Kendall is elected to AGU Fellowship this year
Finn named AGU President-elect
Dr. Carol A. Finn, a USGS geophysicist, was recently named President-elect of AGU. Finn, an AGU member since 1980 and USGS scientist since 1978, will be the third female president of the 91-year-old organization, and third USGS employee to hold the post.
Bowie lecture (invited)
MS, Gateway Ballroom, 103, Tuesday, 12/14, 4:05 – 5 p.m. Ultra-High Resolution Four Dimension Imaging Across the Earth Sciences
A 3-D presentation about ground-based or terrestrial LIDAR at the forefront of scientific applications that allows visualization of natural processes in ultra-high resolution like never before, from glacial retreat to earthquake-induced land surface changes.
Monday, 12/13, 8 a.m., MS Poster Hall
Aerial surveys using consumer electronics
Using a Nikon D90 with a GPS device attached, scientists obtained over 5000 high-resolution photographs of the San Andreas Fault, which had been revealed by wildfire.
Monday, 12/13, 8 a.m., MS Poster Hall
Modeling lahar hazards within Lassen Volcanic National Park
The 1915 Lassen Peak eruption generated lahars flowed north into Lost Creek and Hat Creek, Ca. Geologic mapping of these deposits is used to guide an assessment of present-day lahar inundation zones.
Monday, 12/13, 8 a.m., MS Poster Hall
Corn-based feedstock for biofuels: Implications for agricultural sustainability
Increasing demand for renewable energy and the potential for use of corn stover, or the leaves, stalks, and husks left as residue after harvest, as biofuel in the U.S. raise concerns about the agricultural sustainability of corn stover. USGS scientists examine the minimum residue level required to maintain soil fertility and the maximum amount of raw stover harvestable for biofuels in the future.
(Note: Those interested in this presentation may also be interested in H51D-0934: "Different Effects of Corn Ethanol and Switchgrass-Based Biofuels on Soil Erosion and Nutrients Loads in the Iowa River Basin," B23D-0412: "Ecosystem performance assessment for grasslands in the Greater Platte River Basin: implications for cellulosic biofuel development," and/or H51G-09: “Effects of the Biofuels Initiative on water quality and quantity in the Mississippi alluvial plain”)
Monday, 12/13, 8 a.m., MS Poster Hall
Lava flow risk on Mauna Loa
Mauna Loa will undoubtedly erupt again and emergency managers will need to know the areas threatened with inundation, lava flow frequency, and the people, property, and facilities at risk. USGS scientists have prepared a geologic map, with probabilities of lava flow inundation, calculated for different sectors of the volcano.
Monday, 12/13, 8 a.m. MS 104
The 12 January 2010 M7.0 Haiti earthquake
co-chaired by USGS seismologist Susan Hough
In the 11 months since the devastating earthquake in Haiti, USGS scientists have spent months on the ground installing instruments, monitoring aftershocks, learning more about the quake, and defining the hardest hit areas, leading to a safer future for Haiti.
The role of science and engineering in rebuilding a more resilient Haiti
The Enriquillo-Plantian Garden Fault in Haiti: Geologically recent offsets and seismic hazard
Monday, 12/13, 2:55 p.m., MW 2002
Methylmercury production across San Francisco Bay regional habitats
Mark C. Marvin-DiPasquale
Results of more than a decade of methylmercury research in the San Francisco Bay, which are widely applicable to other diverse freshwater, estuarine, and coastal environments suggest that microbial iron-reduction may play a larger role then previously thought with respect to methylmercury production across a diverse range of estuarine habitats.
Monday, 12/13, 4 p.m., MW 3018
Water security – National and global issues
Devising concepts and counter measures to protect water supplies will assist the public, policy makers, and planners at local, Tribal, State, and Federal levels to develop solutions for national and international water-security and sustainability issues. Disruption of water supplies by man-made, natural, and technological hazards could threaten the delivery of vital human services, endanger public health and the environment, potentially cause mass casualties, and threaten population sustainability, social stability, and homeland security.
(Note: See also H21A-1013, "Energy—Water Interdependence," Moran)
Monday, 12/13, 4 p.m., MS 104
USGS scientists in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill: Making a difference
USGS Director Marcia McNutt
From the first call to action after the discovery of the underwater oil discharge, the USGS has been at the forefront addressing the research and information needs for this disaster. USGS geospatial experts, biologists, geologists, and geophysicists played a crucial role helping the nation understand and ultimately shut down the failed well. With the imminent danger removed, USGS coastal and marine geologists continue to work on the oil budget, refining models for the sinks of oil in the environment and the time scales over which oil remains an environmental hazard.
Tuesday, 12/14, 8 a.m., MS Poster Hall
Fire in the Mojave Desert: The role of microtopography on floral re-establishment following fire
A groundbreaking use of terrestrial LiDAR technology to determine the impact of fire on desert flora, which can be used by land-use managers and policy makers to make prudent decisions related to critical desert changes.
Tuesday, 12/14, 8 a.m., MS Poster Hall
Carbon sequestration rates and the energy balance of turf in the Denver urban ecosystem and in an adjacent native grassland under contrasting management practices
Dean E. Anderson
Well watered, fertilized lawns in metropolitan Denver were found to sequester, or capture, substantially more carbon than nearby native grassland over a growing season. These findings are significant because lawns are the largest irrigated crop in the U.S., and urban areas and the associated number of lawns are rapidly expanding.
Tuesday, 12/14, 8 a.m., MS Poster Hall
El Nino’s effect on agriculture in Guatemala
Scientists looked at the effects of El Nino on rainfall patterns at regional scales and specifically measured the effects on agricultural water balances in Guatemala. The study builds on rainfall and water balance modeling techniques developed by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network.
Tuesday, 12/14, 10:20 a.m., MS 310
Sediment budget for a polluted Hawaiian reef using hillslope monitoring and process mapping
Pollution from coastal watersheds threatens the ecology of tropical reefs. Changing land uses have accelerated erosion rates, leading to toxic levels of sediment off the reefs of Molokai, Hawaii. USGS scientists are using advanced remote sensing and sensor networks on the ground to map the sources and quantify the rates of this erosion, in an effort to forecast the effects of climate change on sediment loading to reefs.
Tuesday, 12/14, 1:40 p.m., MS Poster Hall
Mercury export from the Yukon river basin
In response to a warming climate in Northern regions, permafrost is thawing, becoming a potential significant pool of mercury that had not been previously considered under changing climatic conditions. Mercury is a ubiquitous pollutant posing a serious threat to human health and aquatic biota.
Wednesday, 12/15, 8 a.m., MS Poster Hall
New information from Arctic Ocean seafloor mapping, seismic-reflection profiling, and seafloor sampling undertaken by Arctic nations to determine where they might have sovereign rights.
A new look at Northwind Ridge: Implications for the history of the Canada Basin
Gravity and magnetic anomalies of the western Arctic Ocean and its margins provide an imperfect window to a complex, multi-stage tectonic history
Wednesday, 12/15, 8:00 a.m., MS Poster Hall
How much water does Africa have?
Gabriel B. Senay
For the first time ever, a water balance for Africa has been developed – which is the first step in being able to manage water resources. A lack of consistent data or access to important data such as rainfall, stream flow and evapotranspiration has been a barrier to developing an Africa-wide water atlas in the past. Scientists used globally available and consistent weather and remotely-sensed datasets to develop the water balance estimation.
Wednesday, 12/15, 1:40 p.m., MS Poster Hall
Is the rate of global tsunami occurrence increasing?
Examining the variation in the number of tsunamis that occur every year in an effort to develop short-term tsunami forecasts.
Wednesday, 12/15, 1:40 p.m., MS Poster Hall
Outstanding issues in the assessment of Enhanced Geothermal Systems resources
The successful implementation of Enhanced Geothermal Systems technology has the potential to dramatically expand both the magnitude and spatial extent of geothermal energy production, and the USGS has been working to develop a comprehensive EGS resource assessment for the U.S. However, a number of outstanding scientific and technical issues must be resolved in order to ensure the accuracy and reliability of this assessment.
Thursday, 12/16, 9:25 a.m., MW 2002
Coal-tar pavement sealant: A PAH source indoors and out
The coal-tar-based pavement sealant used on parking lots, driveways, and playgrounds is the largest source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in house dust and lake sediment studied by the USGS. Several PAHs are probable human carcinogens, and they are toxic to fish and other aquatic life.
Thursday, 12/16, 1:40 p.m., MS Poster Hall
River regulation’s effect on aeolian landscapes in the Grand Canyon
A 7-year study examined the effects of river regulation at Glen Canyon Dam and provides strong evidence that regulation affects landscape evolution even above the high water line. Hear why it is likely that, if current operations at Glen Canyon Dam (with occasional controlled floods) continue, greater differences between modern and ancient landscapes in the Grand Canyon will occur.
Thursday, 12/16, 1:40 p.m., MS Poster Hall
Gigapixel panoramas of Glacier National Park
Daniel B. Fagre
New high-resolution, interactive images of glaciers at Glacier National Park are available through the use of a robotically controlled camera system. The Gigapan system is used to capture panoramic images of glaciers, which can be georeferenced in Google Earth, and embedded in websites. These images build upon USGS repeat photographs of glaciers used to vividly document their rate of disappearance.
Thursday, 12/16, MW 2020
Volcanology 2010 - 2020: the next decade in volcano science
1:55 p.m. Punctuated evolution of volcanology: An observatory perspective
Bill Burton and John Eichelberger
2:10 p.m. Challenges to integrating geographically-dispersed data and expertise at U.S. Volcano Observatories
Tom Murray and John Ewert
2:40 p.m. The international Volcano Distaster Assistance Program — Past and future
John Ewert and John Pallister
Thursday, 12/16, MW 3010
Transmitting hazard science to end users: what works, what doesn't, and what's needed?
Co-convened by USGS scientists David Applegate and Lucile Jones
2:40 p.m., Flood hazards: Communicating hydrology and complexity to the public
2:55 p.m., Scientific studies in support of shutting in the Macondo Well (Deepwater Horizon) blowout, Gulf of Mexico
3:25 p.m., Assessing the utility of and improving USGS Earthquake Hazards Program products
4 p.m., Science for decision making: Transmitting hazard science using catastrophic scenarios
5 p.m., Lessons learned from an emergency release of a post-fire debris-flow hazard assessment for the 2009 Station fire, San Gabriel Mountains, Southern California
5:30 p.m., Reducing community vulnerability to wildland fires in Southern California
5:45 p.m., Anticipating and communicating plausible environmental and health concerns associated with future disasters: The ShakeOut and ARkStorm scenarios as examples
Friday, 12/17, 8 a.m., MS Poster Hall
The use of deep moonquakes for constraining the internal structure of the Moon
Renee C. Weber
The installation of seismometers on the Moon's surface during the Apollo era provided a wealth of information that transformed our understanding of lunar formation and evolution. Here we present new modeling in support of seismic missions that plan to build upon the knowledge of the Moon's interior gathered by Apollo.
Friday, 12/17, 8 a.m., MS Poster Hall
Packrats hoard ancient climate information
Robert S. Thompson
Ancient middens left behind by packrats give scientists temperature, precipitation and other climatic information for the past 25,000 years. The plant remains they contain can be identified at the species level and provide excellent material for radiocarbon dating.
Friday, 12/17, 9:45 a.m., MW 3018
Effects of the Biofuels Initiative on water quality and quantity in the Mississippi alluvial plain
Heather L. Welch
The Biofuels Initiative in the Mississippi Delta created a 47 percent decrease in cotton acreage and 288 percent increase in corn acreage in 2007. Corn uses 80 percent more water and nitrogen fertilizer than cotton, which affects water quantity and quality. A mathematical model calibrated to existing conditions in the Delta confirms that fertilizer application rates are contributing to hypoxic conditions in the Gulf of Mexico.
Friday, 12/17, 9 a.m., MW 2007
Lessons learned from a decade of "Did You Feel It?" collection
The public has logged over 1.8 million online “Did You Feel It?” responses over the past decade immediately following earthquakes. Come hear how the USGS is using this data.
Friday, 12/17, 2:10 p.m., MS Poster Hall
Long-term groundwater contamination after source removal
Richard L. Smith
The consequences of groundwater contamination can remain long after a contaminant source has been removed. This can be the case even for constituents that are primarily water-soluble, such as treated wastewater. Learn about a Massachusetts’s study that found wastewater contaminants after 14 years.
Psychedelically colored wolves depicted by thermal imaging will shed light on how mange affects the survival, reproduction and social behavior of wolves in Yellowstone National Park.
About a quarter of the wolf packs in the park are afflicted with sarcoptic mange, a highly contagious canine skin disease caused by mites that burrow into the skin causing infections, hair loss, severe irritation and an insatiable desire to scratch.
The resulting hair loss and depressed vigor of the wolves leaves them vulnerable to hypothermia, malnutrition and dehydration, which can eventually lead to death, said Paul Cross, a U.S. Geological Survey disease ecologist, who leads the project along with Doug Smith of Yellowstone National Park.
To help understand the role of mange in the lives of gray wolves, as well as why some wolves recover and others don’t, Cross, along with wolf biologists from the National Park Service, need to understand the costs and extent of infection. Remote cameras will help the team determine the extent of the infection across packs in Yellowstone National Park, and how it changes from one year to the next.
“Thermal imagery of wolves allows us to not only document the extent of hair loss caused by mange, but also to determine the actual loss of heat, and energy, associated with the different stages of infection,” said Cross. “A great side benefit is that this is a noninvasive way to study the disease and its effects. We don’t have to capture wild wolves to do this.”
The researchers tested and perfected the thermal imagery process with the help of resident wolves at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. Biologists shaved off small patches of fur from several wolves to emulate hair loss from mange, and then assessed the amount of heat loss that would occur in the later stages of mange infection. They also compared this with normal hair-covered areas and recorded still and video thermal images.
The resulting images, admits Cross, are unusual and captivating. But they also reveal red-colored “hot spots” that give off more heat, meaning the afflicted wolf has to get the energy lost through heat by eating more calories – that is, elk and other food. To see them, visit: http://nrmsc.usgs.gov/research/mange_wolvesYNP.
Scientists will begin using the thermal imagery on wild wolves in February. Remotely triggered thermal-imagery cameras will be set at locations that wolves frequent and the resulting images will be uploaded to computers weekly for Cross and his colleagues to examine.
Though remote thermal imaging has been used to diagnose veterinary diseases, Cross believes this is the first time it has been used to study the effects of a disease in a wildlife species.
Sarcoptic mange was introduced into the Northern Rockies in 1909 by state wildlife veterinarians in an attempt to help eradicate local wolf and coyote populations. Scientists believe the troublesome mite that causes the disease persisted among coyotes and foxes after wolves were exterminated. Since their reintroduction into the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in 1995-96, wolves appeared to be free of mange until 2002.
The research is being conducted by the USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center in collaboration with the National Park Service, Yellowstone National Park and the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Mont.
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The 2010 A Community on Ecosystem Services conference is in Phoenix, Ariz., from Dec. 6 to 9. This year’s theme is Ecosystems Services. For more information, visit the ACES Conference Homepage.
Biofuels: Can the Energy Be Sustained? As the quest for energy security and alternative fuel development continues, biofuels are becoming an increasingly important element of the United States’ fuel options. At ACES, USGS scientists will present papers regarding the scope and impacts of increased biofuel production in the United States.
One study focused on the impacts of corn-based biofuel production on soil fertility and ecosystem sustainability. As both corn and corn plant residue are substantial sources of material from which to produce biofuels, the effects of their cultivation and harvesting methods are important as well. The study shows that various farming techniques and harvesting levels do significantly affect key elements of soil fertility and sustainability, such as the concentration of soil organic carbon. In addition, under conventional management practices, corncob removal has little influence on soil fertility, whereas irrigation where necessary can greatly improve ecosystem sustainability. Contact: Zhengxi Tan, 605-594-6903, email@example.com. Title of Talk: Impacts of Corn-based Biofuel Production on Soil Fertility and Ecosystem Sustainability.
Two other studies feature models that examine biofuel cultivation and land use. The first was conducted to determine which sites in the Greater Platte River Basin would be suitable for conversion to biofuels grasses. The researchers looked for lands with moderate to high ecosystem site potential (that is.,consistent high grassland productivity) and fair to good range condition (that is, persistent ecosystem over-performance or normal performance with less ecological disturbance), depending on the weather conditions and ecological disturbances. Contact: Steve Boyte, SGT Inc., 605-594-6171, firstname.lastname@example.org. Title of talk: Dynamic Modeling of Ecosystem Performance to Identify Land Suitable for Biofuels Development.
To determine whether biofuel production can adversely or positively affect land use, the second model focused on creating a model to account for likely impacts on land use and land cover. The model examines future biofuels scenarios, and potential site-specific impacts of the land-use changes that would occur under those scenarios. Contact: Terry Sohl, 605-594-6537, email@example.com. Title of talk: Development of a Spatially Explicit Land-Use Model for the Assessment of Biofuels.
Buffelgrass Invasion in the Sonoran Desert: What Do We Stand to Lose? Invasion by buffelgrass and other non-native grasses threatens to transform the iconic and mostly fireproof Sonoran desert into an impoverished and flammable savanna, according to research being presented by USGS scientist Julio Betancourt. Biodiversity risks from invasion include not just rare and endangered species, but also more dominant and symbolic ones like the saguaro. Research by Betancourt and his colleagues reveals that southern and central Arizona are on the verge of losing the Arizona Upland of the Sonoran Desert, the ecological backdrop for two large cities (Tucson and Phoenix) and numerous national and regional parks. Likely impacts to basic ecosystem services, including food webs, nutrient cycling and the transport, supply and quality of water and sediment, remain virtually unstudied. In addition, the researchers note that economic impacts from the loss of this ecosystem likely include decreased property values in infested and increasingly fire-prone areas, losses in tourism revenues with a decaying ecological backdrop and escalating weed control and fire suppression budgets across all jurisdictions. Betancourt will also discuss what efforts are being made to control this noxious weed, including an interagency mitigation and planning effort that will involve 5 different federal agencies and 14 federal units in southern Arizona. Contact: Julio L. Betancourt, 520-670-6821 x107, firstname.lastname@example.org. Title of talk: Buffelgrass Invasion in the Sonoran Desert: What Do We Stand to Lose?
Fewer Mangrove Forests Remaining Worldwide than Previously Thought: Mangrove forests provide an estimated $1.6 billion (U.S. dollars) in ecosystem goods and services to people worldwide, including protection from natural disasters such as hurricanes and tsunamis. Yet these forests are being rapidly converted for agriculture, aquaculture and into urban areas. USGS researchers and their colleagues mapped and validated the status and distributions of global mangroves and found that there are more than 10 percent fewer mangrove forests remaining in the world than previously reported. In 2000, 137,760 square kilometers (53.190 square miles) of mangroves were found in 118 countries and territories in the world’s tropical and subtropical regions. The study confirms earlier findings that mangrove forests are generally confined to the tropical and subtropical regions of the world and a vast majority of them can be found within 5 degrees latitude from the equator. The new mangrove forest database is the most comprehensive, globally consistent, and highest resolution one ever created and is available freely for non-commercial use. Contact: Chandra Giri, 605-594-2835, email@example.com. Title of talk: Ecosystem Goods and Services and the Status and Distribution of Mangrove Forest of the World.
Filling the Carbon Sinks: Based on current trends, cumulative U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are projected to double by 2050 and increase by a factor of three to four by 2100. Maximizing the natural carbon storage processes of terrestrial U.S. land sinks is a key climate mitigation strategy. However, the effects of such a strategy on land use and land cover are not known, and so a USGS study seeks to shed some light on likely outcomes. Scientists used an aggressive scenario in which increased afforestation, no deforestation, no freshwater wetland loss, and significant alterations to the timber harvesting industry were investigated. The net present value of the mitigation activity ranged between -$18.2 million (assuming marketable timber value only) and $436.9 million (assuming all potential and social values for the ecosystem services are realized). Consequently, depending on several variables, the return on investment in mitigation activity could be valuable. Contact: Stephen Faulkner, 304-724-4471, firstname.lastname@example.org. Title of talk: Ancillary Effects of Carbon Sequestration Strategies on Ecosystem Services.
How does Water Quality Affect Recreation in Puget Sound? USGS scientists, as part of the Puget Sound Ecosystem Portfolio Model (PSEPM), are determining conditions that influence park visitation for restoration planning and decision support. Their findings indicate that increased Enterococcus bacteria (E. coli) counts --an indicator of water quality -- decrease visitation to state parks. Other factors influencing recreational visits include site amenities, travel distances and population density. An improvement in water quality would likely yield an increase in the value of recreation and other ecosystem services. This finding could be used to determine the cost of water quality decline or the expected benefits of restoration or management actions. Contact: Jason Kreitler, 208-854-9440, email@example.com. Title of talk: Interacting Coastal-Based Ecosystem Services in Puget Sound: Recreation and Water Quality.
Loss of Native Prairie Cannot be Mitigated For: Ecosystem Services: USGS scientists assessed the environmental and economic tradeoffs under different likely land-use scenarios in the Prairie Pothole Region over a 20-year period by comparing the ecological and economic values of three ecosystem services (carbon sequestration, sediment reduction and waterfowl production) across three kinds of land use in the region: native prairie grasslands, lands enrolled in the Conservation Reserve and Wetlands Reserve Programs (CRP/WRP), and cropland. The researchers found that the existence of Conservation Reserve and Wetlands Reserve Programs lands cannot mitigate (1 for 1) for the loss of native prairie. Land-use scenarios in which native prairie loss was minimized and CRP/WRP lands were increased provided the most societal benefit. The scenario modeling projected native prairie conversion in the next 20 years results in a social welfare loss valued at over $2.5 billion, when considering the study’s three ecosystem services, and a net loss of about $1.8 billion when reductions in commodity production are accounted for. With high ecological scores on native lands, along with significant economic dependence on the agricultural sector, it is important to measure how these land uses work with and against each other. By quantifying ecosystem and economic tradeoffs of future land-use scenarios, this study aims to help policy makers and natural resource managers make more informed, efficient, and defensible decisions. Contact: William Gascoigne, 216-965-7961, firstname.lastname@example.org. Title of talk: Valuing Ecosystem and Economic Services across Land-Use Scenarios in the Prairie Potholes.
Measuring the Prairie Pothole Region: The Prairie Pothole Region of North America extends from north-central Iowa to central Alberta; the landscape is dotted with many small wetlands created by glaciers. The regular fluctuation in surface water is a key factor in regulating carbon sequestration, floodwater retention, waterfowl production and pollution reduction. Most of these wetlands are small and cannot be detected by conventional remote-sensing data or other methods, and high-resolution photos are not practical to cover this large area. In this presentation, USGS scientists and their colleagues are developing a new system to monitor and predict the spatiotemporal water area change of each wetland, using a combination of satellite data, LiDAR, National Wetlands Inventory data, models and aerial photos. Contact: Shengli Huang, 605-594-2864, email@example.com. Title of talk: Monitoring and Predicting Spatiotemporal Water Surface Dynamics of Topographic Depressions in the Prairie Pothole Region from Remote Sensing and Hydrological Models.
Water Quality Ecosystem Services in the Urban Environment: Do Management Practices Measure Up? Urban development in the Chesapeake Bay watershed generates impervious surface cover, alters watershed flow patterns and increases the amount of pollutants produced and transported through the watershed. This negatively affects the ability of the landscape to provide water purification ecosystem services. Structural management practices are used to replace natural ecosystem services and functions in watersheds affected by urban development. But do these man-made methods measure up to natural processes? USGS scientists will discuss their research findings about whether these management practices are improving water quality and helping to provide water purification ecosystem services. This presentation will provide an overview of how best management practices compare to natural processes, and include case studies being conducted in Montgomery County, MD, and Fairfax County, VA, that compare natural and urban areas and different watershed mitigation practices. Contact: Dianna Hogan, 703-648-7240, firstname.lastname@example.org. Title of talk: Water Quality Ecosystem Services in the Urban Environment.
To learn more about this conference, please visit the ACES Conference Homepage.
TUCSON, Ariz. -- A new book on the methods and applications of repeat photography that showcases its international usage in monitoring landscape change on five continents has been released.
“Repeat Photography: Methods and Applications in the Natural Sciences,” is both a review of the state-of-the-art for this well-established technique, as well as a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Desert Laboratory Repeat Photography Collection – the largest archive of its kind in the world.
The scientific technique of taking photographs from the same vantage point at different times is one of the earliest methods for documenting landscape change, getting its start with the monitoring of glacier retreat in Europe in the late 19th century.
This book explores the broad technical and geographic scope of the technique, focusing particularly on the intertwined influences of climatic variation and land-use practices in sculpting landscapes. It illustrates the wide scope of application, examines some new techniques for acquiring data from repeat photography, and demonstrates that this remains a valuable and cost-effective means for monitoring future changes, particularly in developing countries.
A product of the USGS’ project on landscape change in the southwestern United States, based in Tucson, the book was edited Robert H. Webb, hydrologist; Diane E. Boyer, photo archivist; and Raymond M. Turner, botanist. Published by Island Press, it includes contributions by several other USGS scientists as well as other practitioners of repeat photography from around the world.
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Coal-tar-based pavement sealant is the largest source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in 40 urban lakes studied by the U.S. Geological Survey.
PAHs are an environmental health concern because several are probable human carcinogens, they are toxic to fish and other aquatic life, and their concentrations have been increasing in urban lakes in recent decades.
Coal-tar-based pavement sealant is the black, shiny substance sprayed or painted on many parking lots, driveways, and playgrounds. USGS scientists evaluated the contribution of PAHs from many different sources to lakes in cities from Anchorage, Alaska, to Orlando, Fla. The full report can be found in the journal Science of the Total Environment.
USGS scientists collected sediment cores from 40 lakes, analyzed the cores for PAHs, and determined the contribution of PAHs from many different sources using a chemical mass-balance model. On average, coal-tar-based sealcoat accounted for one-half of all PAHs in the lakes, while vehicle-related sources accounted for about one-quarter. Lakes with a large contribution of PAHs from sealcoat tended to have high PAH concentrations, in many cases at levels that can be harmful to aquatic life. Analysis of historical trends in PAH sources to a subset of the lakes indicates that sealcoat use since the 1960s is the primary cause of increases in PAH concentrations.
“These findings represent a significant advance in our understanding of the sources of these contaminants in streams and lakes,” said USGS scientist Peter Van Metre. “Identifying where contaminants are coming from is the first step in designing effective management strategies.”
Coal tar is made up of at least 50 percent PAHs. Pavement sealants that contain coal tar, therefore, have extremely high levels of PAHs compared to other PAH sources such as vehicle emissions, used motor oil, and tire particles. Small particles of sealcoat are worn off of the surface relatively rapidly, especially in areas of high traffic, and are transported from parking lots and driveways to streams and lakes by storm runoff. Manufacturers recommend resealing surfaces every three to five years. Runoff isn’t the only path by which PAHs are leaving parking lots. A recent USGS study found that use of coal-tar-based sealcoat on parking lots was associated with elevated concentrations of PAHs in house dust.
Sealcoat products are widely used in the U.S., both commercially and by homeowners. The products are commonly applied to commercial parking lots (including strip malls, schools, churches and shopping centers), residential driveways, apartment complexes and playgrounds. The City of Austin, Texas estimates that before a ban on use of coal-tar-based sealcoat in 2006, about 600,000 gallons of sealcoat were applied every year in the city.
Two kinds of sealcoat products are widely used: coal-tar-emulsion based and asphalt-emulsion based. Consumers can determine whether a product contains coal tar by reading the label or asking the company hired to do the pavement application. The coal-tar products have PAH levels about 1,000 times higher than the asphalt products. National use numbers are not available; however, previous research suggests that asphalt-based sealcoat is more commonly used on the West Coast and coal-tar based sealcoat is more commonly used in the Midwest, the South, and the East. The results of the lake study reflect this east-west difference. For example, sealcoat contributes over 80 percent of PAHs in Lake Anne, Va., and PAH concentrations there are about twenty times higher than in Decker Lake, Utah, even though the areas have similar population density and level of urban development. Furthermore, PAH levels in pavement dust from sealcoated parking lots in Va. are about 1,000 times higher than those from sealed parking lots in Utah.
Many coastal wetlands worldwide — including several on the U.S. Atlantic coast — may be more sensitive than previously thought to climate change and sea-level rise projections for the 21st century.
U.S. Geological Survey scientists made this conclusion from an international research modeling effort published today in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. Scientists identified conditions under which coastal wetlands could survive rising sea level.
Using a rapid sea-level rise scenario, most coastal wetlands worldwide will disappear near the end of the 21st century. In contrast, under the slow sea-level rise projection, wetlands with low sediment availability and low tidal ranges are vulnerable and may drown. However, in the slow sea-level rise projection, wetlands with higher sediment availability would be more likely to survive.
Several coastal marshes along the east coast of the United States, for example, have limited sediment supplies and are likely to disappear this century. Vulnerable east coast marshes include the Plum Island Estuary (the largest estuary in New England) and coastal wetlands in North Carolina’s Albemarle-Pamlico Sound (the second-largest estuary in the United States).
“Accurate information about the adaptability of coastal wetlands to accelerations in sea-level rise, such as that reported in this study, helps narrow the uncertainties associated with their disappearance,” said USGS scientist Glenn Guntenspergen, an author of this report. “This research is essential for allowing decision makers to best manage local tradeoffs between economic and conservation concerns.”
“Previous assessments of coastal wetland responses to sea-level rise have been constrained because they did not consider the ability of wetlands to naturally modify their physical environment for adaptation,” said USGS scientist Matt Kirwan, an author of this report. “Failure to incorporate the interactions of inundation, vegetation and sedimentation in wetlands limits the usefulness of past assessments.”
USGS scientists specifically identified the sediment levels and tidal ranges (difference between high and low tide) necessary for marshes to survive sea-level rise. As water floods a wetland and flows through its vegetation, sediment is carried from upstream and deposited on the wetland’s surface, allowing it to gain elevation. High tidal ranges allow for better sediment delivery, and the higher sediment concentrations in the water allow wetlands to build more elevation.
Coastal wetlands provide critical services such as absorbing energy from coastal storms, preserving shorelines, protecting human populations and infrastructure, supporting commercial seafood harvests, absorbing pollutants and serving as critical habitat for migratory bird populations. These resources and services will be threatened as sea-level rise inundates wetlands.
The rapid sea-level rise scenario used as the basis for this study is accredited to Stefan Rahmstorf at Potsdam University, one of the contributing authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report. The slow sea-level rise projection is from the A1B scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report.
The study, “Limits on the Adaptability of Coastal Marshes to Rising Sea-Level,” can be found online. Any journalists who are not registered with AGU and cannot view this article can contact USGS to have a copy emailed to them.
Photos accompanying this release can be found at http://gallery.usgs.gov/tags/NR2010_12_01
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Approximately 13 million metric tons of rare earth elements (REE) exist within known deposits in the United States, according to the first-ever nationwide estimate of these elements by the U.S. Geological Survey.Related Podcasts
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This estimate of domestic rare earth deposits is part of a larger report that includes a review of global sources for REE, information on known deposits that might provide domestic sources of REE in the future, and geologic information crucial for studies of the availability of REE to U.S. industry.
The report describes significant deposits of REE in 14 states, with the largest known REE deposits at Mountain Pass, Calif.; Bokan Mountain, Alaska; and the Bear Lodge Mountains, Wyo. The Mountain Pass mine produced REE until it closed in 2002. Additional states with known REE deposits include Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
“This is the first detailed assessment of rare earth elements for the entire nation, describing deposits throughout the United States,” commented USGS Director Marcia McNutt, Ph.D. “It will be very important, both to policy-makers and industry, and it reinforces the value of our efforts to maintain accurate, independent information on our nation’s natural resources. Although many of these deposits have yet to be proven, at recent domestic consumption rates of about 10,000 metric tons annually, the US deposits have the potential to meet our needs for years to come."
REE are a group of 16 metallic elements with similar properties and structures that are essential in the manufacture of a diverse and expanding array of high-technology applications. Despite their name, they are relatively common within the earth’s crust, but because of their geochemical properties, they are not often found in economically exploitable concentrations.
Hard-rock deposits yield the most economically exploitable concentrations of REE. USGS researchers also analyzed two other types of REE deposits: placer and phosphorite deposits. Placer deposits are alluvial formations of sandy sediments, which often contain concentrations of heavy, dense minerals, some containing REE. Phosphorite deposits, which mostly occur in the southeastern U.S., contain large amounts of phosphate-bearing minerals. These phosphates can yield yttrium and lanthanum, which are also REE.
Ninety-six percent of REE produced globally now comes from China. New REE mines are being developed in Australia, and projects exploring the feasibility of economically developing additional REE deposits are under way in the United States, Australia, and Canada; successful completion of these projects could help meet increasing demand for REE, the report said.
REE are important ingredients in high-strength magnets, metal alloys for batteries and light-weight structures, and phosphors. These are essential components for many current and emerging alternative energy technologies, such as electric vehicles, photo-voltaic cells, energy-efficient lighting, and wind power. REEs are also critical for a number of key defense applications.
This report is part of a larger, Department of Defense-funded study of how the United States, and the Department of Defense in particular, use REE, as well as the status and security of domestic and global supply chains. In addition, the USGS National Minerals Information Center maintains statistics on global mineral production, trade, and resources that include rare earth elements.
The new USGS report, which provides an overview of domestic REE resources and possibilities for utilizing those resources, is available on line at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2010/5220. To learn more about REE, please visit the National Minerals Information Center’s REE webpage.
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and NASA have presented the 2010 William T. Pecora Award to Marvin E. Bauer of the University of Minnesota for his pioneering work in remote sensing of natural resources. Dr. Bauer received the award today at the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing meeting in Orlando, Fla.
The annual award has been presented jointly by the two agencies since 1974 in memory of Dr. William T. Pecora, whose early vision and support helped establish the Landsat satellite program. Dr. Pecora was Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, 1965-71, and later served as DOI Undersecretary until his death in 1972.
Dr. Bauer received the individual Pecora award for his contributions to remote-sensing education, science and applications. Early in his career he helped to define the role of remote sensing for agriculture and forestry while a research agronomist at the Purdue University Laboratory for Applications of Remote Sensing. He made significant contributions to NASA’s Large Area Crop Inventory Experiment that used data from Landsat satellites to monitor croplands.
After moving to the University of Minnesota in the 1980s, Dr. Bauer continued his research in agricultural remote sensing but also investigated forestry applications. His recent work has concentrated on monitoring lake water quality, impervious surface mapping, land cover classification, and change detection. Dr. Bauer is currently director of the university’s Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Laboratory.
Dr. Bauer has served for 30 years as editor-in-chief of the journal Remote Sensing of Environment. He is a recipient of the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal in recognition of his outstanding scientific contributions over the past 25 years to NASA's terrestrial remote sensing programs.
The Pecora award was presented by Brad Doorn of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. and, representing DOI, Thomas Loveland of the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science Center, Sioux Falls, S.D.
For most of us, deserts, mountains, river valleys, coastlines—even dry lakebeds—are familiar features of the Earth’s landscape. For earth scientists, they are the focus of considerable research. But viewed from the unconventional perspective of space, Earth’s geographic attributes can also be surprisingly beautiful. Today, the U.S. Geological Survey is unveiling the Earth as Art 3 collection, the latest set of Landsat satellite images selected for their artistic quality.
“While studying satellite imagery taken nearly 450 miles above the Earth’s surface, USGS researchers recognized that some remarkable images went beyond scientific value and inspired their imagination,” said Matt Larsen, USGS Associate Director for Climate and Land Use Change. “The collected images are authentic and original in the truest sense. These magnificently engaging portraits of Earth encourage us all to learn more about our complex world.”
The Earth as Art 3 exhibit is the third in the series of award-winning USGS and NASA images now available online. Taken from the Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 satellites, Earth as Art 3 depicts an intricate beauty in Earth’s natural patterns. Instead of paint, the medium for this collection is light. Satellite sensors don’t see light as the human eye does; sensors see the Earth in bands of red, green, blue, and infrared. As these different bands are combined into a single image, fascinating patterns, colors, and shapes emerge.
Forty satellite images were selected for the exhibit based solely on their aesthetic appeal. Cloud formations, coastlines, mountain ranges, islands, deltas, glaciers, and rivers seen from space take on patterns resembling abstract art with their striking textures and brilliant colors. Earth as Art 3 follows the Earth as Art 1 and Earth as Art 2 exhibits which have been shown in the Library of Congress, in the halls of Capitol Hill, and in museums and art centers around the country.
The announcement of the Earth as Art 3 collection coincides with Geography Awareness Week 2010. Launched in 1987 by presidential proclamation, Geography Awareness Week is held the third week in November as an opportunity for families and schools to engage in fun, educational experiences while drawing attention to the importance of geographic understanding in ensuring our nation's economic competitiveness, national security, environmental sustainability, and the livability of our communities in the 21st century.
For more information about the Earth as Art series, please visit the EROS Image Gallery.
MENLO PARK, Calif. – Marine life in the San Francisco Bay has flourished over the past decade in concert with a large-scale climatic shift originating far out in the Pacific Ocean, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study. The study challenges the established principle that water quality in bays and estuaries is driven primarily by human-caused changes in the surrounding landscape.
By documenting changes in two dominant climatic patterns of the north Pacific basin and looking at correlations with population abundances of marine life over the last 30 years, scientists have linked broader changes in climate to local manifestations including record-high abundances of marine species in San Francisco Bay.
“While some native species of fish are near extinction in the upstream Delta, bottom fish, crabs and shrimp are thriving in the marine waters of the bay,” said Jim Cloern, research ecologist with the USGS. “Discovery that the bay’s biological communities are linked to climate patterns thousands of miles offshore is essential information for environmental managers.”
Revealed by three decades of observation, scientists from USGS, the California Department of Fish and Game, NOAA and five universities found that one particular wind pattern over the Pacific Ocean developed in 1999 and has persisted through most of the 2000s. This wind pattern changed ocean currents and upwelling to establish a coastal habitat that promotes population growth of flatfish, crabs and shrimp species that migrate into estuaries such as San Francisco Bay.
The climatic patterns, known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and North Pacific Gyre Oscillation, appear to be at the top of a domino-like effect that strongly influences the coastal ocean, which in turn influences biological communities, which ultimately affects water quality in the San Francisco Bay.
USGS scientists have continually monitored the San Francisco Bay since 1968, providing hundreds of scientific articles to draw from for this study.
The study “Biological communities in San Francisco Bay track large-scale climate forcing over the North Pacific” is available today in this month’s issue of Geophysical Research Letters.