USGS News

Earthquake Plot Thickens in Pacific Northwest

Summary: Nearly forgotten research from decades ago complicates the task of quantifying earthquake hazards in the Pacific Northwest, according to a new report from scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Washington, and other universities

Contact Information:

Leslie  Gordon, USGS ( Phone: 650-329-4006 ); Hannah Hickey, UW ( Phone: 206-543-2580 );



SEATTLE, Wash. — Nearly forgotten research from decades ago complicates the task of quantifying earthquake hazards in the Pacific Northwest, according to a new report from scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Washington, and other universities.

The report focuses on the Cascadia subduction zone—a giant active fault that slants eastward beneath the Pacific coast of southern British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and northern California. Geologic studies in the past three decades have provided increasingly specific estimates of Cascadia earthquake sizes and repeat times. The estimates affect public safety through seismic provisions in building design and tsunami limits on evacuation maps.

The new report does not question whether the Cascadia subduction zone repeatedly produces enormous earthquakes. What the report asks instead is how much geologists can say, with confidence, about the history of those earthquake going back thousands of years. How big was each of the earthquakes? Did they occur twice as often along one part of the subduction zone as another? The report concludes that extracting such details from deep-sea sediments is more complicated than was previously thought.

The report reappraises sediment cores that were collected near the foot of the continental slope offshore Washington. A subset of cores from this area underpins influential estimates of Cascadia earthquake size and recurrence that were published in 2012. The new report points to confounding evidence from a much larger suite of cores that were collected and first analyzed by University of Washington and Oregon State University scientists in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Those Nixon-era cores were the work of researchers unconcerned with earthquakes. Plate tectonics was then such a new idea that scientists were just beginning to recognize the Cascadia subduction zone as a tectonic plate boundary. The sediment cores were collected to learn about turbidites—beds of sand and mud laid down by bottom-hugging, sediment-driven currents that infrequently emerged from submarine canyons onto the deep ocean floor. Not until a 1990 report would turbidites be reinterpreted as clues to Cascadia earthquake history.

“Rethinking turbidite paleoseismology along the Cascadia subduction zone” is freely available online in Geology, a leading Earth-science journal. The authors are Brian Atwater (U.S. Geological Survey), Bobb Carson (Lehigh University), Gary Griggs (University of California Santa Cruz), and Paul Johnson and Marie Salmi (University of Washington).

Nesting Gulf Sea Turtles Feed in Waters Filled With Threats

Summary: Nesting loggerhead sea turtles in the northern Gulf of Mexico feed among areas that were oiled by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill and where human activities occur, several of which are known to pose threats to sea turtles, a new U.S Geological study showed

Contact Information:

Kristen Hart ( Phone: 954-650-0336 ); Christian Quintero ( Phone: 813-498-5019 );



DAVIE, Fla.— Nesting loggerhead sea turtles in the northern Gulf of Mexico feed among areas that were oiled by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill and where human activities occur, several of which are known to pose threats to sea turtles, a new U.S Geological study showed.

The feeding areas for 10 turtles overlapped with an area that experienced surface oiling during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. These sites, and others, also overlapped with areas trawled by commercial fishing operations and used for oil and gas extraction.

The study, which is the largest to date on Northern Gulf loggerheads, examined 59 nesting females, which scientists believe could be 15 percent of the breeding females in the Northern Gulf of Mexico—a small and declining subpopulation of loggerheads that is federally classified as threatened.

“With such a large sample of the nesting females, we’re finally getting the big picture of when, where and how females that nest in the northern Gulf of Mexico rely on off-shore waters to survive. This information is critical for halting and reversing their declines,” said USGS research ecologist Kristen Hart, the lead author of the study.

The study began in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill as a means to better understand how sea turtles used habitat in the Northern Gulf of Mexico by analyzing the movements of turtles tagged between 2010 and 2013.

All of the turtles tracked in the study remained in the Gulf of Mexico to feed, and a third remained in the northern part of the Gulf. This differs from reports in other parts of the world, where some loggerheads have been shown to migrate across ocean basins after nesting.

“These results show how important the Gulf of Mexico is to this group of loggerheads – they stay here throughout the year, not just during the nesting season,” said USGS research biologist Meg Lamont, a co-author on the study.

The study also revealed specific parts of the Gulf where females feed and spend most of their time.  It is believed that an individual turtle will return to these specific feeding areas throughout her life, a trait scientists call “foraging site fidelity.”

“With this study, we essentially discovered their homes – the waters where these loggerheads spend most of the year,” Lamont said. “People think of nesting beaches as their homes, but they don’t really spend much time there. They only migrate to the nesting beaches to lay eggs. The rest of their adult life is spent foraging at sea.”

The next step for USGS scientists Hart and Lamont is to track these nesting Gulf loggerheads long enough to test whether they do indeed re-visit the same feeding areas throughout their life, as they suspect. This would help pinpoint important feeding sites of long-term and high traffic use – in essence, their home ranges.

“Locating long-term feeding areas will really open up new possibilities for the conservation and management of these amazing creatures,” said Hart.

The study, “Migration, foraging, and residency patterns for Northern Gulf of Mexico loggerheads: Implications of local threats and international movements” was recently published in the journal PLOS ONE. 

New York Storm - Tide Sensor Network Strengthened

Summary: Vital coastal storm-tide information needed to help guide storm response efforts following major storms affecting New York will be more accessible than ever due to a new monitoring network the U.S. Geological Survey is currently building USGS readying for next big storm

Contact Information:

Ron Busciolano ( Phone: 631-736-0783 x104 ); Christian Quintero ( Phone: 813-498-5019 );



Reporters: Please contact Ron Busciolano from the New York Water Science Center if you’re interested in accompanying a USGS storm team while it installs the New York portion of this network.

CORAM, N.Y.—Vital coastal storm-tide information needed to help guide storm response efforts following major storms affecting New York will be more accessible than ever due to a new monitoring network the U.S. Geological Survey is currently building.  

A team from the USGS New York Water Science Center is surveying 124 locations in the state, determining their elevations and installing receiving brackets at those sites that will hold a network of sophisticated sensors that can be installed days-to-hours before a storm makes landfall. The network, which will include 763 locations from Virginia to Maine, will dramatically decrease the time it takes to provide FEMA, NOAA and other agencies information they need to help tailor their response and recovery efforts.

“The new network of pre-positioned receiving brackets and follow-on sensors is going to enable the USGS to collect more information on how storm tides are impacting communities and deliver it to emergency managers and responders more quickly,” said Robert Mason, a hydrologist with the USGS. “The information will enable the responders to better track flood impacts, assess flood damage, and rush the right assistance to flooded communities.”

Installing storm-tide sensors to track and measure storm tide inundation is not new to the USGS; they were first deployed for Hurricane Rita in 2005. What makes the new network unique is the speed at which the processed information from the sensors will now be available to anyone who needs it.

In past years, the effort involved waiting until there was a fair degree of confidence on where the storm was most likely to make landfall, then quickly deploying numerous crews to install the sensors. The number of miles of coastline the sensors were deployed, and number of sensors installed, depended on the area forecasted to receive the greatest surge from the storm.

Following the storm, crews returned to the sites, not just to retrieve the sensor, but to determine the sensor’s elevation and conduct GPS surveys to determine the storm-tide elevation and flood extent. Each survey required multiple hours, and with numerous sites to survey, it could take months before the report was complete.

With the new network of pre-surveyed locations with pre-installed brackets, the time required to install and retrieve the sensors and process the data will be cut to days.

During a storm these sensors record the precise time a storm tide arrives, the depth of the storm tide throughout the event, the height and frequency of storm-driven waves, the change in inland and ocean water levels during the storm, and the time for the water to recede.

The information is not only of immediate use to agencies responding to storm surge and coastal flooding, it helps scientists develop more accurate storm-tide models, leading to better predictions of flooding ahead of storms and better simulations of long-term, future flood patterns and trends. This information in turn will help engineers as they design flood hardened structures and assess the damage reducing impacts of existing or engineered dunes and wetlands. It will help community leaders prepare their communities for future storm-tide flooding, develop better land use practices and update building codes.  Ultimately, the information helps those building more resilient coastal communities.

The new USGS network configuration also includes locations that cross selected barrier islands, wetlands, and urban areas that will enable scientists to measure the effect of topography, vegetation, and structures on wave height and frequency – important factors that dramatically influence storm-tide heights and that are at the center of the National debate about the appropriate role of coastal wetlands in flood mitigation.

In addition to surveying and installing brackets for storm-tide sensors, the USGS is also doing the same for a series of rapid deployment gauges.  These real-time gauges, used to help forecast floods and coordinate flood-response activities, are installed at critical locations and provide data via the web to local, state and federal emergency-response agencies.

The bracket installations and site surveys should be complete by late summer.

In addition to monitoring the coastal impact of storms, the USGS continuously monitors water levels and discharge at more than 7,500 stream gauges across the Nation on a real-time basis. Information on water levels throughout the country can be accessed at the USGS Current Streamflow Conditions web page. The USGS also has a “push” system called WaterAlert that texts or emails real-time information to subscribers on when waters are rising in rivers or streams near them.

Rhode Island Storm - Tide Sensor Network Strengthened

Summary: Vital coastal storm-tide information needed to help guide storm response efforts following major storms affecting Rhode Island will be more accessible than ever due to a new monitoring network the U.S. Geological Survey is currently building USGS readying for next big storm

Contact Information:

Richard  Verdi ( Phone: 508-490-5064 ); Christian Quintero ( Phone: 813-498-5019 );



Reporters: Please contact Richard Verdi, 508-490-5064 from the New England Water Science Center if you’re interested in accompanying a USGS storm team while it installs the Rhode Island portion of this network.

Northborough, Massachusetts—Vital coastal storm-tide information needed to help guide storm response efforts following major storms affecting Rhode Island will be more accessible than ever due to a new monitoring network the U.S. Geological Survey is currently building.  

A team from the USGS New England Water Science Center is surveying 43 locations in the state, determining their elevations and installing receiving brackets at those sites that will hold a network of sophisticated sensors that can be installed days-to-hours before a storm makes landfall. The network, which will include 763 locations from Virginia to Maine, will dramatically decrease the time it takes to provide FEMA, NOAA and other agencies information they need to help tailor their response and recovery efforts.

“The new network of pre-positioned receiving brackets and follow-on sensors is going to enable the USGS to collect more information on how storm tides are impacting communities and deliver it to emergency managers and responders more quickly,” said Robert Mason, a hydrologist with the USGS. “The information will enable the responders to better track flood impacts, assess flood damage, and rush the right assistance to flooded communities.”

Installing storm-tide sensors to track and measure storm tide inundation is not new to the USGS; they were first deployed for Hurricane Rita in 2005. What makes the new network unique is the speed at which the processed information from the sensors will now be available to anyone who needs it.

In past years, the effort involved waiting until there was a fair degree of confidence on where the storm was most likely to make landfall, then quickly deploying numerous crews to install the sensors. The number of miles of coastline the sensors were deployed, and number of sensors installed, depended on the area forecasted to receive the greatest surge from the storm.

Following the storm, crews returned to the sites, not just to retrieve the sensor, but also to determine the sensor’s elevation and conduct GPS surveys to determine the storm-tide elevation and flood extent. Each survey required multiple hours, and with numerous sites to survey, it could take months before the report was complete.

With the new network of pre-surveyed locations with pre-installed brackets, the time required to install and retrieve the sensors and process the data will be cut to days.

During a storm these sensors record the precise time a storm tide arrives, the depth of the storm tide throughout the event, the height and frequency of storm-driven waves, the change in inland and ocean water levels during the storm, and the time for the water to recede.

The information is not only of immediate use to agencies responding to storm surge and coastal flooding, it helps scientists develop more accurate storm-tide models, leading to better predictions of flooding ahead of storms and better simulations of long-term, future flood patterns and trends. This information in turn will help engineers as they design flood hardened structures and assess the damage reducing impacts of existing or engineered dunes and wetlands. It will help community leaders prepare their communities for future storm-tide flooding, develop better land use practices and update building codes. Ultimately, the information helps those building more resilient coastal communities.

The new USGS network configuration also includes locations that cross selected barrier islands, wetlands, and urban areas that will enable scientists to measure the effect of topography, vegetation, and structures on wave height and frequency – important factors that dramatically influence storm-tide heights and that are at the center of the National debate about the appropriate role of coastal wetlands in flood mitigation.

In addition to surveying and installing brackets for storm-tide sensors, the USGS is also doing the same for a series of rapid deployment gauges. These real-time gauges, used to help forecast floods and coordinate flood-response activities, are installed at critical locations and provide data via the web to local, state and federal emergency-response agencies.

The bracket installations and site surveys should be complete by late summer.

In addition to monitoring the coastal impact of storms, the USGS continuously monitors water levels and discharge at more than 7,500 stream gauges across the Nation on a real-time basis. Information on water levels throughout the country can be accessed at the USGS Current Streamflow Conditions web page. The USGS also has a “push” system called WaterAlert that texts or emails real-time information to subscribers on when waters are rising in rivers or streams near them.

New Hampshire Storm - Tide Sensor Network Strengthened

Summary: Vital coastal storm-tide information needed to help guide storm response efforts following major storms affecting New Hampshire will be more accessible than ever due to a new monitoring network the U.S. Geological Survey is currently building USGS readying for next big storm

Contact Information:

Richard  Verdi ( Phone: 508-490-5064 ); Christian Quintero ( Phone: 813-498-5019 );



Reporters: Please contact Richard Verdi, 508-490-5064 from the New England Water Science Center if you’re interested in accompanying a USGS storm team while it installs the New Hampshire portion of this network.

PEMBROKE, N.H.—Vital coastal storm-tide information needed to help guide storm response efforts following major storms affecting New Hampshire will be more accessible than ever due to a new monitoring network the U.S. Geological Survey is currently building.  

A team from the USGS New England Water Science Center is surveying 3 locations in the state, determining their elevations and installing receiving brackets at those sites that will hold a network of sophisticated sensors that can be installed days-to-hours before a storm makes landfall. The network, which will include 763 locations from Virginia to Maine, will dramatically decrease the time it takes to provide FEMA, NOAA and other agencies information they need to help tailor their response and recovery efforts.

“The new network of pre-positioned receiving brackets and follow-on sensors is going to enable the USGS to collect more information on how storm tides are impacting communities and deliver it to emergency managers and responders more quickly,” said Robert Mason, a hydrologist with the USGS. “The information will enable the responders to better track flood impacts, assess flood damage, and rush the right assistance to flooded communities.”

Installing storm-tide sensors to track and measure storm tide inundation is not new to the USGS; they were first deployed for Hurricane Rita in 2005. What makes the new network unique is the speed at which the processed information from the sensors will now be available to anyone who needs it.

In past years, the effort involved waiting until there was a fair degree of confidence on where the storm was most likely to make landfall, then quickly deploying numerous crews to install the sensors. The number of miles of coastline the sensors were deployed, and number of sensors installed, depended on the area forecasted to receive the greatest surge from the storm.

Following the storm, crews returned to the sites, not just to retrieve the sensor, but also to determine the sensor’s elevation and conduct GPS surveys to determine the storm-tide elevation and flood extent. Each survey required multiple hours, and with numerous sites to survey, it could take months before the report was complete.

With the new network of pre-surveyed locations with pre-installed brackets, the time required to install and retrieve the sensors and process the data will be cut to days.

During a storm these sensors record the precise time a storm tide arrives, the depth of the storm tide throughout the event, the height and frequency of storm-driven waves, the change in inland and ocean water levels during the storm, and the time for the water to recede.

The information is not only of immediate use to agencies responding to storm surge and coastal flooding, it helps scientists develop more accurate storm-tide models, leading to better predictions of flooding ahead of storms and better simulations of long-term, future flood patterns and trends. This information in turn will help engineers as they design flood hardened structures and assess the damage reducing impacts of existing or engineered dunes and wetlands. It will help community leaders prepare their communities for future storm-tide flooding, develop better land use practices and update building codes. Ultimately, the information helps those building more resilient coastal communities.

The new USGS network configuration also includes locations that cross selected barrier islands, wetlands, and urban areas that will enable scientists to measure the effect of topography, vegetation, and structures on wave height and frequency – important factors that dramatically influence storm-tide heights and that are at the center of the National debate about the appropriate role of coastal wetlands in flood mitigation.

In addition to surveying and installing brackets for storm-tide sensors, the USGS is also doing the same for a series of rapid deployment gauges. These real-time gauges, used to help forecast floods and coordinate flood-response activities, are installed at critical locations and provide data via the web to local, state and federal emergency-response agencies.

The bracket installations and site surveys should be complete by late summer.

In addition to monitoring the coastal impact of storms, the USGS continuously monitors water levels and discharge at more than 7,500 stream gauges across the Nation on a real-time basis. Information on water levels throughout the country can be accessed at the USGS Current Streamflow Conditions web page. The USGS also has a “push” system called WaterAlert that texts or emails real-time information to subscribers on when waters are rising in rivers or streams near them.

Massachusetts Storm - Tide Sensor Network Strengthened

Summary: Vital coastal storm-tide information needed to help guide storm response efforts following major storms affecting Massachusetts will be more accessible than ever due to a new monitoring network the U.S. Geological Survey is currently building USGS readying for next big storm

Contact Information:

Richard  Verdi ( Phone: 508-490-5064 ); Christian Quintero ( Phone: 813-498-5019 );



Reporters: Please contact Richard Verdi, 508-490-5064 from the New England Water Science Center if you’re interested in accompanying a USGS storm team while it installs the Massachusetts portion of this network.

NORTHBOROUGH, Mass.—Vital coastal storm-tide information needed to help guide storm response efforts following major storms affecting Massachusetts will be more accessible than ever due to a new monitoring network the U.S. Geological Survey is currently building.  

A team from the USGS New England Water Science Center is surveying 103 locations in the state, determining their elevations and installing receiving brackets at those sites that will hold a network of sophisticated sensors that can be installed days-to-hours before a storm makes landfall. The network, which will include 763 locations from Virginia to Maine, will dramatically decrease the time it takes to provide FEMA, NOAA and other agencies information they need to help tailor their response and recovery efforts.

“The new network of pre-positioned receiving brackets and follow-on sensors is going to enable the USGS to collect more information on how storm tides are impacting communities and deliver it to emergency managers and responders more quickly,” said Robert Mason, a hydrologist with the USGS. “The information will enable the responders to better track flood impacts, assess flood damage, and rush the right assistance to flooded communities.”

Installing storm-tide sensors to track and measure storm tide inundation is not new to the USGS; they were first deployed for Hurricane Rita in 2005. What makes the new network unique is the speed at which the processed information from the sensors will now be available to anyone who needs it.

In past years, the effort involved waiting until there was a fair degree of confidence on where the storm was most likely to make landfall, then quickly deploying numerous crews to install the sensors.  The number of miles of coastline the sensors were deployed, and number of sensors installed, depended on the area forecasted to receive the greatest surge from the storm.

Following the storm, crews returned to the sites, not just to retrieve the sensor, but also to determine the sensor’s elevation and conduct GPS surveys to determine the storm-tide elevation and flood extent. Each survey required multiple hours, and with numerous sites to survey, it could take months before the report was complete.

With the new network of pre-surveyed locations with pre-installed brackets, the time required to install and retrieve the sensors and process the data will be cut to days.

During a storm these sensors record the precise time a storm tide arrives, the depth of the storm tide throughout the event, the height and frequency of storm-driven waves, the change in inland and ocean water levels during the storm, and the time for the water to recede.

The information is not only of immediate use to agencies responding to storm surge and coastal flooding, it helps scientists develop more accurate storm-tide models, leading to better predictions of flooding ahead of storms and better simulations of long-term, future flood patterns and trends. This information in turn will help engineers as they design flood hardened structures and assess the damage reducing impacts of existing or engineered dunes and wetlands. It will help community leaders prepare their communities for future storm-tide flooding, develop better land use practices and update building codes. Ultimately, the information helps those building more resilient coastal communities.

The new USGS network configuration also includes locations that cross selected barrier islands, wetlands, and urban areas that will enable scientists to measure the effect of topography, vegetation, and structures on wave height and frequency – important factors that dramatically influence storm-tide heights and that are at the center of the National debate about the appropriate role of coastal wetlands in flood mitigation.

In addition to surveying and installing brackets for storm-tide sensors, the USGS is also doing the same for a series of rapid deployment gauges.  These real-time gauges, used to help forecast floods and coordinate flood-response activities, are installed at critical locations and provide data via the web to local, state and federal emergency-response agencies.

The bracket installations and site surveys should be complete by late summer.

In addition to monitoring the coastal impact of storms, the USGS continuously monitors water levels and discharge at more than 7,500 stream gauges across the Nation on a real-time basis. Information on water levels throughout the country can be accessed at the USGS Current Streamflow Conditions web page. The USGS also has a “push” system called WaterAlert that texts or emails real-time information to subscribers on when waters are rising in rivers or streams near them.

Maine Storm - Tide Sensor Network Strengthened

Summary: Vital coastal storm-tide information needed to help guide storm response efforts following major storms affecting Maine will be more accessible than ever due to a new monitoring network the U.S. Geological Survey is currently building USGS readying for next big storm

Contact Information:

Richard  Verdi ( Phone: 508-490-5064 ); Christian Quintero ( Phone: 813-498-5019 );



Reporters: Please contact Richard Verdi, 508-490-5064 from the New England Water Science Center if you’re interested in accompanying a USGS storm team while it installs Maine portion of this network.

AUGUSTA, Maine—Vital coastal storm-tide information needed to help guide storm response efforts following major storms affecting Maine will be more accessible than ever due to a new monitoring network the U.S. Geological Survey is currently building.  

A team from the USGS New England Water Science Center is surveying 25 locations in the state, determining their elevations and installing receiving brackets at those sites that will hold a network of sophisticated sensors that can be installed days-to-hours before a storm makes landfall. The network, which will include 763 locations from Virginia to Maine, will dramatically decrease the time it takes to provide FEMA, NOAA and other agencies information they need to help tailor their response and recovery efforts.

“The new network of pre-positioned receiving brackets and follow-on sensors is going to enable the USGS to collect more information on how storm tides are impacting communities and deliver it to emergency managers and responders more quickly,” said Robert Mason, a hydrologist with the USGS. “The information will enable the responders to better track flood impacts, assess flood damage, and rush the right assistance to flooded communities.”

Installing storm-tide sensors to track and measure storm tide inundation is not new to the USGS; they were first deployed for Hurricane Rita in 2005. What makes the new network unique is the speed at which the processed information from the sensors will now be available to anyone who needs it.

In past years, the effort involved waiting until there was a fair degree of confidence on where the storm was most likely to make landfall, then quickly deploying numerous crews to install the sensors. The number of miles of coastline the sensors were deployed, and number of sensors installed, depended on the area forecasted to receive the greatest surge from the storm.

Following the storm, crews returned to the sites, not just to retrieve the sensor, but also to determine the sensor’s elevation and conduct GPS surveys to determine the storm-tide elevation and flood extent. Each survey required multiple hours, and with numerous sites to survey, it could take months before the report was complete.

With the new network of pre-surveyed locations with pre-installed brackets, the time required to install and retrieve the sensors and process the data will be cut to days.

During a storm these sensors record the precise time a storm tide arrives, the depth of the storm tide throughout the event, the height and frequency of storm-driven waves, the change in inland and ocean water levels during the storm, and the time for the water to recede.

The information is not only of immediate use to agencies responding to storm surge and coastal flooding, it helps scientists develop more accurate storm-tide models, leading to better predictions of flooding ahead of storms and better simulations of long-term, future flood patterns and trends. This information in turn will help engineers as they design flood hardened structures and assess the damage reducing impacts of existing or engineered dunes and wetlands. It will help community leaders prepare their communities for future storm-tide flooding, develop better land use practices and update building codes. Ultimately, the information helps those building more resilient coastal communities.

The new USGS network configuration also includes locations that cross selected barrier islands, wetlands, and urban areas that will enable scientists to measure the effect of topography, vegetation, and structures on wave height and frequency – important factors that dramatically influence storm-tide heights and that are at the center of the National debate about the appropriate role of coastal wetlands in flood mitigation.

In addition to surveying and installing brackets for storm-tide sensors, the USGS is also doing the same for a series of rapid deployment gauges. These real-time gauges, used to help forecast floods and coordinate flood-response activities, are installed at critical locations and provide data via the web to local, state and federal emergency-response agencies.

The bracket installations and site surveys should be complete by late summer.

In addition to monitoring the coastal impact of storms, the USGS continuously monitors water levels and discharge at more than 7,500 stream gauges across the Nation on a real-time basis. Information on water levels throughout the country can be accessed at the USGS Current Streamflow Conditions web page. The USGS also has a “push” system called WaterAlert that texts or emails real-time information to subscribers on when waters are rising in rivers or streams near them.

Connecticut Storm - Tide Sensor Network Strengthened

Summary: Vital coastal storm-tide information needed to help guide storm response efforts following major storms affecting Connecticut will be more accessible than ever due to a new monitoring network the U.S. Geological Survey is currently building USGS readying for next big storm

Contact Information:

Richard Verdi ( Phone: 508-490-5064 ); Christian Quintero ( Phone: 813-498-5019 );



Reporters: Please contact Richard Verdi, 508-490-5064 from the New England Water Science Center if you’re interested in accompanying a USGS storm team while it installs the Connecticut portion of this network.

EAST HARTFORD, Conn.—Vital coastal storm-tide information needed to help guide storm response efforts following major storms affecting Connecticut will be more accessible than ever due to a new monitoring network the U.S. Geological Survey is currently building.  

A team from the USGS New England Water Science Center is surveying 55 locations in the state, determining their elevations and installing receiving brackets at those sites that will hold a network of sophisticated sensors that can be installed days-to-hours before a storm makes landfall. The network, which will include 763 locations from Virginia to Maine, will dramatically decrease the time it takes to provide FEMA, NOAA and other agencies information they need to help tailor their response and recovery efforts.

“The new network of pre-positioned receiving brackets and follow-on sensors is going to enable the USGS to collect more information on how storm tides are impacting communities and deliver it to emergency managers and responders more quickly,” said Robert Mason, a hydrologist with the USGS. “The information will enable the responders to better track flood impacts, assess flood damage, and rush the right assistance to flooded communities.”

Installing storm-tide sensors to track and measure storm tide inundation is not new to the USGS; they were first deployed for Hurricane Rita in 2005. What makes the new network unique is the speed at which the processed information from the sensors will now be available to anyone who needs it.

In past years, the effort involved waiting until there was a fair degree of confidence on where the storm was most likely to make landfall, then quickly deploying numerous crews to install the sensors.  The number of miles of coastline the sensors were deployed, and number of sensors installed, depended on the area forecasted to receive the greatest surge from the storm.

Following the storm, crews returned to the sites, not just to retrieve the sensor, but also to determine the sensor’s elevation and conduct GPS surveys to determine the storm-tide elevation and flood extent. Each survey required multiple hours, and with numerous sites to survey, it could take months before the report was complete.

With the new network of pre-surveyed locations with pre-installed brackets, the time required to install and retrieve the sensors and process the data will be cut to days.

During a storm these sensors record the precise time a storm tide arrives, the depth of the storm tide throughout the event, the height and frequency of storm-driven waves, the change in inland and ocean water levels during the storm, and the time for the water to recede.

The information is not only of immediate use to agencies responding to storm surge and coastal flooding, it helps scientists develop more accurate storm-tide models, leading to better predictions of flooding ahead of storms and better simulations of long-term, future flood patterns and trends. This information in turn will help engineers as they design flood hardened structures and assess the damage reducing impacts of existing or engineered dunes and wetlands. It will help community leaders prepare their communities for future storm-tide flooding, develop better land use practices and update building codes. Ultimately, the information helps those building more resilient coastal communities.

The new USGS network configuration also includes locations that cross selected barrier islands, wetlands, and urban areas that will enable scientists to measure the effect of topography, vegetation, and structures on wave height and frequency – important factors that dramatically influence storm-tide heights and that are at the center of the National debate about the appropriate role of coastal wetlands in flood mitigation.

In addition to surveying and installing brackets for storm-tide sensors, the USGS is also doing the same for a series of rapid deployment gauges.  These real-time gauges, used to help forecast floods and coordinate flood-response activities, are installed at critical locations and provide data via the web to local, state and federal emergency-response agencies.

The bracket installations and site surveys should be complete by late summer.

In addition to monitoring the coastal impact of storms, the USGS continuously monitors water levels and discharge at more than 7,500 stream gauges across the Nation on a real-time basis. Information on water levels throughout the country can be accessed at the USGS Current Streamflow Conditions web page. The USGS also has a “push” system called WaterAlert that texts or emails real-time information to subscribers on when waters are rising in rivers or streams near them.

Take a Trip to the Islands

Summary: Since August 2013, all 50 states have been available for editing with the USGS The National Map Corps (TNMCorps) volunteered geographic information project. Starting this month, TNMCorps is pleased to add the United States Virgin Islands to that list The U.S. Virgin Islands are now available for structure updates with The National Map Corps crowd-sourcing volunteers

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Erin Korris ( Phone: 303-202-4503 ); Elizabeth McCartney ( Phone: 573-308-3696 );



Since August 2013, all 50 states have been available for editing with the USGS The National Map Corps (TNMCorps) volunteered geographic information project. Starting this month, TNMCorps is pleased to add the United States Virgin Islands to that list.

Using crowd-sourcing techniques, TNMCorps encourages citizen volunteers to collect data about manmade structures in an effort to provide accurate and authoritative spatial map data for the USGS National Geospatial Program’s web-based The National Map

Through an online map editor, volunteers use aerial images and other resources to improve structures data by adding new features, removing obsolete points, and correcting existing data. Points available to edit include schools, hospitals, post offices, police stations and other important public buildings. Volunteers may find editing structures in the U.S. Virgin Islands quite challenging, as some source data points shown in the map editor may be out of date, and some structure types are missing entirely.

One of many younger volunteers has found that contributing to The National Map Corps has been a rewarding summer activity.  “I’ve only been working for a month and already I’ve discovered interesting facts, like where Sacagawea is buried, and all of the unique names for places around the country,” said user “crazeyme,” who is also one of the top producing participants. 

To recognize our volunteers, TNMCorps has instituted a recognition program that awards "virtual" badges" based on the number of points edited.  Badges consist of a series of antique surveying instruments ranging from the Surveyor's Chain (25 – 50 points) to the Theodolite Assemblage (2000+ points). Additionally, volunteers are publically recognized (with user permission) via Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.

Volunteers only need access to a computer and the Internet to participate.  The National Map Corps’ website explains how volunteers can edit any area, regardless of their familiarity with the selected structures. Registration is simple and requires only an email address and self-selected username. 

Participants make a significant addition to the USGS's ability to provide accurate information to the public. Data collected by volunteers become part of The National Map structures dataset which is available to users free of charge.

See for yourself how much fun participating can be. Go to The National Map Corps and give it a try.

Screen shot of The National Map Corps editor webpage showing the capitol city of Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, St. Thomas. Within this image lies the governmental center, public schools, and more– which is why The National Map Corps needs your help! (high resolution image 3.3 MB) Badges awarded for submitting edits, shown in from first to last: Order of the Surveyor’s Chain (25-49), Society of the Steel Tape 50-99), Pedometer Posse (100-199), Surveyor’s Compass (200-499), Stadia Board Society (500-999), Alidade Alliance (1000-1999), and Theodolite Assemblage (2000+). New awards for volunteers exceeding 2,000 points are under review. (high resolution image 114.7KB)

The Value Of Coastal Fog - It's More Than Meets The Eye

Summary: This Thursday, USGS Physical Scientist Alicia Torregrosa will tell us about the importance of coastal fog to animals and people and how it helps to maintain a vibrant ecosystem that benefits all living things in the area Free USGS Public Lecture July 31

Contact Information:

Leslie  Gordon ( Phone: 650-329-4006 );



April Public Lecture Flyer. (High resolution image)

MENLO PARK, Calif. — Fog is more than just nature’s air conditioning keeping Bay Area residents cool while others in California bake in the summer’s heat; it is also extremely valuable for the local economy for everything from wine production to tourism. This Thursday, USGS Physical Scientist Alicia Torregrosa will tell us about the importance of coastal fog to animals and people and how it helps to maintain a vibrant ecosystem that benefits all living things in the area. She will also answer age old questions such as: is July the foggiest month? How do ocean conditions from Tahiti to Alaska, change summertime fog for northern California? We will also hear how USGS scientists are using new analyses and satellite sensors to understand the dynamics of fog. Find out where the foggiest place in the San Francisco Bay Area actually is and so much more! 

Who: 

Alicia Torregrosa, USGS Physical Scientist  

 

What:

Slide-show-illustrated presentation: The Ecological Value of Coastal Fog – Cooling relief and nebulous forecasts for northern California

 

When:

Thursday, July 31, 2014

12:00 p.m. —Lecture preview for USGS employees and news media representatives

7 p.m.—Public lecture open to all

(both presentations will be live-streamed over the Internet)

 

Where:

U.S. Geological Survey
Building 3 Auditorium, second floor
345 Middlefield Road
Menlo Park, CA 94025

More info and directions:

USGS Evening Public Lecture Series Calendar
Menlo Park Campus Map

Streamflow Increasing in Eastern Missouri River Basin, Decreasing Elsewhere

Summary: Streamflow in the eastern portions of the Missouri River watershed has increased over the past 52 years, whereas other parts have seen downward trends

Contact Information:

Parker Norton ( Phone: 605-394-3220 ); Marisa Lubeck ( Phone: 303-202-4765 );



Reporters: Video footage of an interview with lead USGS scientist Parker Norton is available online.

Streamflow in the eastern portions of the Missouri River watershed has increased over the past 52 years, whereas other parts have seen downward trends. 

U.S. Geological Survey scientists recently studied data from 227 streamgages in the Missouri River watershed that had continuous records for 1960 through 2011. The scientists found that almost half of the streamgages showed either an upward or downward trend in mean annual flow since 1960, while the rest showed no trend.

The study is relevant on a large scale because the Missouri River is the longest river in the United States, with a watershed that includes mountainous to prairie topography in all or parts of 10 states and small parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada. 

“The Missouri River and its tributaries are valuable for agriculture, energy, recreation and municipal water supplies,” said USGS hydrologist Parker Norton. “Understanding streamflow throughout the watershed can help guide management of these critical water resources.” 

According to the study, streamflow has increased in the eastern part of the watershed, including eastern North Dakota, eastern South Dakota, western Iowa and eastern Nebraska. Annual flows have decreased in the western headwaters area of the Missouri River in Montana and Wyoming, and in the southern part of the basin associated with the Kansas River watershed.

Climate changes that affect how and where moisture is delivered to the continent may be causing some of these trends in the Missouri River Basin. Although the USGS scientists did not conduct a complete analysis of the causes, they noted that increased streamflow over broad regions occurred despite the increasing use of water. Decreased streamflow in some areas could also be related to climate change factors, or to groundwater pumping. 

The USGS report can be accessed online

For more than 125 years, the USGS has monitored flow in selected streams and rivers across the United States. 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. 

Access current flood and high flow conditions across the country by visiting the USGS WaterWatch website. Receive instant, customized updates about water conditions in your area via text message or email by signing up for USGS WaterAlert

Scientists Predict Massive Urban Growth, Creation of 'Megalopolis' in Southeast in Next 45 Years

Summary: Urban areas in the Southeastern United States will double in size by 2060 unless there are significant changes to land development, according to a new study by the Department of Interior’s Southeast Climate Science Center and North Carolina State University

Contact Information:

Adam Terando ( Phone: 919-515-4448 ); Christian Quintero ( Phone: 813-498-5019 );



RALEIGH, N.C.—Urban areas in the Southeastern United States will double in size by 2060 unless there are significant changes to land development, according to a new study by the Department of Interior’s Southeast Climate Science Center and North Carolina State University.

The predicted growth would come at the expense of agricultural and forest lands, creating an urban “megalopolis” stretching from Raleigh to Atlanta, which also raises a number of ecological concerns.

“If we continue to develop urban areas in the Southeast the way we have for the past 60 years, we can expect natural areas will become increasingly fragmented,” said Adam Terando, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, adjunct assistant professor at NC State, and lead author of the study.  “We could be looking at a seamless corridor of urban development running from Raleigh to Atlanta, and possibly as far as Birmingham, within the next 50 years.”

To understand how urban and natural environments could change, the researchers used NC State’s High Performance Computing services to simulate urban development between now and 2060 across the Southeastern United States.  

Among the expected impacts of such expansive urban growth, the fragmentation of natural areas would significantly limit the mobility of wildlife, making it more difficult for them to find mates, raise young, find food and respond to environmental changes.

“This, in turn, increases the likelihood that we’ll see more conflicts between people and wildlife, such as the increasing interactions with bears we’re seeing in our suburban areas,” Terando said.

An increase in urbanization would also make urban heat islands—the warming of cities due to human activities and development—more common, favoring species that can take advantage of the hotter conditions in cities. For example, previous studies have found that insect pests – such as scale insects – thrive in urban environments.

“Unless we change course, over the next 50 years urbanization will have a more pronounced ecological impact in many non-coastal areas of the Southeast than climate change, said Jennifer Costanza, a research associate at NC State and a co-author of the study. “It’s impossible to predict precisely what the specific ecological outcomes would be, but so far, the projections are not good in terms of biodiversity and ecosystem health.”

This research emphasizes how decision makers involved in community planning will need a well-thought out strategy for future development, Costanza said. 

“Given that urbanization poses significant challenges to this region, decision makers will need to begin serious, long-term discussions about economic development, ecological impacts and the value of non-urban spaces,” she added.

The paper, “The southern megalopolis: using the past to predict the future of urban sprawl in the Southeast U.S.,” is published in PLOS ONE. The paper was co-authored by Adam Terando, Alexa McKerrow and Jaime A. Collazo of the USGS; and Jennifer Costanza, Curtis Belyea and Rob Dunn of NC State. The work was supported by the DOI Southeast Climate Science Center based at NC State. The center provides scientific information to help natural resource managers respond effectively to climate change.