USGS - science for a changing world

Climate Research & Development Program

Summer 2014, Volume 1
About this issue
Cypress tree at Cypress Bridge Swamp Natural Area in central Virginia. About this issue

Climate Research & Development Program Coordinator introduces the "Climate Matters" newsletter.

Science Feature
Sea ice in March aboard U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Healy in the northern Bering Sea.  During the past 30 years, decreasing summer sea ice caused the northern Bering Sea to gain 25 days of open water. Photo courtesy of Tom van Pelt Studying arctic sea ice ecosystem change

The Climate Research & Development Program supports research to improve understanding of the impacts of climate on Arctic ecosystems. One research question focuses on Arctic sea ice. During the summers of 2012 and 2013, USGS scientists participated in Arctic cruises examining how climate change affects Arctic marine ecosystems and reconstructing long-term history of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.

This feature examines Climate R&D research on climate change and sea ice history in regions of the Arctic Ocean off northern Alaska.

Science Highlights
Coastal wetlands and swamps are vulnerable to increased salinity from sea level rise. Cypress trees that dominated this site are dying and being replaced by brackish marsh. Sea level rise and nutrient cycling in coastal wetlands

Scientists found that salt water encroachment into freshwater wetlands increased the rates with which these key soil nutrients changed chemically.

In this photograph, USGS CLU R&D scientists collect a sediment core from Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. Proxy records from wetland sediments provide an archive of past climate and land use change. Planning for effective restoration in the Everglades

This research shows the effects of past water regulation schedules on wetland plant communities, which will help better inform managers that need to meet the water needs of urban and agricultural communities, while providing healthy habitat for wetland wildlife and plant communities.

One of 16 stations in the DOI/GTN-P climate network monitoring environmental changes in arctic Alaska in support of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s land-management mission. This station, U31 in the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost (GTN-P), is located at Marsh Creek in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. New climate dataset available from the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 1998–2011

Data acquired by the DOI/GTN-P climate network in the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge between 1998 and 2011 have recently been released in an online USGS Data Series.

Sea ice in Chukchi Sea off north coast of Alaska, August 2013. Long-term arctic sea ice variability

Researchers documented the extreme sensitivity of Arctic sea ice to climate changes and the impact of past climate cycles on Arctic Ocean marine ecosystems.

A better understanding of the Pliocene Earth through paleoenvironmental reconstructions and computer simulations is providing insight on future climate projections. Improving models of the future with data from the past

USGS researchers and colleagues have reconstructed aspects of Pliocene climate (including ocean temperature, land cover, and sea level). The climate modeling community is using this data to test the capabilities of different models to simulate climatic conditions significantly different from present day.

Left to right: insolation from 31 ka to 17 ka at the top of the atmosphere at 65°N in July (from Berger and Loutre, 1991); time–distance diagram showing the southerly extent of the Laurentide ice sheet in the mid-continent of North America from ~31 cal ka BP to ~17 cal ka BP (redrawn from Johnson et al., 1997; their radiocarbon ages converted to calendar-year ages using Fairbanks et al. (2005)); stratigraphy, coarse/fine silt ratios in loess at Loveland, Iowa (particle size data from Muhs and Bettis (2000)); and loess mass accumulation rates (green line) at Loveland, calculated using a Bayesian reconstruction of OSL ages based on the 15 points (solid circles) shown. Western Iowa loess records stronger last-glacial winds

The results of this study show how geologic records can help to "fine-tune" climate models that are used for forecasting possible future climates.

Yahtse Glacier, Alaska discharges ice into Icy Bay both by calving, as evidenced by the ice covered fjord, and submarine melt. In late summer, submarine melt matches the pace of incoming ice flow, which at Yahtse Glacier exceeds 17 m/d. Warming ocean waters: impacts on tidewater glaciers

Researchers document the sensitivity of tidewater glaciers to changes in ocean temperature, improving the understanding of how glacier processes influence sea level rise.

This image shows the City of Las Vegas using data from Landsat 1 and 8. Landsat multispectral scanner data from Landsat 1 was acquired on April 12, 1974. The color infrared image shows a 'young' Las Vegas at the time. The image on the right reveals the substantial urban growth that has occurred in the city over the past 40 years. Data from the Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager was acquired October 6, 2013. Land use and land cover change in the conterminous United States from 1973 to 2000

Analysis of nearly 30 years of Landsat satellite observations provides baseline data on land use and land cover change by ecoregion and time in the conterminous United States.

In order to forecast how forests will change in the future, we need to understand how climate affects tree mortality. Indeed, we will likely get substantially different forest landscapes depending on which mechanism or combination of mechanisms are driving tree death. Climate effects on western US forests

Researchers explored the mechanisms that control climate-related tree mortality in western US forests.


Upcoming —
Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting 2014 in Sacramento, CA, August 10-15

Geological Society of America Annual Meeting 2014 in Vancouver, BC, Canada, October 19-22

American Geophysical Union 47th Annual Fall Meeting in San Francisco, CA, December 15-19

In the news
Climate Matters is produced by the U.S. Geological Survey Climate Research & Development Program. All content is copyright free, and can be reprinted without permission.

Comments, feedback, and suggestions for future stories are welcome.

Debra Willard, Managing Editor
Patricia Watson, Editor
Jack McGeehin, Assistant Editor

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