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April Science Picks—Leads, Feeds and Story Seeds
Released: 4/8/2005

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Denver Beaulieu-Hains 1-click interview
Phone: 703-648-4732

Looking for Earth Day story ideas? We´ve got you covered--Earthquakes, Steam Explosions, and Gold

This month’s Science Picks can help you cover ongoing earth and natural science research and investigations, and technology at USGS--Photos and web links are provided to enhance your story. If you would like to receive Science Picks, or change the recipient, or discontinue the service, please email Included this month:

  • Another Great Earthquake in the Indian Ocean, but What About the Tsunami?
  • Steam Explosions, Earthquakes, and Volcanic Eruptions--What’s in Yellowstone’s Future?
  • Radio-Monitored Salmon Shed Light on Snake River for Water Managers
  • Itching to Know More About America’s Modern Gold Rush?
  • Hazards and Cooperation Spawn New Uses for Geospatial Information
  • Studying Russian Soils Shows That April Showers Bring More Than Flowers
  • USGS Photos Are Us
  • Information a Mouse-Click Away

Leads (top news in natural science)

Another Great Earthquake in the Indian Ocean, but What About the Tsunami?

Two scientific investigation teams will study tsunamis generated by the March 28th and December 26th Indian Ocean great earthquakes. Dr. Bruce Jaffe of the Coastal & Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz, California, is co-leader of the investigations. The first team set out in a research vessel from Padang in Sumatra on March 30 to visit Nias, the Baynaks, where tsunami inundation from the March 28th earthquake is expected to be most destructive, and Singkil. They will make first-hand observations of wave heights, run-up, erosion, and sedimentation. The second team will board the vessel on April 12 at Banda Aceh to collect additional data on the kinds, depths, and distances inland of sediments deposited by the tsunamis along the west coast of Sumatra.

Although the catastrophic loss of life and immediate devastation from tsunami waves generated by the December 26 earthquake, which registered magnitude 9, is now well known, the dynamics of tsunami generation in the March 28 earthquake is not well understood. For the latest reports from the tsunami teams, check the web site at For more information contact Bruce Jaffe at (before 4-10-05 or after 4-30-05) or Bob Peters at

Steam Explosions, Earthquakes, and Volcanic Eruptions--What´s in Yellowstone´s Future?

A new fact sheet has been prepared on Yellowstone National Park’s volcanic system. Its release anticipates renewed interest, concern, and questions following Discovery Channel’s new docudrama, "Supervolcano," which will air in the United States on Sunday, April 10. Three huge caldera-forming eruptions have occurred at Yellowstone in the past 2.5 million years, with the most recent occurring 640,000 years ago. Jake Lowenstern, scientist in charge of Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO), notes that the probability of another huge eruption at Yellowstone in the next several thousand years is exceedingly low. The new fact sheet is available to Yellowstone visitors or can be viewed on the web at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory site

YVO is a partnership of scientists from the USGS, Yellowstone National Park, and the University of Utah who closely monitor the Yellowstone region where about two thousand earthquakes each year are recorded by the seismic network. For more information, contact Jake Lowenstern at (650) 329- 5238 or at

Radio-Monitored Salmon Shed Light on Snake River for Water Managers:

Until recently, most biologists assumed that Chinook Salmon migrated seaward in the Fall as sub-yearlings, heading to the ocean only a few months after they hatched from eggs; but USGS fisheries biologist Ken Tiffan of the Western Fisheries Research Center at Cook, Washington, discovered that nearly half of the endangered fish species had lingered over the winter in the Snake River in the reservoir above Lower Granite Dam. Tiffan marked the wintering fish with radio tags to show that these fish continue to pass the dam through the turbines, undetected by conventional monitoring techniques. Collaborating with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist Billy Conner on the study, the scientist noted that it’s likely that summer releases of water from Dworshak Dam to cool the Snake River for the ESA-listed fall Chinook are "enabling" this group of Chinook to stay behind. The new research was presented at a recent meeting of the Northwest Power & Conservation Council. For more information, contact Ken Tiffan at 509-538-2299 or at

Itching to Know More About America´s Modern Gold Rush?

The Humboldt River Basin, covering about 25,000 square miles in northern Nevada, produces the third-largest amount of gold in the world. It is now the focal point for active mining and mineral exploration in the United States. USGS’ Western Mineral Resources Team of the USGS just produced a regional mineral-resource assessment of the Basin. The study provides a Geographic Information System-based data analysis of the potential for undiscovered metal deposits in the region, as well as detailed descriptions of major types of mineral deposits in the area and how they were formed. These results will be used by the Bureau of Land Management and other land-use agencies in the Basin to guide future land-use planning, and by the mining industry to evaluate new areas for undiscovered mineral deposits.

The new report is available on-line ( as U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 2218. Contact Alan Wallace at (775) 784-5789 or at, or Dave Frank at (509) 368-3107 or at

Hazards and Cooperation Spawn New Uses for Geospatial Information:

All along there have been maps of populations, soils and highway systems, but combining information from multiple sources to create real-time maps is proving to be more and more valuable for Federal, state and local government. Readers can learn how geospatial technology is helping law enforcement catch criminals, scientists study natural hazards, and governments make decisions. For more information, contact Leslie Wollack at (703) 648-5164 or at

Studying Russian Soils Shows That April Showers Bring More than Flowers:

A recent international scientific study on Russian soils raises concerns that acid rain may have significant implications for forest growth in the U.S., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. "Russians invented the study of soil science and through their help, a large step forward has been taken in measuring acid rain effects on soils and trees," said USGS scientist Dr. Gregory Lawrence, who headed the study. "By providing the only preserved soil in the world collected before the acid rain era, the Russians helped our international team track tree growth for the first time with changes in soil from acid rain." Lawrence said that despite several decades of research, acid rain effects on forests have not been well known, largely because acid rain effects on soil have not been understood. These results have direct relevance to the United States, where large areas of eastern forests, such as those in the Adirondacks and Catskills of New York, have soils that are likely to be more sensitive to acid rain than those studied in Russia. Want to know more? For more information contact Dr. Greg Lawrence at 518-285-5664 or at

Feeds (science updates and happenings)

USGS Photos Are Us--

More than 16,000 photos related to the USGS from the years 1868 through 1992 are now available online where they may be easily searched, viewed, and downloaded free of charge at Representing a small fraction of the USGS Photo Library holdings, this digital collection has been culled from more than a half million photographs held by the library from USGS publications and field work. The online archive has subcategories that include, for example, national parks and monuments; Mount St. Helens volcanic eruptions; and pioneer photographers, such as W.H. Jackson, J.K. Hillers, T.H. O’Sullivan, A.J. Russell, and others. For more information, contact Denver Beaulieu-Hains at 703-648-4732 or at

Story Seeds (points to ponder or investigate)

Information a Mouse-Click Away--

Did you know that there is an international interest in sharing computer technology? Imagine an international amber-alert to avoid catastrophic events. It could become a reality one-day. The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC), a consortium of partnering agencies with a Secretariat housed under the USGS will be honored as a founding sponsor of the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI); the FGDC will receive an award from the GSDI Association at the 8th Global Meeting in Cairo beginning on April 16. The FGDC supports the global effort by instituting a grants program aimed at developing nations and the development of a geospatial infrastructure, which facilitates data-sharing, common standards, and global access. For more information on the FGDC, NSDI or GSDI contact Denver Beaulieu-Hains at (703) 648-4732 or at

Earth Day Events will be Happening Everywhere April 22, 2005:

USGS scientists study the Earth--its water, its biology, its geology and its geography--and provide that information to you. And it’s just a click away at This year’s Earth Day theme is "Protect Our Children and Our Future," and USGS does just that by providing science to reduce America’s risk from natural hazards--whether it’s an earthquake, volcano, landslide, flood, wildfire, or hurricane. You’ll have the opportunity to learn more about natural hazards and other USGS science during USGS events celebrating Earth Day 2005. Be on the lookout for information on events in your area at

What a coincidence--May is “Volcano Awareness Month” in the state of Washington and this year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Catastrophic Eruption of Mount St. Helens:

On May 18, 1980, a magnitude 5.1 earthquake triggered the collapse of the summit and north flank of Mount St. Helens and formed the largest landslide in recorded history. Within three minutes, 230 square miles of forest were flattened. Attend an event in commemoration of that tragic day. A complete list of events is available at

The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

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