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May Science Picks—Leads, Feeds and Story Seeds
Released: 5/6/2005

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 hot science stories?

Spring has sprung and summer is just around the corner. This month’s Science Picks can help you cover ongoing earth and natural science research and investigations as well as technology at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) — Photos and Web links are provided to enhance your story.

May Highlights:

  • How the Advanced National Seismic System is Reducing America’s Earthquake Risk
  • Marching to the Beat of a Different Drummer? Larger Earthquakes at Mount St. Helens
  • The Parkfield Earthquake: USGS Findings Help Unravel Clues about Earthquake Processes
  • Memories Flood Back as USGS Science Rushes Forward
  • USGS Scientists Document Widespread Increases in Streamflow
  • Laysan Ducks prepare for Mother’s Day on Midway Atoll wildlife refuge
  • Military Maps for Memorial Day
  • The Wonder of Water

Leads (top news in natural science)

Reducing America’s Earthquake Risk with the Advanced National Seismic System

Imagine: a few seconds of warning of an impending earthquake could give schoolchildren enough time to get under their desks and allow operators to stop trains and subways, shut off pipelines, shut down nuclear facilities and suspend medical procedures. The ultimate goal of the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS), a USGS initiative, is to provide such warnings — warnings that can save lives, reduce economic losses and increase public safety. The ANSS initiative is focused on expanding and improving the performance and integration of national, regional and urban seismic monitoring networks in the United States. The USGS is responsible for the monitoring and notification of earthquakes not only nationwide, but worldwide. Congress has authorized $171 million for ANSS and has appropriated $17 million to date. When fully implemented, the system will integrate all regional and urban networks, with 7,100 new seismic instruments, including 6,000 strong-motion sensors in 26 at-risk urban areas. Over 500 instruments have been installed so far. Learn more about the ANSS mission by contacting William Leith at (703) 648-6786 or wleith@usgs.gov.

Marching to the Beat of a Different Drummer—What do Larger Earthquakes at Mount St. Helens Mean?

For seismologists, one of the most intriguing aspects of the continuing 2004-2005 eruption at Mount St. Helens is the periodic occurrence of larger shallow earthquakes ranging in magnitude from 2.0 to 3.4. Although such larger earthquakes are not unprecedented, they are unusual, and scientists are trying to discern the path this present eruption is taking. Seth Moran, a seismologist at the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory, notes that although "drumbeat" earthquakes have been occurring at Mount St. Helens about once a minute since mid-October 2004, these larger earthquakes — syncopations, of a sort, on top of the smaller earthquakes — have occurred in three clusters since mid-November. More clusters may occur in the future. For more information on the volcanic activity at Mount St. Helens, contact Carolyn Driedger at (360) 993-8907 or cdriedger@usgs.gov.

Parkfield Earthquake Discoveries: Unraveling the Mysteries of Earthquake Processes

The Parkfield earthquake, a moderate-sized earthquake of 6.0 magnitude that occurred September 28, 2004, was one of the most significant earthquakes in the history of seismology — not because of its size or the damage it inflicted, but because the earthquake occurred just where scientists had hoped: in the most densely instrumented location in the world. Before, during and after the earthquake, scientists obtained unprecedented high-quality strong motion acceleration and crustal strain measurements that are helping researchers unravel clues about earthquake processes. USGS researchers Roger Borcherdt and Malcolm Johnston have preliminary findings from Parkfield instrumentation data, including the lack of signals before the earthquake that "something" was happening and that crustal rupture does not occur as uniformly as previously believed. These findings have important implications for predicting or forecasting future earthquakes and for buildings and earthquake safety requirements. To find out what USGS scientist know about the Parkfield Earthquake, contact Roger Borcherdt at (650) 329-5619 or rborcherdt@usgs.gov, or contact Malcolm Johnston at (650) 329-4812 or mjohnston@usgs.gov.

Why was the March Tsunami so Much Smaller than the December Tsunami? USGS Research Sheds Some Light

As soon as the 8.7 magnitude earthquake occurred in the Indian Ocean in March 2005, the world anxiously awaited word of another devastating tsunami, similar to the one that had occurred on December 26, 2004, as the result of the magnitude-9.0 Indian Ocean earthquake. But although the tsunami that resulted was certainly large — 13 to 16 feet is not a tsunami to dismiss — it paled in comparison to the enormous December event, which had run-ups of 100 feet or higher in Sumatra. Scientist sought to find why there was such a big difference, and USGS tsunami researcher Eric Geist and his colleagues, Vasily Titov and Diego Arcas at NOAA and Susan Bilek at New Mexico Tech, are focusing their scientific scrutiny on four factors that they believe explain why the March tsunami was so weak in comparison to the December one. Find out how scientists are unearthing the answers to the "why" question and learn about implications vital for designing the most effective tsunami warning systems. For more information contact Eric Geist at (650) 329-5457 or egeist@usgs.gov. Also, use the daily reports and photographs by marine scientists measuring the impacts of the December and March tsunamis on Sumatra and islands west of Sumatra posted on the USGS Web at http://walrus.wr.usgs.gov/news/reports.html.

Memories Flood Back as USGS Science Rushes Forward

Deemed one of the most significant floods in the United States during the 20th century, the June 1965 flood that occurred in South Platte and Arkansas River drainages in Colorado claimed up to 24 lives and cost approximately $570 million (uninflated). In recognition of the 40th anniversary of this costly natural disaster, on June 16, 2005, a flood of similar magnitude will be modeled to demonstrate the impacts that would have occurred if mitigation measures in the South Platte River basin had not been implemented. USGS science can help save lives, minimize property damage and reduce risks that may result from natural hazards such as floods — helping to prevent those natural hazards from becoming national disasters. Find out more about significant floods in the U.S. at http://ks.water.usgs.gov/Kansas/pubs/fact-sheets/fs.024-00.html. To learn more about Colorado water resources, visit http://co.water.usgs.gov/. Local media events will be held on June 16, 2005. For more information, contact Heidi Koontz at 303-202-4763 or hkoontz@usgs.gov or Heather Friesen at 303-202-4765 or hfriesen@usgs.gov.

USGS Scientists Document Widespread Increases in Streamflow and Changes in the Timing of Snowmelt Over the Past 50 Years

USGS scientists have identified nationwide trends toward increasing streamflow in many areas of the nation since 1940 based on data collected from long-term USGS streamgages. This conclusion and several more interesting trends in our nation’s streamflows can be found in four new fact sheets recently issued by the agency. The reports and their Web addresses are: Streamflow Trends in the United States at http://pubs.water.usgs.gov/fs2005-3017/); Changes in Streamflow Timing in New England During the 20th Century at http://pubs.water.usgs.gov/fs2005-3019/; Changes in Streamflow Timing in the Western United States in Recent Decades at http://pubs.water.usgs.gov/fs2005-3018; and Trends in the Water Budget of the Mississippi River Basin, 1949-1997 at http://pubs.water.usgs.gov/fs2005-3020/. For more information, contact A.B. Wade at 703-785-4460 or abwade@usgs.gov.

Laysan Ducks Prepare for First Mother´s Day on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge

Early last October, biologists from the USGS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service brought 20 young Laysan ducks from Laysan Island to the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, the first in a planned series of translocations to establish new populations in an effort to safeguard the vulnerable endangered species. Now, three of six females have nested and are incubating eggs, the first in a new land and an exciting hope for the recovery of the species. The species was believed to be endemic (found nowhere else) to Laysan Island, but in 1995 fossil evidence revealed that the duck once inhabited the islands of Hawaii, Molokai, Maui, Oahu, Kauai and Lisianski. For more information on how scientists are monitoring and restoring the habitat to reestablish the vulnerable species, contact David Helweg at the Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center at (808) 342-7606 or dhelweg@usgs.gov.

African Clawed Frogs in Southern California Pose Risk to Fish

After introducing an exotic species of frog that transports exotic parasites, you’d expect havoc on native frogs, right? In the case of the African clawed frogs introduced to southern California, it’s not the native frogs scientists are worried about, it’s the fish. Introductions of exotic species often have unexpected ecological consequences, and understanding the complex ways in which they may affect native ecosystems is critical to management solutions. USGS researchers and their colleagues have studied the introduction of the African clawed frog to southern California, including its parasites and its role as novel prey for native species. Readers may be interested to know why, as a transporter of exotic parasites, the introduced African clawed frogs may pose more of a risk to freshwater fish than to terrestrial frogs. Additionally, they may be intrigued to find that where native amphibians have declined, the African clawed frogs may serve as a possible replacement food resource for some native species of semi-aquatic predators, such as the two-striped garter snake. For more information see http://www.werc.usgs.gov/pubbriefs/fisherpbapr2005.html or contact Robert Fisher at (858) 637-6882 or rfisher@usgs.gov.

Images of the African clawed frog and the two-striped garter snake are available at http://online.wr.usgs.gov/outreach/ma050506/.

Feeds (science updates and happenings)

At its 25th Anniversary Mount St. Helens is Still Hot

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 was flattened. A plume of volcanic ash and pumice spewed out of the volcano reaching 15 miles in height and traveling thousands of miles. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens and the people who lost their lives, there will be many events, which can be found on the Web site at http://www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/mshnvm/25th-anniversay; Check out the Open House at the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory on Saturday, May 21. Mount St. Helens remains under constant monitoring by the USGS; view its current status at http://www.usgs.gov.

Military Maps for Memorial Day

Memorial Day is May 30, and what better way to commemorate than with a historic map? From Antietam to the Armistice and the Normandy Air Campaign, historical maps provide a unique perspective on landscapes that have witnessed wars. The USGS serves as the distributor for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency’s (NGA) Historical Map Posters, including maps of Iwo Jima, D-Day and the Lewis and Clark expedition. To see the maps and trace the roots and progress of geospatial intelligence, visit the NGA Historical Map Series Web site or order limited copies of these special commemorative historical map posters by calling the USGS Earth Science Information Center at 1-888-ASK-USGS (1-888-275-8747) or send an email to ask@usgs.gov. For more information, contact Denver Beaulieu-Hains at 703-648-4732 or dbeaulieu-hains@usgs.gov.

There She Blows!

A new fact sheet is available on the current eruption of Mount St Helens. The new fact sheet, "Mount St Helens Erupts Again: Activity from September 2004 through March 2005," shows the impressive growth of a new lava dome. LiDAR (light detection and ranging) images and aerial photographs chronicle the new episode. The fact sheet is located on the Web at http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Volcanoes/MSH/Publications/FS2005-3036/. The new publication will be available for the 25th anniversary of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, along side a variety of activities for the public, including an Open House at the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory on Saturday, May 21.

Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy

A new peer-reviewed, open access journal, has launched publication. Accessible at http://ejournal.nbii.org, the e-journal provides a platform for the dissemination of new practices and for dialogue emerging out of the field of sustainability. It is published as part of an ambitious government/private industry partnership between the USGS-coordinated National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) www.nbii.gov and NBII partner CSA www.csa.com.

Story Seeds (points to ponder or investigate)

Celebrate and Learn About

The USGS will celebrate "The Wonder of Water" during National Drinking Water Week, May 1-7, 2005. For more than 30 years, the Nation has observed National Drinking Water Week, which is sponsored by the American Water Works Association (http://www.awwa.org/). The USGS manages the Nation’s water resources and offers a wealth of water information via the Web at http://water.usgs.gov/. Celebrate water by getting the current water conditions in your area (http://water.usgs.gov/waterwatch/), finding out if your state is in a drought (http://water.usgs.gov/cgi-bin/dailyMainW?state=us&map_type=dryw&web_type=map) or learning more about your local watershed (http://water.usgs.gov/wsc/). For a basic primer about water, check out "Water and the Environment," authored by the USGS and published by the American Geological Institute http://www.agiweb.org/pubs/.

Does the United States have Enough Water?

The short answer is: nobody really knows. The USGS National Assessment of Water Availability and Use program is intended to help citizens, communities and natural-resource managers gain a clearer knowledge of the status of the Nation’s water resources and consider the answers to questions such as how much water do we have? View the full National Assessment of Water Availability and Use report submitted to Congress at http://water.usgs.gov/pubs/circ/circ1223/.


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