Survey Manual

120.9 - Office of the Associate Director for Natural Hazards


Date: 12/29/2020

OPR: Office of Natural Hazards

Instruction: This revises the chapter dated October 25, 2015 to reflect current organizational structure.


1.  General Functions. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Office of the Associate Director for Natural Hazards, provides executive-level leadership for the Natural Hazards Mission Area, which includes six science programs: Coastal and Marine Hazards and ResourcesEarthquake HazardsGeomagnetismGlobal Seismographic NetworkLandslide Hazards, and Volcano Hazards. Through these programs, the USGS carries out its responsibility for monitoring and assessment of earthquakes, volcanic activity, and landslides, and supports the warning responsibilities of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for coastal flooding and erosion, post-fire debris flows, geomagnetic storms, and tsunamis.  

The Natural Hazards Mission Area is responsible for coordinating USGS response following disasters and overseeing the Bureau’s emergency management activities. The mission area coordinates long-term planning across the full USGS hazards science portfolio, including activities funded through many other programs across the Bureau, including floods, hurricanes, severe storms, wildfires, and biological and chemical threats.

2.  Associate Director for Natural Hazards. The Associate Director exercises the authority delegated by the USGS Director to provide leadership and nationwide guidance for the natural hazards research, monitoring, assessment, and outreach activities of the Bureau and ensures integration of these activities with the strategic goals of the USGS and the Department of the Interior (DOI). This authority includes the areas of coastal and marine hazards and resources, earthquake hazards, geomagnetism, landslide hazards, and volcano hazards. Responsibilities for these functions are shared with a Deputy Associate Director for Natural Hazards.

The Associate Director and Deputy Associate Director are responsible for all aspects of the Natural Hazards Mission Area, which includes the following elements: 

A.  Coastal and Marine Hazards and Resources Program (CMHRP). The CMHRP supports all the missions of the USGS,  providing science to characterize and assess coastal and marine processes, conditions, change, and vulnerability to inform decisions that ensure safe and resilient coastal communities and offshore operations, and sustainable use and protection of coastal and marine resources, lands and waters. Supporting the USGS natural hazards mission, the CMHRP conducts research on marine geohazards including earthquakes, tsunami, and submarine landslides and on coastal change hazards from erosion, hurricanes and other extreme storms, and sea-level rise. CMHRP provides marine geologic, geophysical and oceanographic research and capabilities in support of the natural hazard and resource missions of the USGS, DOI and other federal agencies. The CMGP fosters collaboration on regional scales with Federal, tribal, State, and local organizations engaged in the National Ocean Policy. 

 B.  Earthquake Hazards Program (EHP). The EHP conducts real-time monitoring, hazard and risk assessments, targeted research, and public outreach to support the mitigation of earthquake risks. It supports the USGS responsibility to provide authoritative earthquake information and warnings, and it is part of the four-agency National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program partnership, which was established by Congress in 1977. Through the EHP, the USGS contributes to earthquake hazard mitigation through assessments that underlie seismic provisions in building codes, and to earthquake response through a suite of rapid-information products providing situational awareness following damaging earthquakes. The EHP also supports partnerships in research and monitoring via grants and cooperative agreements.

C.  Geomagnetism Program (GP). The GP mission is to monitor the Earth's magnetic field.  Operating a network of ground-based magnetic observatories in the United States and its territories, the program provides continuous records of magnetic field variations covering long timescales; disseminates magnetic data to various governmental, academic, and private institutions; and conducts research into the nature of geomagnetic variations for purposes of scientific understanding and hazard mitigation. These activities represent the USGS contribution to the interagency National Space Weather Program. The GP is also leading efforts to complete a magnetotelluric survey of the contiguous U.S. to improve electrical grid resilience, improve forecast models for geomagnetic storms, and aid mineral resource assessments.

D.  Global Seismographic Network (GSN).  The GSN is a permanent digital network of state-of-the-art seismological and geophysical sensors, consisting of more than 150 globally distributed stations. The GSN is a partnership between the USGS and the National Science Foundation, implemented in partnership with the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology university consortium (IRIS). It provides the high-quality seismic data needed for global earthquake alerts and situational awareness products, tsunami warnings, nuclear test treaty monitoring and research, seismic hazard assessments and earthquake loss reduction, and research on earthquake sources and the structure and dynamics of the Earth.

 E.  Landslide Hazards Program (LHP). The mission of the LHP is to increase public safety and reduce losses from landslides through improved understanding of landslide processes, hazards, and impacts. It supports the USGS responsibility to provide authoritative landslide information. The LHP conducts targeted research to develop and improve tools for landslide hazard assessments; pursues landslide investigations, hazard assessments and forecasts; provides technical assistance in response to landslide emergencies; delivers assessments of post-fire debris-flow hazard to meet requests from land and emergency managers; and engages in outreach activities. 
F.  Volcano Hazards Program (VHP). The VHP conducts monitoring, hazard assessments, and research to advance the scientific understanding of volcanic processes in order to mitigate the harmful impacts of volcanic activity. The USGS monitors active and potentially active volcanoes throughout the United States and its territories, assesses their hazards, responds to volcanic crises, and conducts research on how volcanoes work. In March 2019, the USGS was authorized by Congress to establish the National Volcano Early Warning System (NVEWS) to ensure that all active volcanoes in the U.S. and its Territories are monitored at levels matching the threats posed. In support of the USGS responsibility to provide warnings of volcanic eruptions, the VHP also issues warnings of potential volcanic hazards to responsible emergency-management authorities and to the populace affected, including air traffic.

natural hazards.

G. USGS Risk Research and Applications. The USGS risk research and applications activity supports studies, tool and product development, and partner engagement to improve the use of USGS hazards information by emergency managers, community leaders, planners, and policymakers. It also plays a role in facilitating training, mentoring, learning, and capacity building in risk research and applications across the USGS and fosters collaborations and communication across USGS mission areas, regions, and science centers and with external partners to promote greater resilience to hazards.

H.  Emergency Management. Oversight responsibility for USGS Emergency Management activities has been given to the Natural Hazards Mission Area. The USGS Emergency Management Coordinator serves as a senior advisor to the USGS Director and works closely with the DOI Offices of Emergency Management and Environmental Policy and Compliance, the Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency, and other agencies and organizations to execute the emergency management responsibilities of the Bureau.  

The Natural Hazards Mission Area also manages the USGS Hazard Response Executive Committee, which provides executive direction, oversight, and support to USGS managers in responding to major hazard events.  During incidents of national significance, the USGS provides support to certain National Response Framework emergency support functions and National Disaster Recovery Framework recovery support functions.

I.  Department of the Interior Strategic Sciences Group (SSG). The Associate Director for Natural Hazards co-leads the SSG, which is guided by 305 DM 4 to provide the standing capacity to rapidly assemble trained teams of scientists to construct interdisciplinary scenarios of the cascading consequences of natural disasters and other environmental crises. During an environmental crisis, the Secretary of the Interior can direct the SSG to activate a crisis science team composed of experts from government, academia, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector, as appropriate, to build scenarios, develop potential interventions to mitigate adverse effects, and deliver information to decision makers and resource managers. During non-crisis times, the SSG refines scenario development methodology, prepares for future deployments, and conducts training exercises.


/s/ Katherine M. McCulloch                                         December 29, 2020

______________________________                        ___________

Katherine M. McCulloch                                               Date

Associate Director for Administration