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Paleoclimate

Paleoclimate studies provide an essential perspective for assessing the potential impacts of future climate on natural systems and the people who rely on them. GECSC scientists interpret geologic evidence of past climate changes over broad temporal and spatial scales and provide the information needed to understand the rates and patterns of Earth system response to a range of climate and landscape changes. Integration of these data with climate modeling efforts provides a means to improve understanding of the impacts of change and feedbacks between the Earth and climate systems, as well as improve model performance and prediction capabilities.

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Understanding long-term drivers of vegetation change and stability in the Southern Rocky Mountains with paleoecological data and ecological models

Drought and fire are powerful disturbance agents that can trigger rapid and lasting changes in the forests of western North America. Over the last decade, increases in fire size and severity coincided with warming, drought, and earlier snowmelt, factors that projected climatic changes are likely to exacerbate. However, recent observations are brief relative to the lifespans of trees and include...
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Understanding long-term drivers of vegetation change and stability in the Southern Rocky Mountains with paleoecological data and ecological models

Drought and fire are powerful disturbance agents that can trigger rapid and lasting changes in the forests of western North America. Over the last decade, increases in fire size and severity coincided with warming, drought, and earlier snowmelt, factors that projected climatic changes are likely to exacerbate. However, recent observations are brief relative to the lifespans of trees and include...
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Quaternary Hydroclimate Records of Spring Ecosystems

Desert springs and wetlands are among the most biologically productive, diverse, and fragile ecosystems on Earth. They are home to thousands of rare, endemic, and endangered plants and animals and reflect the availability and health of emergent groundwater. Despite the ecological importance of these wetlands, our knowledge of how they might respond to predicted future climate change is limited...
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Quaternary Hydroclimate Records of Spring Ecosystems

Desert springs and wetlands are among the most biologically productive, diverse, and fragile ecosystems on Earth. They are home to thousands of rare, endemic, and endangered plants and animals and reflect the availability and health of emergent groundwater. Despite the ecological importance of these wetlands, our knowledge of how they might respond to predicted future climate change is limited...
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Denali National Park Geohazards Geologic Mapping

Denali National Park (DENA) is a major draw for tourism and recreation and a major economic engine for central Alaska. However, the geologic forces that created the steep landscape of DENA also make it prone to geologic hazards (geohazards) like landslides, debris flows, and earthquakes. DENA has only one major road, called the ‘Park Road’, that serves nearly all of its infrastructure. Since 2017...
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Denali National Park Geohazards Geologic Mapping

Denali National Park (DENA) is a major draw for tourism and recreation and a major economic engine for central Alaska. However, the geologic forces that created the steep landscape of DENA also make it prone to geologic hazards (geohazards) like landslides, debris flows, and earthquakes. DENA has only one major road, called the ‘Park Road’, that serves nearly all of its infrastructure. Since 2017...
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Past Perspectives of Water in the West

In the intermountain west, seasonal precipitation extremes, combined with population growth, are creating new challenges for the management of water resources, ecosystems, and geologic hazards. This research contributes a comprehensive long-term context for a deeper understanding of past hydrologic variability, including the magnitude and frequency of drought and flood extremes and ecosystem...
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Past Perspectives of Water in the West

In the intermountain west, seasonal precipitation extremes, combined with population growth, are creating new challenges for the management of water resources, ecosystems, and geologic hazards. This research contributes a comprehensive long-term context for a deeper understanding of past hydrologic variability, including the magnitude and frequency of drought and flood extremes and ecosystem...
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Cenozoic Landscape Evolution of the Southern Rocky Mountains

The Cenozoic Landscape Evolution of the Southern Rocky Mountains Project is a multi-year investigation funded by the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program. This project utilizes a combination of geologic mapping, geophysical surveys, basin modeling, and structural, neotectonic, geomorphic, volcanic, stratigraphic, and geochronologic studies to better understand the geologic landscape of...
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Cenozoic Landscape Evolution of the Southern Rocky Mountains

The Cenozoic Landscape Evolution of the Southern Rocky Mountains Project is a multi-year investigation funded by the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program. This project utilizes a combination of geologic mapping, geophysical surveys, basin modeling, and structural, neotectonic, geomorphic, volcanic, stratigraphic, and geochronologic studies to better understand the geologic landscape of...
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Geologic Records of High Sea Levels

This project studies past high sea levels on coastlines that preserve fossil coral reefs or marine terraces. We ascertain the magnitudes of sea-level high stands by field mapping, stratigraphic measurements, and precise elevation measurements. Geochronology is accomplished by radiocarbon dating of mollusks (for Holocene-to-last-glacial deposits), uranium-series dating of corals (for high-sea...
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Geologic Records of High Sea Levels

This project studies past high sea levels on coastlines that preserve fossil coral reefs or marine terraces. We ascertain the magnitudes of sea-level high stands by field mapping, stratigraphic measurements, and precise elevation measurements. Geochronology is accomplished by radiocarbon dating of mollusks (for Holocene-to-last-glacial deposits), uranium-series dating of corals (for high-sea...
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Holocene Hydroclimate of Western North America

The objectives of this project are to reconstruct detailed histories of Holocene hydroclimate and corresponding environmental change from geological archives such as lake sediment, peat, and wood to more fully understand past, ongoing, and future change and its impacts.
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Holocene Hydroclimate of Western North America

The objectives of this project are to reconstruct detailed histories of Holocene hydroclimate and corresponding environmental change from geological archives such as lake sediment, peat, and wood to more fully understand past, ongoing, and future change and its impacts.
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Ice Dynamics, Paleoclimate, and Ice Cores

Ice cores recovered from the polar regions of the Earth contain the most comprehensive, direct record of the Earth's high-latitude climate for the past 800,000 years. In addition to providing a proxy temperature record (through the record of the stable isotope ratios of water preserved in the ice) and a direct observational record of net accumulation, ice cores also provide the only direct record...
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Ice Dynamics, Paleoclimate, and Ice Cores

Ice cores recovered from the polar regions of the Earth contain the most comprehensive, direct record of the Earth's high-latitude climate for the past 800,000 years. In addition to providing a proxy temperature record (through the record of the stable isotope ratios of water preserved in the ice) and a direct observational record of net accumulation, ice cores also provide the only direct record...
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Paleohydrology of Desert Wetlands

Springs and wetlands are among the most highly threatened ecosystems on Earth. Although geographically limited, they support more than 20% of all the threatened and endangered species in the United States. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey are examining the rock record to determine how springs and wetlands responded to abrupt climate change during prehistoric times and the recent geologic...
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Paleohydrology of Desert Wetlands

Springs and wetlands are among the most highly threatened ecosystems on Earth. Although geographically limited, they support more than 20% of all the threatened and endangered species in the United States. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey are examining the rock record to determine how springs and wetlands responded to abrupt climate change during prehistoric times and the recent geologic...
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Sources, compositions, and effects of atmospheric dust from American Drylands

The Drylands Project undertakes studies to measure past and ongoing changes in dust sources, flux, and composition in the American West, and strives to understand the effects of atmospheric dust on pressing national and global issues of snowmelt acceleration, air quality, and human health. The project develops the capability to forecast future dust emission/deposition and effects on the basis of...
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Sources, compositions, and effects of atmospheric dust from American Drylands

The Drylands Project undertakes studies to measure past and ongoing changes in dust sources, flux, and composition in the American West, and strives to understand the effects of atmospheric dust on pressing national and global issues of snowmelt acceleration, air quality, and human health. The project develops the capability to forecast future dust emission/deposition and effects on the basis of...
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Terrestrial Rates and Amplitudes of Changes in Ecoclimate Systems (TRACES)

Vegetation changes caused by climatic variations and/or land use may have large impacts on forests, agriculture, rangelands, natural ecosystems, and endangered species. Climate modeling studies indicate that vegetation cover, in turn, has a strong influence on regional climates, and this must be better understood before models can estimate future environmental conditions. To address these issues...
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Terrestrial Rates and Amplitudes of Changes in Ecoclimate Systems (TRACES)

Vegetation changes caused by climatic variations and/or land use may have large impacts on forests, agriculture, rangelands, natural ecosystems, and endangered species. Climate modeling studies indicate that vegetation cover, in turn, has a strong influence on regional climates, and this must be better understood before models can estimate future environmental conditions. To address these issues...
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Terrestrial Records of Holocene Climate Change: Fire, climate and humans

Large wildfires have raged across the western Americas in the past decade including the Las Conchas, New Mexico fire that burned 44,000 acres in a single day in 2011 (Orem and Pelletier, 2015, Geomorphology 232: 224-238, and references therein), the 2016 Fort McMurray, Alberta fire that required evacuating an entire city, and the 2015 Alaskan fire season that burned more than 5 million acres...
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Terrestrial Records of Holocene Climate Change: Fire, climate and humans

Large wildfires have raged across the western Americas in the past decade including the Las Conchas, New Mexico fire that burned 44,000 acres in a single day in 2011 (Orem and Pelletier, 2015, Geomorphology 232: 224-238, and references therein), the 2016 Fort McMurray, Alberta fire that required evacuating an entire city, and the 2015 Alaskan fire season that burned more than 5 million acres...
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