Climate Research and Development Program

Cryosphere: Earth’s Snow, Ice, and Permafrost

The Arctic and frozen lands are experiencing rapid changes and play large roles in infrastructure, natural resources, and regulation of global climate. The Climate R&D Program conducts research to improve our understanding of avalanches, permafrost, glaciers, and sea ice, and their response to changing climates in the past, present, and future.

Filter Total Items: 9
Date published: January 25, 2021
Status: Active

Arctic Biogeochemical Response to Permafrost Thaw (ABRUPT)

Warming and thawing of permafrost soils in the Arctic is expected to become widespread over the coming decades.  Permafrost thaw changes ecosystem structure and function, affects resource availability for wildlife and society, and decreases ground stability which affects human infrastructure. Since permafrost soils contain about half of the global soil carbon (C) pool, the magnitude of C...

Date published: October 29, 2020
Status: Active

USGS Snow and Avalanche Project

Snow avalanches are a widespread natural hazard to humans and infrastructure as well as an important landscape disturbance affecting mountain ecosystems. Forecasting avalanche frequency is challenging on various spatial and temporal scales, and this project aims to fill a gap in snow science by focusing on reconstructing avalanche history on the continental mountain range scale - throughout...

Date published: March 25, 2020
Status: Active

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...

Date published: May 30, 2019
Status: Active

Wetlands in the Quaternary

Wetlands accumulate organic-rich sediment or peat stratigraphically, making them great archives of past environmental change. Wetlands also act as hydrologic buffers on the landscape and are important to global biogeochemical cycling. This project uses wetland archives from a range of environments to better understand how vegetation, hydrology, and hydroclimate has changed on decadal to multi-...

Date published: April 13, 2019
Status: Active

Linking water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles in seasonally snow-covered catchments under changing land resource conditions

Changes in snowpack accumulation, distribution, and melt in high-elevation catchments are likely to have important impacts on water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles, which are tightly coupled through exchanges of energy and biogeochemical compounds between atmospheric, terrestrial, and aquatic environments.  Our research helps to better understand how changes in climate will affect water...

Date published: April 13, 2019
Status: Active

Biogeochemistry of glaciers

Significant change to the Arctic and sub-arctic water cycle is underway, impacting hydrologic and biogeochemical fluxes.  In southcentral Alaska, glacier mass loss, changes to precipitation (including the rain/snow fraction), thawing ground ice, and vegetation encroachment will change both magnitude and timing of water and solute fluxes downstream.  Although altered fluxes of limiting...

Date published: November 6, 2018
Status: Active

USGS Benchmark Glacier Project

Scientists with the USGS Benchmark Glacier Project study the process and impacts of glacier change, including sea-level rise, water resources, environmental hazards and ecosystem links. At the core of this research are mass balance measurements at five glaciers in the United States. Since the 1960s, these glaciers have been studied using direct observations of glaciers and meteorology. The...

Date published: October 31, 2018
Status: Active

Land-Sea Linkages in the Arctic

The Arctic is undergoing historically unprecedented changes in weather, sea ice, temperature and ecosystems.  These changes have led to greater coastal erosion, greater export of freshwater, and changes to marine and terrestrial ecosystems, habitats, and productivity, among other trends. Meanwhile, many believe the Arctic “amplifies” large climate changes during both warm periods and ice ages...

Date published: July 14, 2017
Status: Active

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 (...