Frequently Asked Questions

Oceans

USGS science is used to help manage coastal and ocean resources that extend from shorelines and estuaries to the deep sea.

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photo of USGS staffers on beach making bathymetric survey of Long Island barrier-island breach from Hurricane Sandy
The USGS has run bathymetric surveys for many coastal areas and for selected rivers and lakes in the U.S., including Yellowstone Lake, Crater Lake, and Lake Tahoe. Information and data for those studies can be found on the USGS Maps of America's Submerged Lands website. NOAA is the primary source of bathymetric data for the world's oceans. See ...
Fish swim around a brightly colored coral reef
Coral reefs can be damaged by natural processes, such as storms, but they are increasingly at risk from human activities. Oil spills and pollutants can threaten entire reefs. Excessive nutrients from land sources, such as sewage and agricultural fertilizers, promote the growth of algae that can smother corals. Other organisms harmful to corals,...
Uplifted sea floor at Cape Cleare on Montague Island in Prince William Sound.
Geology is the study of the Earth. This includes how the Earth was formed, how the Earth has changed since it was formed, the materials that make up the earth, and the processes that act on it. Marine Geology focuses on areas affected by our oceans including the deep ocean floor; the shallower slopes and shelves that surround the continents; and...
Image: Sunset Over Arctic Ocean
The USGS has studied sea-surface temperature in many areas around the globe; you can find publications from these studies on the USGS Web site and by searching on the Internet. World maps and data are available from other agencies, particularly at the JPL OurOcean portal, at the NOAA Web site, and at the Physical Oceanography Distributed Active...
King Range Wilderness, California
Oceans cover about 70 percent of the Earth's surface and about 97 percent of all water on and in the Earth is saline—there's a lot of salty water on our planet. By some estimates, if the salt in the ocean could be removed and spread evenly over the Earth’s land surface it would form a layer more than 500 feet (166 meters) thick, about the height...