How can climate change affect natural disasters?

With increasing global surface temperatures the possibility of more droughts and increased intensity of storms will likely occur. As more water vapor is evaporated into the atmosphere it becomes fuel for more powerful storms to develop. More heat in the atmosphere and warmer ocean surface temperatures can lead to increased wind speeds in tropical storms. Rising sea levels expose higher locations not usually subjected to the power of the sea and to the erosive forces of waves and currents.

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What are the long-term effects of climate change?

Scientists have predicted that long-term effects of climate change will include a decrease in sea ice and an increase in permafrost thawing, an increase in heat waves and heavy precipitation, and decreased water resources in semi-arid regions.

Below are some of the regional impacts of global change forecast by the

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What is the difference between weather and climate change?

Weather refers to short term atmospheric conditions while climate is the weather of a specific region averaged over a long period of time. Climate change refers to long-term changes.

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What are some of the signs of climate change?

• Temperatures are rising world-wide due to greenhouse gases trapping more heat in the atmosphere.

• Droughts are becoming longer and more extreme around the world.

• Tropical storms becoming more severe due to warmer ocean water temperatures.

• As temperatures rise there is less snowpack in mountain

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What is the difference between global warming and climate change?

Although people tend to use these terms interchangeably, global warming is just one aspect of climate change. “Global warming” refers to the rise in global temperatures due mainly to the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. “Climate change” refers to the increasing changes in the measures of

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Why is climate change happening and what are the causes?

There are many “natural” and “anthropogenic” (human-induced) factors that contribute to climate change. Climate change has always happened on Earth, which is clearly seen in the geological record; it is the rapid rate and the magnitude of climate change occurring now that is of great concern worldwide. Greenhouse gases in

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How do changes in climate and land use relate to one another?

The link between land use and the climate is complex.  First, land cover, as shaped by land use practices, affects the global concentration of greenhouse gases. Second, while land use change is an important driver of climate change, a changing climate can lead to changes in land use and land cover. For example, farmers may

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How do we know the climate is changing?

The scientific community is certain that the Earth's climate is changing because of the trends that we see in the instrumented climate record and the changes that have been observed in physical and biological systems.  The instrumental record of climate change is derived from thousands of temperature and precipitation

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What is the role of the USGS in responding to hurricanes?

The USGS creates detailed maps of our Nation’s shorelines, dunes, and coastal cliffs, and studies how storm processes impact our coastlines. This information is used to predict and map coastal vulnerability to changes caused by major storms, long-term shoreline erosion, sea-level rise, and sea cliff erosion.

One

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Does an increase in the 100-year flood estimate originate from climate or land-use change?

Climate variability (dry cycles to wet cycles) and land-use change play a large role, but there is a large amount of uncertainty around the flood quantile estimates (the value of discharge corresponding to the 100-year flood), particularly if there isn’t a long record of observed data at a stream location.  

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Date published: August 10, 2017

Study Links Major Floods in North America and Europe to Multi-Decade Ocean Patterns

The number of major floods in natural rivers across Europe and North America has not increased overall during the past 80 years, a recent study has concluded. Instead researchers found that the occurrence of major flooding in North America and Europe often varies with North Atlantic Ocean temperature patterns.

Date published: May 18, 2017

In Next Decades, Frequency of Coastal Flooding Will Double Globally

The frequency and severity of coastal flooding throughout the world will increase rapidly and eventually double in frequency over the coming decades even with only moderate amounts of sea level rise, according to a new study released today in “Scientific Reports.”

Date published: November 28, 2016

Safeguarding Our Cultural Past from Future Climate Change: Stories from Jamestown

The Interior Department’s Climate Science Centers, managed by USGS, are helping the NPS pinpoint the specific impacts of climate change on parks and their cultural and natural resources. Doing so will help managers answer a critical question: which resources will require human intervention to ensure their continued existence?

Date published: October 14, 2016

After the Storm – Hurricane Matthew and the Floods

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, USGS crews have been collecting the record number of storm-tide sensors deployed prior to the storm and are now determining high water marks, collecting water quality samples, and assessing the impacts of storm surge on south eastern beaches caused by erosion, overwash and inundation.  

Visit the USGS Hurricane Matthew webpage to learn more. 

 

Date published: February 13, 2014

Drought Affects Streamflow Across California

With California experiencing its worst drought in over a century, 2013 is in the record books as the driest calendar year in the state’s 119-year recorded history.

Date published: April 11, 2013

New Sea-Level-Rise Modeling Forecasts Major Climate Impact to Low-Lying Pacific Islands

Dynamic modeling of sea-level rise, which takes storm wind and wave action into account, paints a much graver picture for some low-lying Pacific islands under climate-change scenarios than the passive computer modeling used in earlier research, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report.

Date published: May 11, 2007

Abrupt Climate Change: Causes and Ecosystem Responses

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists who study trends in climate change will be presenting the results from new studies at a workshop held in Pacific Grove, California, May 13-16, 2007.

Date published: November 13, 2002

"Hurricane" Turtles of South Carolina's Tidal Creeks

Hurricanes brush or hit Charleston, S.C., about once every five and a half years, often generating large storm surges on top of already impressive tides. A hurricane that hit Charleston in 1752 caused a storm surge that nearly covered the entire present downtown area, according to one source. When the wind shifted, the water level fell 5 feet in 10 minutes.

Date published: August 28, 1998

Alaskan Glaciers Yield Massive Floods

Torrents of meltwater are unleashed suddenly from the margins of the great moving sheets of snow and ice, known as glaciers. In Alaska, these pulses of activity, called "outburst floods," are usually caused by the failure of ice dams that restrain the meltwater of glacial margin lakes.

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A USGS Research Geologist takes photographs of Puerto Rican hillsides from a U.S. Army helicopter to document landslides.
2017 (approx.)

Bill Schulz, USGS Research Geologist, takes photographs of Puerto Rican hillsides from a U.S. Army helicopter to document landslides caused by Hurricane Maria. This work will help identify areas around Puerto Rico with the highest risk of more landslides, which is information the Federal Emergency Management Agency will use to determine the best way to mitigate and prepare for any future landslides. Photo by Jason Marineau, DOI Office of Emergency Management.

2017 (approx.)

Before a hurricane, USGS Scientists undertake a data collection effort of a grand scale. They install a temporary mobile network of sensors along the coasts to collect additional data on the intensity of storm surge, one of the most dangerous elements of a hurricane. This effort provides critical information that allows various USGS partners and emergency responders to make better informed decisions during and after these extreme weather events. https://www.usgs.gov/hurricanes

A USGS specialist installs a storm-tide sensor in Massachusetts before Hurricane Jose's arrival.
September 19, 2017

A USGS specialist installs a storm-tide sensor in Massachusetts before Hurricane Jose's arrival.  

Weakened livestock, West Arsi, Ethiopia
December 15, 2016

Weakened livestock in Arsi Negele, south-central Ethiopia, Sept. 2, 2015.  Photo cedit: Getachew Abate (FEWS NET) and Kelbessa Beyene (World Food Programme), public domain

 

Before and after pictures - Hurricane Rita and Holly Beach, Louisiana, USA
December 14, 2016

Hurricanes can cause severe beach erosion
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The Storm-Induced Coastal Change Hazards component of the of the National Assessment of Coastal Change Hazards project focuses on understanding the magnitude and variability of extreme storm impacts on sandy beaches. The overall objective is to improve real-time and scenario-based predictions of coastal change to support management of coastal infrastructure, resources, and safety.

Our Nation's coastlines are in constant flux through the processes of erosion and deposition. Storms of various types impact the coast further. Hurricanes are more likely to affect the Atlantic and Gulf coast states, while winter storms affect all coastlines throughout the conterminous United States as well as Alaska and Hawaii. The impacts to population, infrastructure, and habitat vary geographically, depending on shoreline type, whether sandy beach, rocky shore, sea cliff, barrier island or wetland.

This picture shows the impact of Hurricane Rita on Holly Beach, Louisiana in 2005. In the right photograph, note the sand deposit emerging from the flood waters in a mid-island location half way between the arrows, as well as landward of the main highway along the far-left side. Evidence of flow-induced scour under and around structures is present in the post-Rita photograph.

September 1, 2016

This short video is one of a series of four total shorts highlighting USGS water science in California's Delta region. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is the hub of the state's water system. Water quality touches on all aspects of life. Teams of U.S. Geological Survey scientists along with their partners monitor water quality and identify sources of pollution and potential solutions. They sample from boats and along shorelines and conduct continuous on-site monitoring within river channels and Delta sloughs and they drill into aquifers to monitor the quality of groundwater. 
 

September 1, 2016

This short video is one of a series of four total shorts highlighting USGS water science in California's Delta region. Earthquakes, land subsidence and flooding pose significant threats to California’s fresh water. Aqueducts, pipes and sewer lines can break and levees can breach. In the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta at the heart of the state’s freshwater system, the huge areas of farmland between leveed channels could suddenly be under water and water to more than twenty five million people could be crippled or cut off entirely. These are complex problems in need of attention and solutions. USGS Scientists are conducting a variety of diverse research to mitigate hazards in the Delta region. 
 

Photo depicting drought-related tree mortality in Sequoia National Park
2015 (approx.)

Drought-related tree mortality at a low elevation forest in Sequoia National Park. 

October 22, 2015

Surprises relevant to future fire regime forecasts

by Jon E. Keeley, USGS Research Scientist

  • Historical variation in annual fire activity is tied to climate only in the montane forests.
  • Fires are largely insensitive to winter temperatures but significantly affected by spring and summer temperatures.
  • Future impacts of global warming on fire activity are largely dependent on the seasonal patterns of warming.
  • Lower elevation foothill shrublands and savannahs are not strongly affected by high temperatures in any season.
Image: USGS Documents 2015 Western U.S. Drought
August 26, 2015

A hydrologic technician from the USGS Idaho Water Science Center measures streamflow in Lightning Creek at Clark Fork, ID. The USGS is collecting data at hundreds of sites on rivers and streams in six western states to document the 2015 drought. USGS scientists will analyze the data to identify which rivers and streams may be most vulnerable to future droughts.

Stillwater Creek in drought conditions
February 3, 2013

Stillwater Creek in drought conditions

man in orange lifevest in brown floodwaters pulling yellow kayak
September 9, 2011

USGS staffer in Susquehanna River floodwaters in Owego, NY 2011