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 ranges and polar areas and the snow melts faster.

• Overall, glaciers are melting at a faster rate.

• Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean around the North Pole is melting faster with the warmer temperatures.

• Permafrost is melting, releasing methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

• Sea levels are rising, threatening coastal communities and estuarine ecosystems.

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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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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

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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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How do we know glaciers are shrinking?

In addition to qualitative methods like Repeat Photography, USGS scientists collect quantitative measurements of glacier area and mass balance to track how some glaciers are retreating (

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How does carbon get into the atmosphere?

Atmospheric carbon dioxide comes from two primary sources—natural and human activities. Natural sources of carbon dioxide include most animals, which exhale carbon dioxide as a waste product. Human activities that lead to carbon dioxide emissions come primarily from energy production, including burning coal, oil, or natural

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How much carbon dioxide does the United States and the World emit each year from energy sources?

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2014, the United States emitted 5.4 million metric tons of energy-related carbon dioxide, while the global emissions of energy-related carbon dioxide totaled 32.3 billion metric tons.

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What is carbon sequestration?

Carbon dioxide is the most commonly produced greenhouse gas. Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. It is one method of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with the goal of reducing global climate change. The USGS is conducting assessments on two major

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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 14, 2017

Walrus Sea-Ice Habitats Melting Away

Habitat for the Pacific walrus in the Chukchi Sea is disappearing from beneath them as the warming climate melts away Arctic sea ice in the spring, forcing the large mammals to “haul out” of the ocean and temporarily live on land.

Date published: November 30, 2016

Permafrost Loss Dramatically Changes Yukon River Chemistry and Hydrology with Potential Global Implications

New USGS-led research shows that permafrost loss due to a rapidly warming Alaska is leading to significant changes in the freshwater chemistry and hydrology of Alaska’s Yukon River Basin with potential global climate implications. Such permafrost degradation is already fundamentally transforming the way that high-latitude, Northern Hemisphere ecosystems function.    

Date published: September 28, 2016

Fifty Years of Glacier Change Research in Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the longest continuous glacier research efforts in North America.

Date published: May 4, 2016

A Warming Climate Could Alter the Ecology of the Deepest Lake in the United States

Warming air temperature is predicted to change water temperature and water column mixing in Oregon’s Crater Lake over the next several decades, potentially impacting the clarity and health of the iconic lake, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report released today.

Date published: November 30, 2015

USGS Projects Large Loss of Alaska Permafrost by 2100

Using statistically modeled maps drawn from satellite data and other sources, U.S. Geological Survey scientists have projected that the near-surface permafrost that presently underlies 38 percent of boreal and arctic Alaska would be reduced by 16 to 24 percent by the end of the 21st century under widely accepted climate scenarios.

Date published: October 19, 2015

Arctic Mammals May Face Shrinking Habitat from Climate Warming

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A new scientific study predicts that some of Alaska’s mammal species will respond to future climate warming by concentrating in northern areas such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the National Petroleum Reserve of Alaska. If true, for many species, this would be a significant northward shift into tundra habitats where they are currently absent.

Date published: May 11, 2015

Boom and Bust in the Boreal Forest: Climate Signals Seen in Bird Populations

Weaving concepts of ecology and climatology, recent interdisciplinary research by USGS and several university partners reveals how large-scale climate variability appears to connect boom-and-bust cycles in the seed production of the boreal (northern conifer) forests of Canada to massive, irregular movements of boreal birds.

Date published: April 8, 2015

Scientists Predict Gradual, Prolonged Permafrost Greenhouse Gas Emissions

A new scientific synthesis suggests a gradual, prolonged release of greenhouse gases from permafrost soils in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, which may afford society more time to adapt to environmental changes, say scientists in a paper published in Nature today. 

Date published: March 18, 2015

From Icefield to Ocean - What Glacier Change Might Mean for the Future of Alaska

Frozen bodies of ice cover nearly 10 percent of the state of Alaska, but the influence of glaciers on the environment, tourism, fisheries, hydropower, and other important Alaska resources is rarely discussed.

Date published: February 18, 2015

A Decade of Change in America’s Arctic: New Land Cover Data Released for Alaska

The latest edition of the National Land Cover Dataset (NLCD 2011) for Alaska is now publicly available.

Date published: December 4, 2014

New Heights of Global Topographic Data Will Aid Climate Change Research

The U.S. Geological Survey announced today that improved global topographic (elevation) data are now publicly available for North and South America, Pacific Islands, and northern Europe. Similar data for most of Africa were previously released by USGS in September. 

Date published: January 23, 2012

Airborne Geophysical Survey Offers New Insight Into Permafrost in Alaska

DENVER, Colo. — A pioneering airborne electromagnetic survey in the Yukon Flats near Fort Yukon, Alaska, by the U.S. Geological Survey has yielded unprecedented images of the presence and absence of permafrost to depths of roughly 328 feet.

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Rainbow Glacier perimeter: 1966, 1998, 2005, 2015.
2017 (approx.)

This image shows the perimeter of Rainbow Glacier in Glacier National Park: 1966, 1998, 2005, 2015. 

July 27, 2017
  • Glacier Numerology – The how big, how long, how thick, how much, how often, of glacier science.
  • Glacier Photography – While a picture may be worth a thousand words, a collection of images may tell a complete forensic story.
  • Glacier Geophysics – How new technologies are being introduced to reexamine and refine decades old glacier analyses.
Sperry Glacier animation
April 11, 2016
2015 (approx.)

Jay Hootch, former employee of Yupitt of Andreafski, drills to take winter chemistry samples to be used in a permafrost loss study in the Yukon River Basin. 
 

2015 (approx.)

Heading out to take water chemistry samples for a study on permafrost in the Yukon River Basin. The study examined the chemical and hydrological changes occurring in the basin due to permafrost loss. 
 

2015 (approx.)

Barter Island sits at the top of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, and with the Arctic facing quickly rising temperatures, USGS wants to investigate what’s causing the North Slope bluffs to erode so quickly. This permafrost environment is complex, so USGS studies many facets-- from radon in the groundwater to sand grains along the coast-- of this frozen landscape.

 

Allen Bondurant measuring the depth to permafrost along a thermokarst lake shore.
August 11, 2015

Allen Bondurant measuring the depth to permafrost along a thermokarst lake shore.

Image: Drought Effect
June 13, 2010

The white colored rock (approximately 100ft high) shows the drop in the water level of Lake Mead as a result of the ongoing 10-year drought along the Colorado River.

video thumbnail: USGS Public Lecture Series: Baked Alaska--What's Happening to the Glaciers in Alaska?
September 1, 2009

Glaciers are Earth's largest reservoir of freshwater. As they change, so does global sea level. Alaska has one of the largest accumulations of glaciers anywhere on Earth outside of the Polar regions. For most of the past half century, Alaska has experienced a significant increase in temperature that has profoundly impacted its glaciers. Join USGS scientist Dr. Bruce F. Molnia to explore the relationship between Alaska's glaciers, climate, and sea level. Visit a number of Alaskan landscapes and examine their changes on yearly, decadal, and century time scales.

Transcript available soon.

video thumbnail: USGS Public Lecture Series: Climate Change 101
August 24, 2009

Climate change is an issue of increasing public concern because of its potential effects on land, water, and biological resources. In the next several years, the United States will be challenged to make management and policy decisions as well as develop adaptation and mitigation strategies that will require anticipating the effects of a changing climate and its impacts on humans and ecosystems. The USGS has a well-regarded history in studying these potential effects and understanding climate change science.

Transcript available soon

video thumbnail: USGS Public Lecture Series: Watching Nature's Clock: A Citizen-Scientist Effort to Track Seasonal Signs of Climate Change
May 5, 2009

A new USGS program, the USA National Phenology Network, is recruiting tens of thousands of volunteers to team up with scientists to help track the effects of climate on seasonal patterns of plant and animal behavior. Come learn how you can contribute to this new national effort, by getting outside, and observing and recording flowering, fruiting and other seasonal events. Scientists and resource managers will use your observations to help track effects of climate change on the Earth's life-support systems.

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