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The Climate Research and Development (Climate R&D) Program strives to advance the understanding of the physical, chemical, and biological components of the Earth system, the causes and consequences of climate and land use change, and the vulnerability and resilience of the Earth system to such changes.

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Learn about research to improve understanding of the rates, causes, and consequences of climate and land use change.

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Climate R&D research provides the basic data and scientific interpretations needed to understand how the Earth system responds to changing climate and land use.

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Climate Matters Newsletter

Climate Matters Newsletter

Stay updated on recent research and its relevance to societal needs and issues important to resource managers, policy makers, and the general public.

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Date published: December 13, 2017

Eyes on the Coast—Video Cameras Help Forecast Coastal Change

USGS scientists have installed video cameras pointed at beaches on the coasts of western Florida and central California. They’re analyzing the videos to measure features of the beach and ocean so they can improve coastal-change forecasts.

Date published: October 5, 2017

Scientists Ground Truth What Influences Hurricanes

Scientists looked back 10 to 13 thousand years to gain real-world insight into the environmental factors that influence hurricanes near Florida and, by extension, the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.

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.

Climate R&D research contributes the fundamental science basis needed to develop sustainable resource management strategies.

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Filter Total Items: 11
Date published: March 7, 2018
Status: Active

Paleoclimate Reconstruction from Marine and Lake Sediments

Instrumental measurements of climate variables (e.g., precipitation, temperature, ocean circulation, etc.) are only available over the past century or less. In order to quantify the rate and magnitude of natural climate variability going back in time beyond the 20th century, scientists rely on paleoclimate reconstructions. 

Date published: February 27, 2018
Status: Active

Paleoceanographic Proxy Calibration

A sediment trap time series in the northern Gulf of Mexico is used to better assess the control of environmental variables (e.g., temperature and salinity) on the flux of both microfossils and molecular fossils to the sediments. The information gained from sediment trap studies is used to develop better proxy-based estimates of past oceanographic conditions from analyses of microfossils and ...

Date published: May 9, 2017

Time Series of Glacier Retreat

The retreat of glaciers in Glacier National Park, Montana, has received widespread attention by the media, the public, and scientists because it is a clear and poignant indicator of change in the northern Rocky Mountains of the USA.  In 2017 the...

Date published: May 9, 2017

GLACIER SIMULATION

The simulation reflects the predicted exponential rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, a 2xCO2 "global warming" scenario, by 2030 with a concurrent warming of 2-3 degrees centigrade (4-5 degrees Fahrenheit) by the year 2050. In addition it assumes that precipitation, primarily during the winter, will increase over the same time period five to 10 percent. The animation view of the Blackfoot-...

Date published: September 20, 2016

Post-fire Recovery Patterns in Southwestern Forests

High-severity crown fires in Southwestern dry-conifer forests — resulting from fire suppression, fuel buildups, and drought — are creating large treeless areas that are historically unprecedented in size. These recent stand-replacing fires have reset extensive portions of Southwest forest landscapes, fostering post-fire successional vegetation that can alter ecological recovery trajectories...

Contacts: Collin Haffey
Date published: May 5, 2016

Climate Change in Mountain Ecosystems (CCME)

Climate change is widely acknowledged to be having a profound effect on the biosphere with many and diverse impacts on global resources. Mountain ecosystems in the western U.S. and the Northern Rockies in particular are highly sensitive to climate change. In fact, the higher elevations of the Northern Rockies have experienced three times the global average temperature increase over the past...

Date published: April 6, 2016

Retreat of Glaciers in Glacier National Park

Worldwide glacial glacier recession is well documented (1,2) and varied model projections suggest that certain studied GNP glaciers will disappear in the next few decades, between 2030 (3) to 2080 (4).  USGS scientists in Glacier National Park are collaborating with glaciologist from Alaska and Washington and using...

Date published: April 5, 2016

Secondary Glacier Network

The Secondary Glacier Network includes six glaciers (Chaney, Grinnell, Stanton, Agassiz, Swiftcurrent, Jackson-Blackfoot Glaciers) that form a north-south transect of approx. 60 km through the region, with Sperry Glacier just south of center. While these glaciers will be monitored less frequently than the benchmark glacier, Sperry, this network will provide data about the variability of...

Date published: April 5, 2016

Benchmark Glacier: Sperry

Sperry Glacier was chosen as the benchmark glacier for the glacier monitoring studies, due to the combination of its topographic characteristics, historic data, and access. Annual mass balance measurements began in 2005. Sperry Glacier joined the long-established USGS Benchmark Glacier Research program in 2013 where common field and analysis methods enable regional comparison and improved...

Date published: April 5, 2016

Glacier Research

As Glacier National Park’s namesake glaciers recede, CCME staff are monitoring many of the park’s glaciers to determine the causes of change, assess their ecological and hydrological effects, and predict future changes and effects. Intensive research to determine the mass balance of Sperry Glacier will determine whether small cirque glaciers like Sperry can serve as reliable indicators of...

Date published: April 5, 2016

Glacier Monitoring Studies

The purpose of the CCME's glacier monitoring studies is to systematically monitor changes in Glacier National Park’s namesake glaciers and to determine the causes of changes, assess their ecological and hydrological effects, and predict future changes and effects.

Filter Total Items: 6
Date published: February 15, 2018

Data and calculations to support the study of the sea-air flux of methane and carbon dioxide on the West Spitsbergen margin in June 2014

This dataset collected on the West Spitsbergen margin during U.S. Geological Survey Coastal and Marine Geology Program Field Activity 2014-013-FA, which was carried out in conjunction with the University of Tromso and the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel on the R/V Helmer Hanssen.

Date published: May 9, 2017

Area of the Named Glaciers of Glacier National Park (GNP) and Flathead National Forest (FNF) Derived from Aerial and Satellite Imagery, 1966, 1998, 2005, 2015

These data represent a time series of the 37 named glaciers of Glacier National Park, MT, USA and two named glaciers in the Flathead National Forest.

Date published: May 2, 2016

Regional Climate Change Viewer (RCCV)

The Regional Climate Change Viewer (RCCV) allows a user to visualize model output  from the Dynamical Downscaling project as averages of model grid cell values over bounding polygons that we have selected.

Date published: May 2, 2016

CMIP5 Global Climate Change Viewer (GCCV)

Display past and future temperature and precipitation projections simulated by global climate models. Access maps for any country, model, or emissions scenario. Requires Flash.

Date published: May 2, 2016

National Climate Change Viewer (NCCV)

The National Climate Change Viewer (NCCV) allows users to visualize projected changes in climate (maximum and minimum air temperature and precipitation) and the water balance (snow water equivalent, runoff, soil water storage and evaporative deficit) for any state, county and USGS Hydrologic Units (HUC).

Date published: April 25, 2016

Simulated Climate and Vegetation Data for the Northwest United States and Southwest Canada

The northwest United States and southwest Canada data sets consist of statistically-downscaled historical (1901-2001) CRU TS 2.1 and projected future (2001-2099) CMIP3 A2 and A1B climate data (monthly temperature, precipitation, and sunshine), derived bioclimatic variables (e.g., growing degree days), and LPJ-simulated vegetation data on a 30-second grid.

Filter Total Items: 12
Year Published: 2016

First records of Canis dirus and Smilodon fatalis from the late Pleistocene Tule Springs local fauna, upper Las Vegas Wash, Nevada

Late Pleistocene groundwater discharge deposits (paleowetlands) in the upper Las Vegas Wash north of Las Vegas, Nevada, have yielded an abundant and diverse vertebrate fossil assemblage, the Tule Springs local fauna (TSLF). The TSLF is the largest open-site vertebrate fossil assemblage dating to the Rancholabrean North American Land Mammal Age in...

Scott, Eric; Springer, Kathleen

Year Published: 2016

Hydrologic response of desert wetlands to Holocene climate change: preliminary results from the Soda Springs area, Mojave National Preserve, California

Desert wetlands are common features in arid environments and include a variety of hydrologic facies, including seeps, springs, marshes, wet meadows, ponds, and spring pools. Wet ground conditions and dense stands of vegetation in these settings combine to trap eolian, alluvial, and fluvial sediments that accumulate over time. The resulting...

Pigati, Jeffrey S.; Reheis, Marith C.; McGeehin, John P.; Honke, Jeffrey S.; Bright, J.

Year Published: 2015

Desert wetlands—Archives of a wetter past

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are finding evidence of a much wetter past in the deserts of the American Southwest using a most unlikely source—wetlands. Wetlands form in arid environments where water tables approach or breach the ground surface. Often thought of as stagnant and unchanging, new evidence suggests that...

Pigati, Jeffery S.; Springer, Kathleen B.; Manker, Craig R.
Pigati, J.S., Springer, K.B., and Manker, C.R., 2015, Desert wetlands—Archives of a wetter past: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2015–3077, 2 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/fs20153077.

Year Published: 2015

Dynamic response of desert wetlands to abrupt climate change

Desert wetlands are keystone ecosystems in arid environments and are preserved in the geologic record as groundwater discharge (GWD) deposits. GWD deposits are inherently discontinuous and stratigraphically complex, which has limited our understanding of how desert wetlands responded to past episodes of rapid climate change. Previous studies have...

Springer, Kathleen; Manker, Craig; Pigati, Jeffrey S.
Springer, K.B., Manker, C.R., Pigati, J.S., 2015, Dynamic response of desert wetlands to abrupt climate change. Science.

Year Published: 2015

Directly dated MIS 3 lake-level record from Lake Manix, Mojave Desert, California, USA

An outcrop-based lake-level curve, constrained by ~ 70 calibrated 14C ages on Anodonta shells, indicates at least 8 highstands between 45 and 25 cal ka BP within 10 m of the 543-m upper threshold of Lake Manix in the Mojave Desert of southern California. Correlations of Manix highstands with ice, marine, and...

Reheis, Marith; Miller, David M.; McGeehin, John P.; Redwine, Joanna R.; Oviatt, Charles G.; Bright, Jordon E.
Reheis, M.C., Miller, D.M., McGeehin, J.P., Redwine, J.R., Oviatt, C.G., Bright, Jordon, 2015, Directly dated MIS 3 lake-level record from Lake Manix, Mojave Desert, California, USA: Quaternary Research, v. 83, p. 187-203.

Year Published: 2014

Radiocarbon dating loess deposits in the Mississippi Valley using terrestrial gastropod shells (Polygyridae, Helicinidae, and Discidae)

Small terrestrial gastropod shells (mainly Succineidae) have been used successfully to date late Quaternary loess deposits in Alaska and the Great Plains. However, Succineidae shells are less common in loess deposits in the Mississippi Valley compared to those of the Polygyridae, Helicinidae, and Discidae families. In this study, we conducted...

Pigati, Jeffery S.; McGeehin, John P.; Muhs, Daniel; Grimley, David A.; Nekola, Jeffery C.

Year Published: 2014

Pluvial lakes in the Great Basin of the western United States: a view from the outcrop

Paleo-lakes in the western United States provide geomorphic and hydrologic records of climate and drainage-basin change at multiple time scales extending back to the Miocene. Recent reviews and studies of paleo-lake records have focused on interpretations of proxies in lake sediment cores from the northern and central parts of the Great Basin. In...

Reheis, Marith C.; Adams, Kenneth D.; Oviatt, Charles G.; Bacon, Steven N.
Pluvial lakes in the Great Basin of the western United States: a view from the outcrop; 2014; Article; Journal; Quaternary Science Reviews; Reheis, Marith C.; Adams, Kenneth D.; Oviatt, Charles G.; Bacon, Steven N.

Year Published: 2014

Desert wetlands in the geologic record

Desert wetlands support flora and fauna in a variety of hydrologic settings, including seeps, springs, marshes, wet meadows, ponds, and spring pools. Over time, eolian, alluvial, and fluvial sediments become trapped in these settings by a combination of wet ground conditions and dense plant cover. The result is a unique combination of clastic...

Edwards, L.; Springer, A.; Pigati, Jeff S.; Rech, Jason A.; Quade, Jay; Bright, Jordon

Year Published: 2014

Radiocarbon dating of terrestrial carbonates

Terrestrial carbonates encompass a wide range of materials that potentially could be used for radiocarbon (14C) dating. Biogenic carbonates, including shells and tests of terrestrial and aquatic gastropods, bivalves, ostracodes, and foraminifera, are preserved in a variety of late Quaternary deposits and may be suitable for 14C dating. Primary...

Rink, W. Jack; Thompson, Jeroen; Pigati, Jeffrey S.
Radiocarbon dating of terrestrial carbonates; 2014; Book chapter; Book; Encyclopedia of Scientific Dating Methods; Pigati, Jeffrey S.

Year Published: 2013

Radiocarbon dating late Quaternary loess deposits using small terrestrial gastropod shells

Constraining the ages and mass accumulation rates of late Quaternary loess deposits is often difficult because of the paucity of organic material typically available for 14C dating and the inherent limitations of luminescence techniques. Radiocarbon dating of small terrestrial gastropod shells may provide an alternative to these methods as fossil...

Pigati, Jeff S.; McGeehin, John P.; Muhs, Daniel R.; Bettis, E. Arthur
Radiocarbon dating late Quaternary loess deposits using small terrestrial gastropod shells; 2013; Article; Journal; Quaternary Science Reviews; Pigati, Jeff S.; McGeehin, John P.; Muhs, Daniel R.; Bettis, E. Arthur, III

Year Published: 2013

An evaluation of Mesodon and other larger terrestrial gastropod shells for dating late Holocene and historic alluvium in the Midwestern USA

Understanding the history of stream erosion and changes in channel morphology is important for managing and restoring unstable streams. One of the significant challenges in this type of research is establishing accurate dating of late Holocene and historic alluvium. Here we evaluate the potential of using 14C dating and amino acid racemization (...

Rakovan, Monica T.; Rech, Jason A.; Pigati, Jeffery S.; Nekola, Jeffery C.; Wiles, Gregory C.
An evaluation of Mesodon and other larger terrestrial gastropod shells for dating late Holocene and historic alluvium in the Midwestern USA; 2013; Article; Journal; Geomorphology; Rakovan, Monica T.; Rech, Jason A.; Pigati, Jeffery S.; Nekola, Jeffery C.; Wiles. Gregory C.

Year Published: 2012

A half-million-year record of paleoclimate from the Lake Manix Core, Mojave Desert, California

Pluvial lakes in the southwestern U.S. responded sensitively to past climate through effects on rainfall, runoff, and evaporation. Although most studies agree that pluvial lakes in the southwestern U.S. reached their highest levels coeval with glacial stages, the specific timing of increased effective moisture and lake-level rise is debated,...

Reheis, Marith C.; Bright, Jordon; Lund, Steve P.; Miller, David M.; Skipp, Gary; Fleck, Robert J.
A half-million-year record of paleoclimate from the Lake Manix Core, Mojave Desert, California; 2012; Article; Journal; Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology; Reheis, Marith C.; Bright, Jordon ; Lund, Steve P.; Miller, David M.; Skipp, Gary ; Fleck, Robert J.

Filter Total Items: 15
Map of AK showing probability of change occurrence
December 31, 2018

Map of AK showing probability of change occurrence

Map of Alaska showing probability (%) of change occurrence. Insets show fire boundaries from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Large Fire Database and Landsat 8 imagery (bottom right; 2016) north of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Rainbow Glacier perimeter: 1966, 1998, 2005, 2015.
December 31, 2017

Rainbow Glacier perimeter: 1966, 1998, 2005, 2015.

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

multicores
December 31, 2017

Multicores

Multicores collected from the northern Gulf of Mexico. These cores contain roughly 1 meter of sediment from the seafloor, and represent the past ~2000 years of deposition. USGS scientists slice these cores in 5 mm increments, and analyze the chemical composition of microfossils (e.g., foraminifera) and molecular fossils (e.g., alkenones, GDGTs, leaf waxes, etc.), to generate paleoclimate...

Panoramic image from Sperry Glacier in Glacier National Park showing smoke from forest fires.
September 12, 2017

Panoramic image from Sperry Glacier in Glacier NP showing fire smoke.

Panoramic image from Sperry Glacier in Glacier National Park showing smoke from forest fires. Information gathered by the USGS managed Sperry Weather Station are being used by regional fire managers to forecast fire weather and future fire behavior.

USGS scientist doing weather station repairs in Glacier National Park.
September 12, 2017

USGS scientist doing weather station repairs in Glacier National Park.

USGS scientist Erich Peitzsch does repair on the Sperry Weather Station in Glacier National Park. Information gathered by the USGS managed Sperry Weather Station are being used by regional fire managers to forecast fire weather and future fire behavior during the 2017 fire season. 

USGS weather station repair operations in Glacier NP.
September 12, 2017

USGS weather station repair operations in Glacier NP.

Crews perform repairs on the Sperry Weather Station as part of Fire Operations in Glacier National Park. Information gathered by the USGS managed Sperry Weather Station are being used by regional fire managers to forecast fire weather and future fire behavior during the 2017 fire season. 

July 30, 2017

A Record of Change: Science and Elder Observations on the Navajo N.

A Record of Change—Science and Elder Observations on the Navajo Nation is a 25-minute documentary about collaborative studies using conventional physical sciences, combined with tribal elder observations to show that local knowledge and conventional science partnerships can effectively document ecosystem change and determine the resulting challenges to livelihoods. 

Sparse historic data...

December 31, 2016

Historic USGS Streamgage on the Wabash River at Lafayette Indiana

This video will provide a brief history and purpose for one of the oldest streamgages in Indiana. The gage is at the Wabash River at Lafayette, Indiana. The site number is 03335500. This video was produced at the request of the West Lafayette Parks Department where this historic gage is located. A QR code is displayed on an interpretive plaque next to the gage which is located in a high...

Image of simulated global temperature change
May 26, 2016

Simulated global temperature change

This animated spiral portrays the simulated changes in the global averaged monthly air temperature from 1850 through 2100 relative to the 1850 - 1900 average. The temperature data are from Community Climate System (CCSM4) global climate model maintained by the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The simulation is for the IPCC Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5) emission...

view across Ashumet Pond, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with sampling grid markers in forground
June 30, 2014

Ashumet Pond, Cape Cod with sample grid markers

Sunset view looking northwest from Fishermans Cove, across Ashumet Pond, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The small sticks and flags in the lake are a sampling grid. 

view across Ashumet Pond, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
April 30, 2014

Ashumet Pond, Cape Cod

View looking west from Fishermans Cove, across Ashumet Pond, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The small sticks in the lake are a small-scale sampling grid. 

Beach erosion and overwash deposition occurred uniformly along this section of the barrier island.
December 31, 2012

Elevation difference maps of Assateague Island, Maryland

Assateague Island, Maryland. The pre-storm map shows a narrow, low-lying area that crosses the island from front to back. In the post-storm and difference maps, waves and surge deposited sand into the bay as an overwash fan and widened the island at this location. Beach erosion and overwash deposition occurred uniformly along this section of the barrier island.

In the...

Filter Total Items: 12
Date published: December 13, 2017

Eyes on the Coast—Video Cameras Help Forecast Coastal Change

USGS scientists have installed video cameras pointed at beaches on the coasts of western Florida and central California. They’re analyzing the videos to measure features of the beach and ocean so they can improve coastal-change forecasts.

Date published: October 5, 2017

Scientists Ground Truth What Influences Hurricanes

Scientists looked back 10 to 13 thousand years to gain real-world insight into the environmental factors that influence hurricanes near Florida and, by extension, the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.

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: 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 6, 2016

Happy Mother’s Day to Moms of All Species

USGS wishes to honor all mothers, of all species. Many of our research findings have and are shedding light on the lives of non-human moms.  

Date published: April 28, 2016

Nitrogen in Lakes Connected to Groundwater

A recent scientific study shows new, important information about how groundwater cannot only contribute nutrients such as nitrogen to lakes, but can also carry it away. Nitrogen is an important nutrient but harmful when over-supplied. The fate and transport of nitrogen are critically important issues for human and aquatic ecosystem health.

Date published: November 9, 2015

Las Vegas Holds Key to Abrupt Climate Change

According to new U.S. Geological Survey research springs and marshes in the desert outside Las Vegas expanded and contracted dramatically in response to past episodes of abrupt climate change, even disappearing altogether for centuries at a time when conditions became too warm.

Date published: September 1, 2015

EarthWord: Anthropogenic

Scientists use the word “anthropogenic” in referring to environmental change caused or influenced by people, either directly or indirectly.

Date published: August 10, 2015

Global Vulnerability of Forests to Climate Change-Related Tree Mortality is Widely Underestimated

BALTIMORE -- Forests worldwide are vulnerable to growing risks of drought- and heat-induced tree mortality and forest die-off because of a rapidly warming Earth, according to just-published research in the scientific journal Ecosphere. The paper is an invited “ESA Centennial Paper” to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Ecological Society of America.

Date published: February 20, 2015

Study Reveals Recent Geologic History of Roanoke River Floodplain

After surveying and analyzing centuries of evidence in the floodplain of the lower Roanoke River, USGS researchers, along with colleagues from the universities of Wisconsin and North Carolina, have developed a highly accurate estimate of sediment deposition amounts along the course of the river over three timescales — annual, decadal, and centennial.

Date published: December 18, 2014

Secretary Jewell Announces New Wildlife and Climate Studies at the Southeast Climate Science Center

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced today that Interior’s Southeast Climate Science Center is awarding nearly $150,000 to its host university and other partners for research to guide managers of parks, refuges and other cultural and natural resources in planning how to help species and ecosystems adapt to climate change.

Date published: October 21, 2014

Interior, Agriculture Departments Partner to Measure Conservation Impacts on Water Quality

A new partnership will provide a clearer picture of the benefits of farmers' conservation practices on the quality of our Nation's water.  Working together, USDA's NRCS and DOI's USGS will quantify the benefits of voluntary agricultural practices at a watershed scale.

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