Climate Research and Development Program
Paleoclimate science - its principles and importance to society
Biological proxies such as diatoms, foraminifers, ostracodes, and pollen allow scientists to make inferences about climate conditions in the past.Learn More
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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.Visit Our Website
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.
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 ...
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...
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-...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
Display past and future temperature and precipitation projections simulated by global climate models. Access maps for any country, model, or emissions scenario. Requires Flash.
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, Jeffrey C.
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.
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
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 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
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, Jeffrey C.; Wiles, Gregory C.
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.
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.
This image shows the perimeter of Rainbow Glacier in Glacier National Park: 1966, 1998, 2005, 2015.
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...
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 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.
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.
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....
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...
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...
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 looking west from Fishermans Cove, across Ashumet Pond, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The small sticks in the lake are a small-scale sampling grid.
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...
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.
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.
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.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the longest continuous glacier research efforts in North America.
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.
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.
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.
Scientists use the word “anthropogenic” in referring to environmental change caused or influenced by people, either directly or indirectly.
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.
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.
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.
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.