Climate Research and Development Program

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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.

News

Date published: April 5, 2019

California is ‘Browning’ More in the South During Droughts

Vegetation in the southern part of the state is being hit harder due to climate change, UCLA-led study finds.

Date published: March 4, 2019

USGS contributes to the Fourth National Climate Assessment

USGS Research Hydrologist Glenn Hodgkins co-authored the Fourth National Climate Assessment’s Northeast chapter. USGS Research Geologist Erika Lentz was also a co-author. The recently published chapter discusses historical and potential future impacts of climatic changes on New England’s people and natural resources, including it’s inland and coastal waters.

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.

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

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Date published: February 25, 2019
Status: Active

Drylands are highly vulnerable to climate and land use changes: what ecosystem changes are in store?

Improper land use during drought has been a major driver of land degradation in drylands globally, especially in the western U.S.  Increasing aridity in western U.S. drylands under future climates will exacerbate risks associated with drought and land use decisions. This project provides critical observational, experimental, and modelling evidence to support our DOI partners with decision...

Date published: December 14, 2018
Status: Active

National CASC Student Interns & Fellows

The National CASC provides opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to participate in our program through paid internships and volunteer positions. Students work on everything from supporting NCASC research projects to communications and program operations. Read about some of our students and the work they're doing below!

Date published: September 10, 2018
Status: Active

Reconstructing Ancient Human and Ecosystem Responses to Holocene Climate Conditions

This research project will reconstruct Holocene climatic conditions to better understand human adaptation and response to past environmental variability. 

Contacts: Greg Pederson
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: December 1, 2016
Status: Completed

Landscape Effects of Oil and Gas Development

Relatively new deep well drilling technology, such as is currently utilized in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), has created an economic boom in the market for hydrocarbons. Previously untapped deposits of oil and natural gas can now be accessed in areas that include the Marcellus and Utica Shale deposits in the east and the Bakken Formation in Montana and the Dakotas.

Contacts: Terry Slonecker
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
Status: Active

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
Status: Active

Retreat of Glaciers in Glacier National Park

Worldwide 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 emerging technologies to understand glacier-climate interactions to advance the...

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...

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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 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.

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Year Published: 2019

Late Quaternary paleohydrology of desert wetlands and pluvial lakes in the Soda Lake basin, central Mojave Desert, California (USA)

Sediment cores taken near extant springs along the western margin of Soda Lake playa, as well as from the playa center, reveal dramatic hydrologic changes that occurred in the central Mojave Desert during the late Quaternary. Results of stratigraphic, chronologic, physical, chemical, and microfossil analyses of seven cores, ranging in length from...

Honke, Jeffrey S.; Pigati, Jeffrey S.; Wilson, J.; Bright, J.; Goldstein, H.L.; Skipp, Gary L.; Reheis, M.C.; Havens, J. C.

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Year Published: 2019

Environmental and geomorphological changes on the eastern North American Continental Shelf across the Paleocene-Eocene Boundary

Foraminiferal evidence from two sites in southern Maryland, eastern United States, reveals a series of rapid ecological changes on the continental shelf during the onset of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). Benthic and planktic foraminifer assemblages from the South Dover Bridge (SDB) and Mattawoman Creek-Billingsley Road (MCBR) cores...

Robinson, Marci M.; Spivey, Whittney

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Year Published: 2019

North-south dipole in winter hydroclimate in the western United States during the last deglaciation

During the termination of the last glacial period the western U.S. experienced exceptionally wet conditions, driven by changes in location and strength of the mid-latitude winter storm track. The distribution of modern winter precipitation is frequently characterized by a north-south wet/dry dipole pattern, controlled by interaction of the storm...

Hudson, Adam M.; Hatchett, Benjamin J.; Quade, Jay; Boyle, Douglas P.; Bassett, Scott D.; Ali, Guleed; De los Santos, Marie G.

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Year Published: 2019

The 4.2 ka event, ENSO, and coral reef development

Variability of sea-surface temperature related to shifts in the mode of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has been implicated as a possible forcing mechanism for the global-scale changes in tropical and subtropical precipitation known as the 4.2 ka event. We review records of coral reef development and paleoceanography from the tropical...

Toth, Lauren T.; Aronson, Richard B.

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Year Published: 2019

Reconstructing precipitation in the tropical South Pacific from dinosterol 2H/1H ratios in lake sediment

The South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ) is the Southern Hemisphere’s largest precipitation feature supplying freshwater to 11 million people. Despite its significance, little is known about the location and intensity of SPCZ precipitation prior to instrumental records, hindering attempts to predict precipitation changes in a warming world. Here...

Maloney, Ashley E.; Nelson, Daniel B.; Richey, Julie N.; Prebble, Matthew; Sear, David A.; Hassall, Jonathan D.; Langdon, Peter G.; Croudace, Ian W.; Zawadzki, Atun; Sachs, Julian P.

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Year Published: 2019

Changing station coverage impacts temperature trends in the Upper Colorado River Basin

Over the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB), temperatures in widely used gridded data products do not warm as much as mean temperatures from a stable set of U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) stations, located at generally lower elevations, in most months of the year. This is contrary to expectations of elevation-dependent warming, which...

McAfee, Stephanie A.; McCabe, Gregory; Gray, Stephen; Pederson, Gregory T.

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Year Published: 2019

Evidence for shelf acidification during the onset of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

A transect of paleoshelf cores from Maryland and New Jersey contains a ~0.19 m to 1.61 m thick interval with reduced percentages of carbonate during the onset of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). Outer paleoshelf cores are barren of nannofossils and correspond to two minor disconformities. Middle paleoshelf cores contain a mixture of...

Bralower, Timothy J.; Kump, Lee R.; Robinson, Marci M.; Self-Trail, Jean M.; Lyons, Shelby L.; Babila, Tali; Ballaron, Edward; Freeman, Katherine H.; Hajek, Elizabeth A.; Rush, William; Zachos, James C.

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Year Published: 2019

Overview of the oxygen isotope systematics of land snails from North America

Continental paleoclimate proxies with near-global coverage are rare. Land snail δ18O is one of the few proxies abundant in Quaternary sediments ranging from the tropics to the high Arctic tundra. However, its application in paleoclimatology remains difficult, attributable in part to limitations in published calibration studies. Here we present...

Yanes, Yurena; Al-Qattan, Nasser M.; Rech, Jason A.; Pigati, Jeffrey S.; Dodd, Justin P.; Nekola, Jeffrey C.

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Year Published: 2019

Scale dependence of diversity in alpine tundra, Rocky Mountains, USA

Drivers of alpine plant community composition have been observed to vary with scale. Diversity of alpine tundra across four regions of the Rocky Mountains and among plots within one region was examined relative to temperature and precipitation variables. For regional scale analyses, averages of three metrics of plot-level species diversity...

Malanson, George P.; Fagre, Daniel B.; Zimmerman, Dale L.

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Year Published: 2019

A new indicator framework for quantifying the intensity of the terrestrialwater cycle

A quantitative framework for characterizing the intensity of the water cycle over land is presented, and illustrated using a spatially distributed water-balance model of the conterminous United States (CONUS). We approach water cycle intensity (WCI) from a landscape perspective; WCI is defined as the sum of precipitation (P) and actual...

Huntington, Thomas G.; Weiskel, Peter; Wolock, David M.; McCabe, Gregory

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Year Published: 2019

Evidence for conservative transport of dissolved organic carbon in major river basins in the Gulf of Maine Watershed

Transport and fate of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in rivers are important aspects of the carbon cycle and the critical linkage between terrestrial, aquatic, and marine systems. Recent studies have quantified fluvial export to the marine environment in many systems, but in-stream losses of DOC are poorly constrained. This study compares DOC...

Huntington, Thomas G.; Roesler, Collin S.; Aiken, George R.

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Year Published: 2018

Ecological changes in the nannoplankton community across a shelf transect during the onset of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

Warming and other environmental changes during the Paleocene‐Eocene thermal maximum (PETM) led to profound shifts in the composition and structure of nannoplankton assemblages. Here we analyze the nature of these changes in expanded records from the Cambridge‐Dorchester and Mattawoman Creek‐Billingsley Road cores in Maryland. These cores comprise...

León y León, Isabel A.; Bralower, Timothy J.; Self-Trail, Jean M.

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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

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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. 

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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

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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

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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. 

Eddy covariance tower in tidal FW marsh adjacent to a forested wetland
February 27, 2012

Eddy covariance tower

USGS scientists and cooperators service an eddy covariance (EC) station located in a tidal freshwater marsh at Salvador Wildlife Management Area, Louisiana, USA. EC stations allow agency scientists to asses the net exchange of CO2 and CH4 from wetlands over large spatial scales, and help determine the carbon sequestration capacity of managed marshes while also considering

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Date published: April 5, 2019

California is ‘Browning’ More in the South During Droughts

Vegetation in the southern part of the state is being hit harder due to climate change, UCLA-led study finds.

Date published: March 4, 2019

USGS contributes to the Fourth National Climate Assessment

USGS Research Hydrologist Glenn Hodgkins co-authored the Fourth National Climate Assessment’s Northeast chapter. USGS Research Geologist Erika Lentz was also a co-author. The recently published chapter discusses historical and potential future impacts of climatic changes on New England’s people and natural resources, including it’s inland and coastal waters.

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.

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