Mission Areas

Climate and Land Use Change

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Climate and Land Use science is essential to improve understanding of past and present change; develop relevant forecasts; and identify those lands, resources, and communities most vulnerable to Earth system change processes.

Our Science Strategy
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Getting the shot of Blackfoot Glacier, GNP.
April 6, 2016

Climate change research in Glacier National Park, Montana entails many methods of documenting the landscape change, including the decline of the parks namesake glaciers. While less quantitative than other high-tech methods of recording glacial mass, depth, and rate of retreat, repeat photography has become a valuable tool for communicating effects of global warming. With evidence of worldwide...

Image: Shepard Glacier, Glacier National Park, Montana - 2005
April 6, 2016

In Glacier National Park (GNP) some effects of climate change are strikingly clear. Glacier recession is underway, and many glaciers have already disappeared. The retreat of these small alpine glaciers reflects changes in recent climate as glaciers respond to altered temperature and precipitation. It has been estimated that there were approximately 150 glaciers present in 1850, around the...

Setting up a weather station in Glacier National Park
April 6, 2016

Glacier National Park is a topographically diverse region, making localized effects of elevation, aspect, and cold air drainage several of many important factors that necessitate a diversity of long-term climate monitoring sites. Additionally, many studies have shown more rapid warming at higher elevations across the Intermountain West, but with relatively few high-elevation stations available...

Image: Getting the Shot, Grinnell Glacier, Glacier National Park.
April 6, 2016

Repeat photography is being used by the CCME program to document landscape change. Glaciers have been the primary focus of this park-wide survey and this collection of repeat photographs, available for download on the CCME website, have been used to illustrate the effects of climate change in venues across the globe. These powerful images, with their inherent ease of interpretation, have...

Avalanche forecasters ski out to investigate the crown of a large wet slab avalanche in Haystack Creek drainage. This drainage i
April 5, 2016

Since 1991, CCME staff have conducted snow surveys throughout Glacier National Park. These data have contributed to regional climate change and hydrologic models. Snowpack characteristics have also been evaluated in relation to avalanche forecasting and plowing of GNP’s Going to the Sun Road efforts. Studies of natural snow avalanches reveal connections with large-scale climate and...

Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park.
April 5, 2016

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 in Glacier National Park.
April 5, 2016

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...

Measuring the glacier margin.
April 5, 2016

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....

Photograph of the Middle Allequash stream site in winter, 2003
March 28, 2016

USGS initiated the Water, Energy, and Biogeochemical Budgets (WEBB) program to understand the processes controlling water, energy, and biogeochemical fluxes over a range of temporal and spatial scales, and the effects of atmospheric and climatic variables. Trout Lake is one of five small, geographically and ecologically diverse watersheds representing a range of hydrologic and climatic...

Field observations of extreme sedimentation events
March 22, 2016

Sediment deposition serves an important role in the long-term maintenance of coastal marshes. USGS investigates the mechanisms of coastal marsh elevation regulation to help predict marsh sediment requirements under various sea level rise scenarios. ...

Understanding host-parasite and parasite consumer trophic relationships
March 22, 2016

Marine reserves and protected areas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico encompass a variety of tropical ecosystems, including coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds, but questions remain regarding how effective these areas are at preserving and protecting the habitats and species they encompass. USGS and collaborators address this question by examining the biodiversity and food web...

Sediment Elevation Table assembly and field shelter, Dongting Lake, China
March 18, 2016

Dongting Lake, one of the wetlands that make up the floodplains of China's Yangtze River, is important habitat for migratory waterfowl and other wildlife. However, the re-engineering of the water way and the intensification of agricultural practices has contributed to changes in hydrology and sedimentation. USGS and partners from China are assessing the potential impact of these...

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April 26, 2016
This video was recording as part of the Climate Change Science and Management Webinar Series, hosted by the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and the FWS National Conservation Training Center. Webinar Speaker: Noelani Puniwai, University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Webinar Summary: Seascapes symbolize both the physical dimensions of ocean and coastal areas, as well as the meanings...
A USGS scientist skis in to Dead Horse Point on Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier NP.
2016 (approx.)
A USGS scientist skis in to Dead Horse Point on Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier NP.
Avalanche forecasters ski out to investigate the crown of a large wet slab avalanche in Haystack Creek drainage. This drainage i
2016 (approx.)
Avalanche forecasters ski out to investigate the crown of a large wet slab avalanche in Haystack Creek drainage. This drainage is one of the largest avalanche paths affecting the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.
Black-throated gray warbler
2016 (approx.)
Black-throated gray warbler at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon.
Varied thrush
2016 (approx.)
Varied thrush at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon.
Old growth forest
2016 (approx.)
Old growth forest at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon, old growth forests have bigger trees and a more complex understory.
Hermit warbler
2016 (approx.)
Black-throated green warbler at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon.
February 18, 2016
USGS scientist shoots a repeat photograph of Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park to illustrate glacial recession due to impacts of climate change.
Hawaiian volcanoes, image of the week
February 9, 2016
Three images showing Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes on the island of Hawaii; 2016 satellite image mosaic
Scientists Collecting Arctic Sediments
2015 (approx.)
Scientists aboard USCGC Healy prepare to collect sediments from the Chukchi that will be used to reconstruct sea-ice history in the Arctic. USGS Image (L. Gemery).
Collecting permafrost information on the Tahana River
2015 (approx.)
David Pelunis-Messier and Milton Roberts navigating on the Tanana River, a main tributary of the Yukon River. The two are taking part in the Yukon River permafrost study.
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Ariel photo of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta
September 20, 2016

New research from the U.S. Geological Survey and partners illustrates how climate change is perceived among different generations of indigenous residents in subarctic Alaska. While all subjects agreed climate change is occurring, the older participants observed more overall changes than the younger demographic.

An American pika collects grass and flowers to stockpile its winter food supplies.
August 25, 2016

American pikas – small herbivores that typically live in rocky slopes, known as talus, across many mountain ranges in the American West – are disappearing from some locations across the West due to climate change, according to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey and some of its partners.

Catawba rhododendron blooming at Round Bald, NC
August 11, 2016

“From the mountains to the coast, the southeastern U.S. contains ecosystems that harbor incredible biodiversity. Many of those ecosystems are already highly at risk from urbanization and other human land-use change. Identifying the ecosystems at risk from climate change will help inform conservation and management to ensure we don’t lose that biodiversity.” (Jennifer Constanza, report author)

Grizzly Bears and Wolves
August 10, 2016

Natural and cultural areas that will remain similar to what they are today -- despite climate change -- need to be identified, managed and conserved as “refugia” for at-risk species, according to a study published today in PLOS One. The study sets out, for the first time, specific steps to help identify and manage these more resilient and climate-stable havens for plants, animals and fishes.