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
Climate and Land Use Change
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Understanding a changing world and how it affects our natural resources, livelihoods, and communities. Science plays an essential role in helping communities and resource managers understand the local to global implications of change, anticipate the effects of change, prepare for change, and reduce the risks associated with decisionmaking in a changing environment.
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
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 64,000-square mile watershed that drains to the Chesapeake Bay is highly populated and has diverse land use, including forested, agricultural, and urbanized areas. Increased precipitation in the eastern United States over the last 100 years has affected stream flow and thus the loading of pollutants delivered to the bay. Such pollutants as suspended sediment and dissolved phosphorus 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-...
USGS scientists have been involved for a number of years in the development and use of Structural Equation Modeling (SEM). This methodology represents an approach to statistical modeling that focuses on the study of complex cause-effect hypotheses about the mechanisms operating in systems. SEM is increasingly used in ecological and environmental studies and this site seeks to provide...
Long-term monitoring data in the Manatee Individual Photo-identification System (MIPS), developed and coordinated by WARC-Sirenia Project in collaboration with Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and Mote Marine Laboratory, are the basis for modeling manatee demography rates.
The Challenge: Accelerations in sea-level rise and changing environmental stressors have important implications for the integrity of coastal wetlands and for efforts to restore and protect the ecosystem services they provide. Their persistence and adaptation to these stressors depends on the net effects of changes in physical processes and biotic responses. Future planning by decision makers...
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...
Tropical storms and hurricanes wreak havoc with coastal forests where damage can vary with wind speed and approach from isolated treefalls to wide-area blowdowns of whole forests.
Critical information predicting condition changes in manatee habitat resulting from the alteration of freshwater flows to estuaries is needed to develop the PSRP Detailed Design and PSRP Operations Plan components and complete consultation under the Endangered Species Act.
The Challenge: The high winds and storm surge associated with Hurricane Sandy impacted coastal wetlands from Virginia to Maine. Understanding the ecological and geological impacts of hurricanes on coastal wetlands and their interactive effects with local conditions is important for identifying resilience of these communities to predicted global sea-level rise. Given the projected increase in...
Shoreline change rates in salt marsh units in Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, New Jersey
This dataset displays shoreline change rates at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (EBFNWR), which spans over Great Bay, Little Egg Harbor, and Barnegat Bay in New Jersey, USA
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.
Quantitative Analysis Using Structural Equation Modeling
USGS scientists have been involved for a number of years in the development and use of Structural Equation Modeling (SEM). This methodology represents an approach to statistical modeling that focuses on the study of complex cause-effect hypotheses about the mechanisms operating in systems.
A three-dimensional mapping of the ocean based on environmental data
The existence, sources, distribution, circulation, and physicochemical nature of macroscale oceanic water bodies have long been a focus of oceanographic inquiry. Building on that work, this paper describes an objectively derived and globally comprehensive set of 37 distinct volumetric region units, called ecological marine units (EMUs). They are...Sayre, Roger; Wright, Dawn J.; Breyer, Sean P.; Butler, Kevin; Van Graafeiland, Keith; Costello, Mark J.; Harris, Peter T.; Goodin, Kathleen; Guinotte, John M.; Basher, Zeenatul; Kavanaugh, Maria T.; Halpin, Patrick N.; Monaco, Mark E.; Cressie, Noel; Aniello, Peter; Frye, Charles; Stephens, Drew
Modeling global Hammond landform regions from 250-m elevation data
In 1964, E.H. Hammond proposed criteria for classifying and mapping physiographic regions of the United States. Hammond produced a map entitled “Classes of Land Surface Form in the Forty-Eight States, USA”, which is regarded as a pioneering and rigorous treatment of regional physiography. Several researchers automated Hammond?s model in GIS....Karagulle, Deniz; Frye, Charlie; Sayre, Roger; Breyer, Sean P.; Aniello, Peter; Vaughan, Randy; Wright, Dawn J.
Climate change and the eco-hydrology of fire: Will area burned increase in a warming western USA?
Wildfire area is predicted to increase with global warming. Empirical statistical models and process-based simulations agree almost universally. The key relationship for this unanimity, observed at multiple spatial and temporal scales, is between drought and fire. Predictive models often focus on ecosystems in which this relationship appears to be...McKenzie, Donald; Littell, Jeremy
Macroclimatic change expected to transform coastal wetland ecosystems this century
Coastal wetlands, existing at the interface between land and sea, are highly vulnerable to climate change. Macroclimate (for example, temperature and precipitation regimes) greatly influences coastal wetland ecosystem structure and function. However, research on climate change impacts in coastal wetlands has concentrated primarily on sea-level...Gabler, Christopher A.; Osland, Michael J.; Grace, James B.; Stagg, Camille L.; Day, Richard H.; Hartley, Stephen B.; Enwright, Nicholas M.; From, Andrew; McCoy, Meagan L.; McLeod, Jennie L.
Ecosystem extent and fragmentation
One of the candidate essential biodiversity variable (EBV) groups described in the seminal paper by Pereira et al. (2014) concerns Ecosystem Structure. This EBV group is distinguished from another EBV group which encompasses aspects of Ecosystem Function. While the Ecosystem Function EBV treats ecosystem processes like nutrient cycling, primary...Sayre, Roger; Hansen, Matt
Multidecadal increases in the Yukon River Basin of chemical fluxes as indicators of changing flowpaths, groundwater, and permafrost
The Yukon River Basin, underlain by discontinuous permafrost, has experienced a warming climate over the last century that has altered air temperature, precipitation, and permafrost. We investigated a water chemistry database from 1982 to 2014 for the Yukon River and its major tributary, the Tanana River. Significant increases of Ca, Mg, and Na...Toohey, Ryan C; Herman-Mercer, Nicole M.; Schuster, Paul F.; Mutter, Edda A.; Koch, Joshua C.
Assessing climate-sensitive ecosystems in the southeastern United States
Climate change impacts ecosystems in many ways, from effects on species to phenology to wildfire dynamics. Assessing the potential vulnerability of ecosystems to future changes in climate is an important first step in prioritizing and planning for conservation. Although assessments of climate change vulnerability commonly are done for species,...Costanza, Jennifer; Beck, Scott; Pyne, Milo; Terando, Adam; Rubino, Matthew J.; White, Rickie; Collazo, Jaime
Ecosystem vulnerability to climate change in the southeastern United States
Two recent investigations of climate-change vulnerability for 19 terrestrial, aquatic, riparian, and coastal ecosystems of the southeastern United States have identified a number of important considerations, including potential for changes in hydrology, disturbance regimes, and interspecies interactions. Complementary approaches using geospatial...Cartwright, Jennifer M.; Costanza, Jennifer
Insular ecosystems of the southeastern United States—A regional synthesis to support biodiversity conservation in a changing climate
In the southeastern United States, insular ecosystems—such as rock outcrops, depression wetlands, high-elevation balds, flood-scoured riparian corridors, and insular prairies and barrens—occupy a small fraction of land area but constitute an important source of regional and global biodiversity, including concentrations of rare and...Cartwright, Jennifer M.; Wolfe, William J.
Identifying bird and reptile vulnerabilities to climate change in the southwestern United States
Current and future breeding ranges of 15 bird and 16 reptile species were modeled in the Southwestern United States. Rather than taking a broad-scale, vulnerability-assessment approach, we created a species distribution model (SDM) for each focal species incorporating climatic, landscape, and plant variables. Baseline climate (1940–2009) was...Hatten, James R.; Giermakowski, J. Tomasz; Holmes, Jennifer A.; Nowak, Erika M.; Johnson, Matthew J.; Ironside, Kirsten E.; van Riper, Charles; Peters, Michael; Truettner, Charles; Cole, Kenneth L.
Increased water deficit decreases Douglas fir growth throughout western US forests
Changes in tree growth rates can affect tree mortality and forest feedbacks to the global carbon cycle. As air temperature increases, evaporative demand also increases, increasing effective drought in forest ecosystems. Using a spatially comprehensive network of Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) chronologies from 122 locations that experience...Restaino, Christina M; Peterson, David L.; Littell, Jeremy
Wildfire risk as a socioecological pathology
Wildfire risk in temperate forests has become a nearly intractable problem that can be characterized as a socioecological “pathology”: that is, a set of complex and problematic interactions among social and ecological systems across multiple spatial and temporal scales. Assessments of wildfire risk could benefit from recognizing and...Fischer, A. Paige; Spies, Thomas A; Steelman, Toddi A; Moseley, Cassandra; Johnson, Bart R.; Bailey, John D.; Ager, Alan A; Bourgeron, Patrick S.; Charnley, Susan; Collins, Brandon M.; Kline, Jeffrey D; Leahy, Jessica E; Littell, Jeremy; Millington, James D. A.; Nielsen-Pincus, Max; Olsen, Christine S; Paveglio, Travis B; Roos, Christopher I.; Steen-Adams, Michelle M; Stevens, Forrest R; Vukomanovic, Jelena; White, Eric M; Bowman, David M J S
The “LP DAAC Prospectus: 2017 to 2019” short video features the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC), a key access point for global land remote sensing data. The video provides an overview of the significance of the LP DAAC’s archive and distribution functions, explains the depth of the user community, and outlines...
Engineers and scientists from both Landsat and Sentinel missions are working together to calibrate observation data and validate its quality to improve the science using these resources.
Warren Cohen with the USDA Forest Service talks about the value of Landsat's long history of observations in monitoring and assessing forests.
South Korea transformed a mountain forest into an Olympic skiing centre for the 2018 Winter Games. These images show that transformation.
At the USGS EROS Center, we study land change, operate the Landsat satellites, and maintain the longest, continuously acquired collection of images of the Earth's land surface.
Researchers supported by NCCWSC are working to improve managers’ understanding of ungulates’ response to a warmer climate. For example, when surface water is unavailable, the water content within ungulates’ food provides them with their main source of water, and they must make resourceful foraging decisions to meet their water needs. Scientists researching desert bighorn sheep populations in...
Observe changes in land surface temperature over the course of 2017, with Terra MODIS images. The images were created using the 8-day composite Terra MODIS LST data product (MOD11C2). To learn more about MODIS LST data, and other data products distributed by the LP DAAC, please visit https://lpdaac.usgs.gov/.
The LP DAAC is one of...
This video focuses on how to interpret quality information for Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) Surface Reflectance data products created by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). VIIRS is a sensor that flies on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (S-NPP) satellite, which was launched as a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric...
Images from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) onboard NASA's Terra satellite show how one area in South Korea transformed from mountainous forest to a world-class downhill skiing venue to get ready for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
USGS Scientists John Dwyer and Tom Loveland from EROS discuss the major accomplishments of Landsat 8 as it reaches it's 5 year design life. The Landsat program started in 1972, and has a bright future thanks to these extraordinary satellites.
The Theewaterskloof Reservoir near Cape Town, South Africa is drying up as a result of a growing population and several dry years. Now at 13% capacity, the shortage could reach a crisis if the rainy season doesn't replenish water supplies.
At the USGS EROS Center, we study land change, operate the Landsat satellites, and maintain the longest, continuously acquired collection of images...
Martha Anderson with the US Department of Agriculture talks about the value of Landsat and its thermal data in studying agricultural land.
February 11 will mark the 5th anniversary of the launch of Landsat 8!
Since 2013, over 1.1 million scenes have been acquired, adding to the Landsat archive which started almost 45 years ago, and continue to help support studies in agriculture, forest and water quality/use/management, natural disasters, and land change.
The Landsat Program is a series of Earth-observing...
On a humid August morning in south-central Alaska, a group of scientists hiked for four miles along a horse trail armed with rifles and an order to make as much noise as possible.
The USGS and NASA have selected the scientists and engineers who will serve on the next Landsat Science Team.
Free and rapid imagery was provided through the USGS Hazard Data Distribution System.
Bringing together decades of research and mapping, the U.S. Geological Survey just released a geologic map and companion pamphlet featuring the Arkansas River Valley region in north-central Colorado.
Two awardees have been presented with the 2017 William T. Pecora Award for achievements in Earth remote sensing.
Improvements to the quality and usability of Landsat satellite data have been made with the release of a new USGS product called Landsat Analysis Ready Data (ARD).
Monitoring our changing planet is critical to supporting a world population expected to reach eight billion by 2025. Observing the Earth from space offers unprecedented levels of data and a holistic view, which enables scientists to detect the most critical trends in natural resource conditions at local and global scales.
A new tool that gives users the most detailed view yet of the world’s mountains is now available from the USGS. And it’s as close as your computer or cellphone.
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.
Every few days, a fleet of satellites orbiting 700 kilometers above the Earth scans the continental United States to help keep Americans safe. But these eyes in the sky aren’t seeking terrorists or enemy combatants: they scrutinize lakes to locate problems of the microbial variety, namely cyanobacteria.
A new U.S. Geological Survey report describes the below ground geology of the Rio Grande transboundary region of New Mexico and Texas, United States, and northern Chihuahua, Mexico.
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.