Mission Areas

Climate and Land Use Change

Mission Areas L2 Landing Page Tabs

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.

Carbon Sequestration

Carbon Sequestration

Scientists are working to assess both the potential capacities and the potential limitations of the various forms of carbon sequestration and to evaluate their geologic, hydrologic, and ecological consequences.

Learn More

Image of the week

Image of the week

This Image Gallery allows users to see how the surface of the Earth is changing rapidly, at local, regional, national, even global scales, with significant repercussions for people, the economy, and the environment.

Visit Gallery

Data and Tools

Climate and Land Use Change supports the science community with its long-term observational networks and extensive databases encompassing the fields of climate history, land-use and land-cover change, and carbon and nutrient cycles.

U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit

Data Discovery

Global Ecosystems

LandCarbon

National Climate Change Viewer

National Land Cover Database

News

Artist concept of Landsat 8
December 15, 2017

The USGS and NASA have selected the scientists and engineers who will serve on the next Landsat Science Team. 

GEOS-13 Image of Hurricane Maria and Tropical Storm Jose
November 20, 2017

Free and rapid imagery was provided through the USGS Hazard Data Distribution System.

Lake Fork Creek below Sugarloaf dam near Leadville
November 17, 2017

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.  

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
Filter Total Items: 67
Severn River, Annapolis, Maryland, a tributary to Chesapeake Bay, showing high sediment
Date Published: May 12, 2017
Status: Active

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...

Contacts: Karen C Rice
This image shows the perimeter of Sperry Glacier in Glacier National Park in 1966,1998, 2005, and 2015.
Date Published: May 9, 2017

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...

This is a glacier animation for Glacier National Park.
Date Published: May 9, 2017

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-...

Disentangling the mechanisms regulating coastal wetland sustainability in the face of rising sea levels
Date Published: March 14, 2017

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...

Florida Manatee with a tracking devise attached
Date Published: October 16, 2016

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.

Environmental Drivers & Biogeomorphic Process Controls on Vertical Wetland Development
Date Published: September 20, 2016

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...

This area needs to recover from fire damage to its trees.
Date Published: September 20, 2016

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
Aerial image, Chincoteague NWR boundary
Date Published: August 2, 2016
Status: Active

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.

Port of the Islands (POI) basin
Date Published: August 1, 2016

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.

Collecting measurements from SET
Date Published: August 1, 2016

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...

A crowd of people in a National Park.
Date Published: July 26, 2016

The National Park Service (NPS) manages the Nation’s most iconic destinations that attract millions of visitors from across the Nation and around the world. Trip-related spending by NPS visitors generates and supports a considerable amount of economic activity within park gateway communities. USGS economists collaborate with the National Park Service social science program to estimate NPS...

Sandhill Crane
Date Published: July 25, 2016

Playas in the Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GPLCC) are at risk for both increased sedimentation and reduced inundation due to predicted increased summer temperatures, decreased annual precipitation, and agricultural intensification. Among other benefits, playas provide essential habitat for many wetland-dependent species and are especially important as critical refueling...

Filter Total Items: 3
Map of marsh shoreline change rates for Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge
February 12, 2018

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

Disentangling the mechanisms regulating coastal wetland sustainability in the face of rising sea levels
March 14, 2017

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.

Filter Total Items: 42
Year Published: 2017

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
Sayre, R.G., D.J. Wright, S.P. Breyer, K.A. Butler, K. Van Graafeiland, M.J. Costello, P.T. Harris, K.L. Goodin, J.M. Guinotte, Z. Basher, M.T. Kavanaugh, P.N. Halpin, M.E. Monaco, N. Cressie, P. Aniello, C.E. Frye, and D. Stephens. 2017. A three-​dimensional mapping of the ocean based on environmental data. Oceanography 30(1):90–103, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2017.116.

Year Published: 2017

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.
Karagulle, D., C. Frye, R. Sayre, S. Breyer, P. Aniello, R. Vaughan, and D. Wright. 2017. Modeling global Hammond landform regions from 250-m elevation data. Transactions in GIS,

Year Published: 2017

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
McKenzie, D. and Littell, J. S. (2017), Climate change and the eco-hydrology of fire: Will area burned increase in a warming western USA?. Ecol Appl, 27: 26–36. doi:10.1002/eap.1420

Year Published: 2017

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.
Gabler, C.A., Osland, M.J., Grace, J.B., Stagg, C.L., Day, R.H., Hartley, S.B., Enwright, N.M., From, A.S., McCoy, M.L., and McLeod, J.L., 2017, Macroclimatic change expected to transform coastal wetland ecosystems this century: Nature Climate Change, Advanced Online, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3203.

Year Published: 2017

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

Year Published: 2016

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.
Toohey, R. C., Herman-Mercer, N. M., Schuster, P. F., Mutter, E. A., and Koch, J. C., 2016, Multidecadal increases in the Yukon River Basin of chemical fluxes as indicators of changing flowpaths, groundwater, and permafrost, Geophys. Res. Lett., 43, 10.1002/2016GL070817.

Year Published: 2016

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
Costanza, Jennifer, Beck, Scott, Pyne, Milo, Terando, Adam, Rubino, Matthew, White, Rickie, and Collazo, Jaime, 2016, Assessing climate-sensitive ecosystems in the southeastern United States: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016–1073, 278 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20161073.

Year Published: 2016

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
Cartwright, J.M., and Costanza, Jennifer, 2016, Ecosystem vulnerability to climate change in the southeastern United States: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2016–3052, 4 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/fs20163052.

Year Published: 2016

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.
Cartwright, J.M., and Wolfe, W.J., 2016, Insular ecosystems of the southeastern United States—A regional synthesis to support biodiversity conservation in a changing climate: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1828, 162 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/pp1828.

Year Published: 2016

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.
Hatten, J.R., Giermakowski, J.T., Holmes, J.A., Nowak, E.M., Johnson, M.J., Ironside, K.E., van Riper, Charles, III, Peters, Michael, Truettner, Charles, and Cole, K.L., 2016, Identifying bird and reptile vulnerabilities to climate change in the Southwestern United States: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016-1085, 76 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20161085.

Year Published: 2016

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
Restaino, C.M., D.L. Peterson, and J.S. Littell. 2016. Increased water deficit decreases Douglas fir growth throughout western US forests Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PNAS 2016 ; published ahead of print August 8, 2016, doi:10.1073/pnas.1602384113

Year Published: 2016

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

Filter Total Items: 173
February 20, 2018
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 twelve NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System (...
February 13, 2018
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...
February 9, 2018
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.
February 8, 2018
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 of the...
February 5, 2018
Martha Anderson with the US Department of Agriculture talks about the value of Landsat and its thermal data in studying agricultural land.
February 1, 2018
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 satellites co-managed by...
January 31, 2018
Satellite images of the Hamrin Mountains in Iraq show burning oil wells. As ISIS is driven from the area, they are setting these wells on fire. 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. USGS EROS Center ( https://eros.usgs.gov/ )
January 30, 2018
Leif Olmanson from the University of Minnesota talks about the value of Landsat data in monitoring the thousands of lakes in Minnesota.
South African reservoirs, Western Cape Region, Landsat 2014
2018 (approx.)
Water levels in large reservoirs in South Africa’s Western Cape province have been impacted by persistent drought in recent years. This Landsat 2014 image shows the Theewaterskloof reservoir, the largest in the province’s water supply system. In subsequent years, water levels have dropped significantly as seasonal rains have repeatedly failed.
January 19, 2018
Barbara Ryan, Director of GEO talks about the distribution of Landsat data, starting in 1972, and ultimately transitioning to the free and open policy of today.
January 17, 2018
Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier has calved another iceberg. These Landsat images show the progression since just before the break in September until now. 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. USGS EROS Center ( https://eros.usgs.gov/ )
January 16, 2018
Mike Wulder with Canada's Forest Service talks about the value Landsat images have for mapping and monitoring Canada's forested areas.
Filter Total Items: 178
Artist concept of Landsat 8
December 15, 2017

The USGS and NASA have selected the scientists and engineers who will serve on the next Landsat Science Team. 

GEOS-13 Image of Hurricane Maria and Tropical Storm Jose
November 20, 2017

Free and rapid imagery was provided through the USGS Hazard Data Distribution System.

Lake Fork Creek below Sugarloaf dam near Leadville
November 17, 2017

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.  

Landsat Analysis Ready Data
November 8, 2017

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). 

Artist concept of Landsat 8
November 8, 2017

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.

View of snow-capped Borah Peak, Idaho
October 24, 2017

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.

Hurricane Irma satellite image
October 5, 2017

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.

Aerial View of Lake Okeechobee
September 18, 2017

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.

Image: Rio Grande and Cliffs in Boquillas Canyon, Big Bend National Park
September 14, 2017

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.

St. John River threatens to swamp a steel bridge.
August 10, 2017

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.