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
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.
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
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 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...
The Sources, compositions, and effects of atmospheric dust from American Drylands project maintains a catalog of dust events in the southwestern United States since 2009. We document dust emissions that are detectable from digital images collected by satellite, and (or) ground-based remote digital camera stations.
Dust emission from sources in the southwestern United States is important...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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.
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.
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 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.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 endemic plant...Cartwright, Jennifer M.; Wolfe, William J.
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; White, Rickie; Collazo, Jaime
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 accounting for...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
Conversion to drip irrigated agriculture may offset historic anthropogenic and wildfire contributions to sediment production
This study is an investigation into the roles of wildfire and changing agricultural practices in controlling the inter-decadal scale trends of suspended sediment production from semi-arid mountainous rivers. In the test case, a decreasing trend in suspended sediment concentrations was found in the lower Salinas River, California between 1967 and...A.B. Gray, G.B. Pasternack, E.B. Watson, M.A. Goñi, J.A. Hatten, J.A. Warrick
Baseline and projected future carbon storage and greenhouse-gas fluxes in ecosystems of Alaska
This assessment was conducted to fulfill the requirements of section 712 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and to contribute to knowledge of the storage, fluxes, and balance of carbon and methane gas in ecosystems of Alaska. The carbon and methane variables were examined for major terrestrial ecosystems (uplands and wetlands) and...
A review of the relationships between drought and forest fire in the United States
The historical and pre-settlement relationships between drought and wildfire are well documented in North America, with forest fire occurrence and area clearly increasing in response to drought. There is also evidence that drought interacts with other controls (forest productivity, topography, fire weather, management activities) to affect fire...Littell, Jeremy; Peterson, David L.; Riley, Karin L.; Yongquiang LiuLuce, Charles H.
Isotopes in North American Rocky Mountain Snowpack 1993–2014
We present ∼1300 new isotopic measurements (δ 18 O and δ 2 H) from a network of snowpack sites in the Rocky Mountains that have been sampled since 1993. The network includes 177 locations where depth-integrated snow samples are collected each spring near peak accumulation. At 57 of these locations snowpack samples were obtained for 10–21 years and...Anderson, L., Berkelhammer, M.,and Mast, M.A.
USGS’ pixel-by-pixel land use forecasts offer essential road maps for restoration.
Budget Focuses on Core USGS Science and Efficiency
The warming climate has dramatically reduced the size of 39 glaciers in Montana since 1966, some by as much as 85 percent, according to data released by the U.S. Geological Survey and Portland State University.
Migratory mule deer in Wyoming closely time their movements to track the spring green-up, providing evidence of an underappreciated foraging benefit of migration, according to a study by University of Wyoming and U.S. Geological Survey scientists at the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.
The world’s oceans are vital to life on Earth. They provide food, moderate the climate, water the land, and drive the local and global economy. But the living conditions and resources in the enormous water masses of the open ocean have been mostly unknown and unmapped.
While freshwater ecosystems cover only a small amount of the land surface in Alaska, they transport and emit a significant amount of carbon, according to new U.S. Geological Survey research. An invited feature article for Ecological Applications provides the first-ever major aquatic carbon flux assessment for the entire state. Carbon flux refers to the rate of carbon transfer between pools.
Today, Landsat shows us the evolution of the coal industry near North America & North Dakota’s Center...
In this week's Landsat view, Landsat 5 and Landsat 8 show how significant Cambodia's deforestation has been in the last few decades.
Access to consistent high-quality images to study changes on Earth’s surface is getting easier. The USGS Landsat standard (Level-1) product inventory is now structured by data quality and offers improved calibration. Data designated as Tier 1 provide the highest accuracy and can be reliably used to analyze changes to Earth’s surface over time.
Our image of the week is of Ethiopia’s erupting Gateway to Hell.
A new study published in Global Change Biology this week compares analytical frameworks for conducting ecological climate change impact assessments.
On Tuesday, February 7, Landsat 7’s Flight Operations Team fired the spacecraft’s 1-pound thrusters for about 13 minutes. After a pause of about 7½ hours, the thrusters fired a second time for about 13 minutes.This was the last such maneuver for Landsat 7 and the beginning of the end for the satellite, which has provided images of the earth’s changing resources for more than 17 years.