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

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.  

Artist concept of Landsat 8
November 15, 2017

Two awardees have been presented with the 2017 William T. Pecora Award for achievements in Earth remote sensing. 

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...

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...

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

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: 2
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: 40
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: 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

Year Published: 2016

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...

Zhu, Zhiliang; McGuire, A. David
Zhu, Zhiliang, and McGuire, A.D., eds., 2016, Baseline and projected future carbon storage and greenhouse-gas fluxes in ecosystems of Alaska: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1826, 196 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/pp1826.

Filter Total Items: 147
Glacier off Sargent Icefield
2017 (approx.)
Landscape view of an un-named glacier off the Sargent Icefield, directly across from Wolverine Glacier, above the Nellie Juan River, in Alaska. Taken during a visit to a wolverine glacier field site as part of a study to examine how alpine areas are changing as temperatures rise in Alaska.
2017 (approx.)
This video focuses on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Terra and Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Version 6 Thermal Anomalies and Fire data distributed by NASA’s Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC). Information about the MODIS Version 6 Thermal Anomalies and Fire data products, changes between the Version 5 and Version 6...
quadcopter (drone) and camera ready for launch
2017 (approx.)
The 3DR Solo with GoPro Hero4 camera and gimbal. Coming to a survey area near you soon. Photo credit: Shawn Harrison , USGS. This photo was taken during USGS unmanned aerial systems (drone) pilot training. Two training sessions were held - one in February-March 2017 in Santa Cruz, California and the second in April 2017 in Gainesville, Florida. This photo originally was published in a Soundwaves...
2017 (approx.)
This video focuses on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Terra and Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Version 6 Thermal Anomalies and Fire data distributed by NASA’s Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC). Information about MODIS Thermal Anomalies and Fire quality information, including how to decode quality bits, tools for...
2017 (approx.)
Landsat Collections: Providing a Stable Environmental Record for Time Series Analysis This video introduces the new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Landsat Collection 1 inventory structure. Collection 1 required the reprocessing of all archived Landsat data to achieve radiometric and geometric consistency of Level-1 products through time and across all Landsat sensors. This video explains why...
2017 (approx.)
This video focuses on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Terra and Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Version 6 Thermal Anomalies and Fire data distributed by NASA’s Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC). Information about the MODIS Version 6 Thermal Anomalies and Fire data products, the thematic fire mask classes, and using a...
November 9, 2017
Off the coast of Louisiana, the small Isle de Jean Charles has nearly been swallowed by the ocean. Only about 2% of the land mass remains compared to it's size in the 1950s.
November 7, 2017
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has improved Landsat data quality and usability through the creation of Analysis Ready Data (ARD) for the conterminous United States, Alaska, and Hawaii. Landsat ARD greatly reduces the preparatory work currently required to do time-series analysis for understanding landscape change for operational and science users. Landsat Collections Level-1 scenes are the...
October 25, 2017
This video focuses on the Application for Extracting and Exploring Analysis Ready Samples (AρρEEARS) Area Sampler. With AρρEEARS, users can retrieve analysis ready data for specific areas of interest for a variety of NASA data products, including those derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) onboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. AρρEEARS Area Sampler enables...
October 25, 2017
The Belo Monte Dam Complex's construction has had a significant impact on the flow of water along the Xingu River. These Landsat images show the changing landscape over the past several years. 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. Hyperlink: USGS EROS Center...
October 19, 2017
This webinar was conducted as part of the Climate Change Science and Management Webinar Series, held in partnership by the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and the FWS National Conservation Training Center. Webinar Summary: Prescribed fire is commonly used by managers in the western U.S. to remove potential wildfire fuel, such as small trees and shrubs. It is thought that...
Filter Total Items: 177
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.

Satellite image showing the Las Vegas, Lake Mead, Grand Canyon area
July 20, 2017

Resourcesat data that are important for understanding changes associated with agriculture, forestry, phenology, and other applications are now available in the USGS archive.