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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Figure 1. Example from previous investigations of wetland area change and shoreline erosion.
Date Published: July 20, 2016

Significant damage to coastal communities and surrounding wetlands of the north Atlantic states was caused by Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012, mostly tied to an associated storm surge of record extent and impact.

NCCWSC website screen shot.
Date Published: June 27, 2016

Information Science staff help the National Office of the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Centers and individual Climate Science Centers with a variety of project and data management activities, including storing, managing, and distributing datasets; building and maintaining metadata; discovering datasets; and delivering their data and metadata as web services through various...

USGS representatives have been working closely with the Tribes since Hurricane Sandy.
Date Published: June 2, 2016

USGS is committed to meeting the science needs of four Native American Tribes impacted by Hurricane Sandy in New England and New York: the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head - Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard, MA; the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on Cape Cod, MA; the Narragansett Indian Tribe near Charlestown, RI; and the Shinnecock Indian Nation on Long Island.

Figure 2. Approximate boundaries of Chitimacha indigenous lands. Image courtesy Native American Law
Date Published: June 2, 2016

This project will create a Climate Change Adaptation Plan for the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana (Chitimacha), serving as an implementable plan for coastal community adaptation to climate change that can be used as a model in other small communities.

Wading birds and shorebirds in TTINWR
Date Published: May 11, 2016

The interior marshes of the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge (TTINWR) are currently negatively impacted by sea level rise through saltwater intrusion from the south which furthers mangrove encroachment into the freshwater marsh.

Satellite image of study areas
Date Published: May 11, 2016

As Greater Everglades restoration project implementation progresses, wetlands in near coastal areas may undergo changes in salinity, hydroperiod, and water depth.

Study sites were established near Port Fourchon, Louisiana
Date Published: May 11, 2016

Field observations over recent decades have confirmed mangrove expansion landward in tropical zones and poleward in temperate saltmarsh settings around the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Real-time kinematic GPS surveys combined with complimentary ground leveling
Date Published: May 11, 2016

Storm surge waves and tides of hurricanes have the propensity to wash up marsh detritus of dead reeds and leaf debris along with plastic trash and lumber, commonly referred to as wrack, from overwashed beaches, marshes, forests, streets, and lawns.

Refuge managers must decide when and where to acquire or protect new land/habitat
Date Published: May 9, 2016

As custodians of ecological goods and services valued by society, coastal National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs) have an especially important role to play in helping socio-ecological systems adapt to global-change processes.

Image: Garden Wall Weather Station, MT
Date Published: May 5, 2016

Climate change is widely acknowledged to be having a profound effect on the biosphere with many and diverse impacts on global resources. Mountain ecosystems in the western U.S. and the Northern Rockies in particular are highly sensitive to climate change. In fact, the higher elevations of the Northern Rockies have experienced three times the global average temperature increase over the past...

Tree core collections of surviving trees were conducted in the landfall zone of Hurricane Sandy
Date Published: May 2, 2016

The science of dating growth rings and history of live and fossil wood samples is called dendrochronology. This technique is valuable for conducting climate reconstructions where meteorological data is lacking and for detecting past disturbance events such as tropical storms and hurricanes.

Intensive ground surveys and line transects were established across the marsh/forest ecotones
Date Published: May 2, 2016

As tropical storms and hurricanes move onshore and make landfall, wind and storm surge can be sufficiently high to damage built-infrastructure and natural systems, most notably coastal forests at the interface of land and sea.

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Year Published: 2016

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 Liu; Luce, Charles H.

Year Published: 2016

Landsat International Cooperators and Global Archive Consolidation

Landsat missions have always been an important component of U.S. foreign policy, as well as science and technology policy. The program’s longstanding network of International Cooperators (ICs), which operate numerous International Ground Stations (IGS) around the world, embodies the United States’ policy of peaceful use of outer space and the...

U.S. Geological Survey, 2016, Landsat International Cooperators and Global Archive Consolidation (ver. 1.1, November 2016): U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2016–3018, 2 p., http://doi.dx.org/10.3133/fs20163018.

Year Published: 2016

U.S. Department of the Interior Climate Science Centers and U.S. Geological Survey National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center—Annual report for 2015

2015 was another great year for the Department of the Interior (DOI) Climate Science Centers (CSCs) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC) network. The DOI CSCs and USGS NCCWSC continued their mission of providing the science, data, and tools that are needed for on-the-ground decision making...

Varela Minder, Elda; Padgett, Holly A.
Varela Minder, Elda, and Padgett, H.A., 2016, U.S. Department of the Interior Climate Science Centers and U.S. Geological Survey National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center—Annual report for 2015: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016–1043, 10 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20161043.

Year Published: 2016

Semi-arid vegetation response to antecedent climate and water balance windows

Questions Can we improve understanding of vegetation response to water availability on monthly time scales in semi-arid environments using remote sensing methods? What climatic or water balance variables and antecedent windows of time associated with these variables best relate to the condition of vegetation? Can we develop credible near-term...

Thoma, David P.; Munson, Seth M.; Irvine, Kathryn M.; Witwicki, Dana L.; Bunting, Erin
Thoma, D.P., Munson, S.M., K.M. Irvine, Witwicki, D.L., and Bunting, E.L., 2016, Semi-arid vegetation response to antecedent climate and water balance windows: Applied Vegetation Science, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/avsc.12232 and http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/avsc.12232/full.

Year Published: 2016

Earth as art 4

Landsat 8 is the latest addition to the long-running series of Earth-observing satellites in the Landsat program that began in 1972. The images featured in this fourth installment of the Earth As Art collection were all acquired by Landsat 8. They show our planet’s diverse landscapes with remarkable clarity.Landsat satellites see the Earth as no...

U.S. Geological Survey, 2016, Earth as art 4: U.S. Geological Survey General Information Product 161, 20 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/gip161.

Year Published: 2016

Earth as art 4 bookmark

Images from Landsat 8, launched in 2013, already stand out as stellar additions to our popular Earth As Art series. We are proud to present the fourth collection—Earth As Art 4!

U.S. Geological Survey, 2016, Earth as art 4 bookmark: U.S. Geological Survey General Information Product 162, http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/gip162.

Year Published: 2016

A hierarchical model of daily stream temperature using air-water temperature synchronization, autocorrelation, and time lags

Water temperature is a primary driver of stream ecosystems and commonly forms the basis of stream classifications. Robust models of stream temperature are critical as the climate changes, but estimating daily stream temperature poses several important challenges. We developed a statistical model that accounts for many challenges that can make...

Letcher, Benjamin; Hocking, Daniel; O'Neil, Kyle; Whiteley, Andrew R.; Nislow, Keith H.; O'Donnell, Matthew
Letcher BH, Hocking DJ, O’Neil K, Whiteley AR, Nislow KH, O’Donnell MJ. (2016) A hierarchical model of daily stream temperature using air-water temperature synchronization, autocorrelation, and time lags. PeerJ 4:e1727 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.1727

Year Published: 2015

Summarizing components of U.S. Department of the Interior vulnerability assessments to focus climate adaptation planning

A secretarial order identified climate adaptation as a critical performance objective for future management of U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) lands and resources in response to global change. Vulnerability assessments can inform climate adaptation planning by providing insight into what natural resources are most at risk and why. Three...

Thompson, Laura M.; Staudinger, Michelle D.; Carter, Shawn L.
Thompson, L.M., Staudinger, M.D., and Carter, S.L., 2015, Summarizing components of U.S. Department of the Interior vulnerability assessments to focus climate adaptation planning: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015–1110, 14 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20151110.

Year Published: 2015

Vulnerabilities and opportunities at the nexus of electricity, water and climate

The articles in this special issue examine the critical nexus of electricity, water, and climate, emphasizing connections among resources;  the prospect of increasing vulnerabilities of water resources and electricity generation in a changing climate;  and the opportunities for research to inform integrated energy and water policy and...

Frumhoff, Peter; Burkett, Virginia; Jackson, Robert B.; Newmark, Robin; Overpeck, Jonathan; Webber, Michael

Year Published: 2015

Coastal and wetland ecosystems of the Chesapeake Bay watershed: Applying palynology to understand impacts of changing climate, sea level, and land use

The mid-Atlantic region and Chesapeake Bay watershed have been influenced by fluctuations in climate and sea level since the Cretaceous, and human alteration of the landscape began ~12,000 years ago, with greatest impacts since colonial times. Efforts to devise sustainable management strategies that maximize ecosystem services are integrating data...

Willard, Debra A.; Bernhardt, Christopher E.; Hupp, Cliff R.; Newell, Wayne

Year Published: 2014

The impact of climate change on coastal ecosystems: chapter 6

In this chapter we stress two important features of coasts and coastal ecosystems. First, these are dynamic systems which continually undergo adjustments, especially through erosion and re-deposition, in response to a range of processes. Many coastal ecosystems adjust naturally at a range of time scales and their potential for response is examined...

Burkett, Virginia; Woodroffe, Colin D.; Nicholls, Robert J.; Forbes, Donald L.
The impact of climate change on coastal ecosystems: chapter 6; 2014; Book chapter; Book; Oceans and human health: implications for society and well-being; Burkett, Virginia; Woodroffe, Colin D.; Nicholls, Robert J.; Forbes, Donald L.

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October 18, 2017
Ted Scambos, Lead Scientist at the National Snow & Ice Data Center, talks about the roll of Landsat in his research studying polar regions.
October 18, 2017
Alan Belward from the European Union's Joint Research Center discusses how Landsat helps his team promote sustainable development.
October 16, 2017
Strong winds are quickly spreading wildfire across California's wine country, as seen in these two Landsat 8 images. 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/ )
October 10, 2017
This video contains a narrated introduction to the Global Mountain Explorer, or GME. The GME is a web-based tool for visualizing and exploring three well known global mountain datalayers. The video tutorial provides background information on the three global mountain characterizations, and provides users with a walk through of all the functionality of the map exploration tool.
October 9, 2017
The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season has seen several hurricanes in a row during the months of August, September, and October. Follow along with this video to see satellite imagery of hurricanes and tropical storms during this time period. The satellite imagery featured in this video was created using data distributed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Land Processes...
October 5, 2017
These Landsat 8 images show the latest iceberg to break free in Antarctica's Pine Island. Warmer ocean waters are melting the ice from beneath, causing increasing instability. 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/ )
September 29, 2017
Landsat 8 imagery shows the change in vegetation on Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. 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/ )
September 19, 2017
Hurricane Irma churned up sediment around the Florida keys as shown by these Landsat images. 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/ )
September 19, 2017
This is the third video in a series describing 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 how Landsat Collection Level-1 data products are organized into one of...
September 15, 2017
Hurricane Irma's full force hit the small island of Barbuda, damaging estimated 95% of structures. 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/ )
Panoramic image from Sperry Glacier in Glacier National Park showing smoke from forest fires.
September 12, 2017
Panoramic image from Sperry Glacier in Glacier National Park showing smoke from forest fires. Information gathered by the USGS managed Sperry Weather Station are being used by regional fire managers to forecast fire weather and future fire behavior.
USGS weather station repair operations in Glacier NP.
September 12, 2017
Crews perform repairs on the Sperry Weather Station as part of Fire Operations in Glacier National Park. Information gathered by the USGS managed Sperry Weather Station are being used by regional fire managers to forecast fire weather and future fire behavior during the 2017 fire season.
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An American pika collects grass and flowers to stockpile its winter food supplies.
July 12, 2017

A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey and its partners has identified situations and conditions where some animals display behavioral flexibility – the ability to rapidly change behavior in response to short – or long-term environmental changes such as climate variability. 

Flooding in the Western Swinomish Reservation
June 12, 2017

For the Swinomish people of northwestern Washington, water is life. But this symbiotic relationship between man and nature has been disrupted, and increasingly threatened, by sea-level rise and changes in Northwestern storm and rainfall patterns.

Image: Vegetation Drought
June 5, 2017

The U. S. Geological Survey is poised to bring a dynamic array of science and tools to help decision-makers manage and offset effects of increased drought across the United States, according to a drought plan report released today.

Hurricane Irene, satellite view, NASA
June 1, 2017

Scientists work in the field before, during and after landfall to improve forecasting and recovery.

 

 

Chesapeake Bay 2014 Landsat imagery
May 25, 2017

USGS’ pixel-by-pixel land use forecasts offer essential road maps for restoration. 

This image shows the perimeter of Sperry Glacier in Glacier National Park in 1966,1998, 2005, and 2015.
May 10, 2017

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.

Image: A Mule Deer Released After Being Radio-Collared
May 3, 2017

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.

Mapping the World’s Ocean Ecosystems
April 24, 2017

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. 

Hydrologic Regions of Alaska
April 14, 2017

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.

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