Science for a Changing World

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This site explores real-life examples of USGS science applied to societal challenges. USGS scientists use innovative, state-of-the-art methods to understand the Earth. Our science is used by Federal, Tribal, State, and local agencies, and the private sector to solve increasingly complex issues and ensure a secure, healthy, and economically prosperous America. Check back for new stories. 

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Date published: September 18, 2019

USGS Hazard Science – Understanding the Risks is Key to Preparedness

 Learn About USGS Hazards Science and More About National Preparedness Month:  The very nature of natural hazards means that they have the potential to impact a majority of Americans every year.  USGS science provides part of the foundation for emergency preparedness whenever and wherever disaster strikes.

Date published: February 2, 2017

Earthquake Early Warning: Vital for City Transit

Although no one can reliably predict earthquakes, today’s technology is advanced enough to rapidly detect seismic waves as an earthquake begins, calculate the maximum expected shaking, and send alerts to surrounding areas before damage can occur. This technology is known as “earthquake early warning” (EEW).

Date published: February 2, 2017

Forecasting the World’s Energy Resources

It is difficult to overstate the importance of energy to the American economy.  Managing this vital sector depends on knowing how many energy resources we have, how many we use and need, and how these resources are transported.

Date published: February 1, 2017

The Vital Nature of Streamgaging

Gary Moore spent the last three days of 2015 stacking hefty bags of sand in front of a fellow church member’s brick home. With only 1,000 feet between the house and the swelling Mississippi and Meramec Rivers, Moore and other volunteers worked quickly, in frigid temperatures, to assemble a 10-foot high, 1,000-foot-long sandbag wall to ward off floodwaters.

Date published: January 31, 2017

Tracking the Bad Guys: Toxic Algal Blooms

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.

Date published: January 24, 2017

Maps Made with Light Show the Way

The topic, officially, was water. But during a scientific conference in Butte, Montana, in 2013, earthquake expert Michael Stickney glimpsed something unexpected in a three-dimensional lidar image of the Bitterroot Valley in nearby Missoula.

Date published: January 23, 2017

Busy as Bees to Help Protect Pollinators

In late 2006, beekeepers across the United States reported sudden, dramatic losses in honey bee colonies. Similar losses were reported in 2007 and for several subsequent years. The reasons for these losses were unclear. 

Date published: January 18, 2017

Protecting California’s Bay-Delta with Innovative Science

California's Bay-Delta is facing ongoing drought and declining fish populations. The water in the Delta arrives primarily from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, supplying water for more than 22 million people. This water source supports California’s trillion-dollar economy—the sixth largest in the world—and its $27 billion agricultural industry.

Date published: January 16, 2017

Tracking Critical Minerals to Ensure National Preparedness

On an ordinary Tuesday in 2014, David Pineault, an economist at the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), reviewed his specialized reports and came to a startling conclusion: the United States needed to increase its stockpile of a basic manufacturing material with military applications—yttrium oxide, a material used in laser rangefinders. 

Date published: January 12, 2017

Information Flows Freely, Even in a Drought

The Colorado River system provides about 35 million Americans with a portion of their water supply. It irrigates 5½ million acres of land in the West and provides water to tribes, parks, and wildlife. The system serves parts of seven States and Mexico—but reservoir levels have crept lower over the past several years, sparking questions about how much water remains and who will have access.

Date published: January 11, 2017

Landsat Eyes Help Guard the World’s Forests

“We’re seeing the loss of forests in many places,” said Matthew Hansen, a professor at the University of Maryland. “Dynamics include increasing tropical deforestation, more frequent and severe boreal forest fires, disease in temperate forests and the commoditization of subtropical forests.”

Date published: January 11, 2017

Preparing for the Storm: Predicting Where Our Coasts Are at Risk

Living in the Outer Banks means living with the power of the sea. Jutting out from North Carolina’s coast into the Atlantic Ocean, this series of sandy barrier islands is particularly vulnerable to damage from major storms. In April 2016, another nor’easter was set to strike, but this time, Dare County officials were approached by their local weather forecaster with a new kind of prediction....