Science for a Changing World

Safeguarding Communities

USGS scientists provide essential information on natural hazards to enhance community preparedness, response, and resilience. The USGS also works to safeguard the health of humans through research to understand and minimize exposures to chemical and microbial hazards in the environment. USGS science further safeguards Americans by informing many other matters related to national security. 

Filter Total Items: 14
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 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 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 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....

Date published: January 9, 2017

Preparing for Tsunami Hazards on Washington’s Pacific Coast

Hours before Japan was struck by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and the ensuing catastrophic tsunami, John Schelling spoke at a public meeting in the coastal community of Oceans Shores, Washington, about preparing for tsunami hazards. The few dozen people attending the meeting went home that evening and watched in horror as the events in Japan unfolded.

Date published: January 5, 2017

Predicting Postfire Debris Flows Saves Lives

When wildfires spread and scorch the earth, people like Penny Luehring have to act fast. Secondary impacts such as debris flows can be devastating to nearby communities.

Date published: December 12, 2016

Investigating Lung Disease in Military Veterans

Six years ago, veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan had trouble breathing normally. The list of potential causes that soldiers were exposed to seemed endless: smoke from burn pits used for trash disposal, desert dust, diesel generator exhaust, humidity and temperature extremes, explosives, and city trash and sewage.

Date published: December 10, 2016

Preparing the Nation for Intense Space Weather

While major geomagnetic storms are rare, with only a few recorded per century, there is significant potential for large-scale impacts when they do occur. Extreme space weather can be viewed as hazards for the economy and national security.

Date published: December 9, 2016

Revolutionizing Volcano Monitoring in Indonesia

In early September of 2010, a pattern of increased earthquake activity occurred at the Mount Merapi volcano in Indonesia. A few days later, an avalanche was observed south of the mountain, and white plumes were seen rising above the crater. A lava dome detected in March began to increase rapidly.

Date published: November 22, 2016

The Fire Island Wilderness Breach: Help or Hindrance?

When Hurricane Sandy struck the south shore of Long Island, New York, on October 29, 2012, it caused substantial erosion of the beach and dunes. Storm waves cut through Fire Island National Seashore’s wilderness area, forming a breach. The resulting channel allowed water to flow between the Atlantic Ocean and Great South Bay.