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Science

Welcome to the Science Topics page of the USGS Water Science School, where you can explore the many aspects of water. All of our science information is available by browsing the Themes below.

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Surface Water

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Water Quality

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Water Properties

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Water Basics

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Water Use

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Water Cycle Components

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Groundwater

FAQs

Can you predict earthquakes?

No. Neither the USGS nor any other scientists have ever predicted a major earthquake. We do not know how, and we do not expect to know how any time in the foreseeable future. USGS scientists can only calculate the probability that a significant earthquake will occur (shown on our hazard mapping) in a specific area within a certain number of years. An earthquake prediction must define 3 elements: 1...

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Can you predict earthquakes?

No. Neither the USGS nor any other scientists have ever predicted a major earthquake. We do not know how, and we do not expect to know how any time in the foreseeable future. USGS scientists can only calculate the probability that a significant earthquake will occur (shown on our hazard mapping) in a specific area within a certain number of years. An earthquake prediction must define 3 elements: 1...

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Can animals predict earthquakes?

The earliest reference we have to unusual animal behavior prior to a significant earthquake is from Greece in 373 BC. Rats, weasels, snakes, and centipedes reportedly left their homes and headed for safety several days before a destructive earthquake. Anecdotal evidence abounds of animals, fish, birds, reptiles, and insects exhibiting strange behavior anywhere from weeks to seconds before an...

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Can animals predict earthquakes?

The earliest reference we have to unusual animal behavior prior to a significant earthquake is from Greece in 373 BC. Rats, weasels, snakes, and centipedes reportedly left their homes and headed for safety several days before a destructive earthquake. Anecdotal evidence abounds of animals, fish, birds, reptiles, and insects exhibiting strange behavior anywhere from weeks to seconds before an...

Learn More

Why are we having so many earthquakes? Has naturally occurring earthquake activity been increasing? Does this mean a big one is going to hit? OR We haven't had any earthquakes in a long time; does this mean that the pressure is building up for a big one?

A temporary increase or decrease in seismicity is part of the normal fluctuation of earthquake rates. Neither an increase nor decrease worldwide is a positive indication that a large earthquake is imminent. The ComCat earthquake catalog contains an increasing number of earthquakes in recent years--not because there are more earthquakes, but because there are more seismic instruments and they are...

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Why are we having so many earthquakes? Has naturally occurring earthquake activity been increasing? Does this mean a big one is going to hit? OR We haven't had any earthquakes in a long time; does this mean that the pressure is building up for a big one?

A temporary increase or decrease in seismicity is part of the normal fluctuation of earthquake rates. Neither an increase nor decrease worldwide is a positive indication that a large earthquake is imminent. The ComCat earthquake catalog contains an increasing number of earthquakes in recent years--not because there are more earthquakes, but because there are more seismic instruments and they are...

Learn More

Education

Teacher's Resources for Water Education

The USGS Water Science School offers many resources to teachers help teach students all about water. 

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Teacher's Resources for Water Education

The USGS Water Science School offers many resources to teachers help teach students all about water. 

Learn More

Water Science Activity Center

This is the interactive section of our site where you can answer challenge questions, participate in opinion surveys about water issues, and take true/false quizzes.

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Water Science Activity Center

This is the interactive section of our site where you can answer challenge questions, participate in opinion surveys about water issues, and take true/false quizzes.

Learn More

Principal Aquifers

An aquifer is a geologic formation, a group of formations, or a part of a formation that contains sufficient saturated permeable material to yield significant quantities of water to wells and springs. This site explains the geology of aquifers and provides a general overview and maps of the principal aquifers of the United states.

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Principal Aquifers

An aquifer is a geologic formation, a group of formations, or a part of a formation that contains sufficient saturated permeable material to yield significant quantities of water to wells and springs. This site explains the geology of aquifers and provides a general overview and maps of the principal aquifers of the United states.

Learn More