New basin-wide assessment of recoverable resources and reserves
The Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana contains about 162 billion short tons (BST) of recoverable coal from a total of 1.07 trillion short tons of in-place resources according to a new USGS assessment. This assessment also estimates that 25 BST of those resources are currently economical to recover, the first such estimate released by the USGS for coal for an entire basin.
The Powder River Basin—a large geologic feature located in northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana—contains the largest deposits of low-sulfur subbituminous coal in the world. This study is significant because it illustrates that only a relatively small percentage of in-place coal resources are technically and economically recoverable.
|Powder River Basin Assessment Map — A map showing the four assessment units for the 2013 USGS Powder River Basin coal assessment.|
“The United States is well-known for its rich endowment of coal resources and our in-place estimates bear that out,” said USGS Acting Director Suzette Kimball. “It’s important to note, however, the substantial difference between what is in-place and what is technically recoverable, let alone economic. This new basin-wide assessment provides that critical link for government and private managers to make informed decisions.”
In 2011, the 16 mines in the PRB produced 462 million short tons (MST), about 42 percent of the Nation’s total coal production that year. Subbituminous coal is typically used in electric power generation.
The key to this study was taking advantage of the wealth of recently available geologic data from the interpretation of thousands of new drill logs from coalbed methane development in the PRB. More than 8,000 new drill holes were added to the original Gillette coal field database alone. About 30,000 total data points were used in the entire PRB assessment. This geologic information interpreted from well information of the recent drilling provided an unprecedented level of data about the coal resources for the basin.
The USGS developed the geologic information that formed the basis of this assessment in cooperation with the Wyoming State Geological Survey and the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology.
The Basin was divided into four areas for assessment: the Montana Powder River Basin, the Northern Wyoming Powder River Basin, the Gillette coal field, and the Southwestern Wyoming Powder River Basin.
Within these four areas, the USGS assessed coal resources for 47 coal beds. The three largest beds by resource are the Canyon coal bed, the Anderson coal bed, and the Smith coal bed. These three coal beds together represent about 38 percent of the total coal resources for the Powder River Basin.
To arrive at the estimate of recoverable coal and 25 BST of reserves, USGS scientists selected portions of those coal beds from the total in-place resources that were deemed both shallow and thick enough to be recoverable using current surface mining technology. Ten conceptual mine models were developed to account for the differences in coal bed geology using proven mining techniques for each the four assessment areas of the PRB. Then, estimated mining costs were calculated for all of the modeled coal resources. Finally, those resources that could be produced at or below the current sales price for PRB coal were designated reserves.
The current 25 BST of reserves does not mean that is all that remains mineable. The size of reserves change because mining costs and coal sales prices are subject to fluctuation based on market conditions – recoverable resources become reserves with favorable changes in costs, demand, and prices.
The USGS Energy Resources Program research efforts yield modern, digital assessments of the quantity, quality, location, and accessibility of the Nation’s coal resources.
To learn more about this or other geologic assessments, please visit the USGS Energy Resources Program website. Stay up to date with USGS energy science by subscribing to our newsletter or by following us on Twitter.
MENLO PARK, Calif. — “Predicted population increases in this century can be expected to translate into more people dying from earthquakes. There will be more individual earthquakes with very large death tolls as well as more people dying during earthquakes than ever before, according to a newly published study led by U.S. Geological Survey engineering geologist Thomas L. Holzer.”
Holzer and his USGS coauthor James Savage studied earthquakes with death tolls of more than 50,000, which they define as catastrophic, and reported global death tolls from roughly 1500 A.D. to the present. Comparing those events to estimates of world population, they found that the number of catastrophic earthquakes has increased as population has grown. After statistically correlating the number of catastrophic earthquakes in each century with world population, they were able to use new (2011) 21st-century population projections by the United Nations to project that approximately 21 catastrophic earthquakes will occur in the 21st century, a tripling of the seven that occurred in the 20th century. They also predict that total deaths in the century could more than double to approximately 3.5 million people if world population grows to 10.1 billion by 2100 from 6.1 billion in 2000.
“This prediction need not be a prophesy: the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (NEHRP) in the U.S. can be a model for how science can inform engineering designs that are adopted into life-saving building codes in earthquake-prone regions,” said USGS Associate Director for Natural Hazards David Applegate. “I also cannot stress enough the value of educated citizens — those who understand the natural hazards of this planet and are empowered to take action to reduce their risk.”
Four catastrophic earthquakes have already struck since the beginning of the 21st century, including the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake (and tsunami) and 2010 Haiti earthquake that each may have killed over 200,000 people. The study explains this increase in lethal earthquakes. It is not that we are having more earthquakes; it is that more people are living in seismically vulnerable buildings in the world’s earthquake zones.
Holzer’s study underscores the need to build residential and commercial structures that will not collapse and kill people during earthquake shaking.
“Without a significant increase in seismic retrofitting and seismic-resistant construction in earthquake hazard zones at a global scale, the number of catastrophic earthquakes and earthquake fatalities will continue to increase and our predictions are likely to be fulfilled,” Holzer said.
The study, “Global Earthquake Fatalities and Population,” is available online.
Long-Term U.S. Evapotranspiration Rates Mapped for the First Time
RESTON, Va. — For the first time, U.S. Geological Survey scientists have mapped long-term average evapotranspiration rates across the continental United States – a crucial tool for water managers and planners because of the huge role evapotranspiration plays in water availability.
Why are evapotranspiration rates so important to know? It’s because the amount of water available for people and ecosystems is the amount of annual precipitation – that is, snow or rain – minus the amount of annual evapotranspiration. Evapotranspiration itself is the amount of water lost to the atmosphere from the ground surface. Much of this loss is the result of the “transpiration” of water by plants, which is the plant equivalent of breathing. Just as people release water vapor when they breathe, plants do too.
“Since evapotranspiration consumes more than half of the precipitation that happens every year, knowing the evapotranspiration rates in different regions of the country is a solid leap forward in enabling water managers and policy makers to know how much water is available for use in their specific region,” said Bill Werkheiser, associate director for water at the USGS. “Just as importantly,” he added, “this knowledge will help them better plan for the water availability challenges that will occur as our climate changes since transpiration rates vary widely depending on factors such as temperature, humidity, precipitation, soil type, and wind.”
In spite of its importance, evapotranspiration has been difficult to measure accurately on a regional or continental scale. To produce these maps, USGS scientists Ward Sanford and David Selnick examined Landsat satellite imagery for climate and land-cover data from 1971 to 2000 and streamflow data for more than 800 watersheds for the same time period. This information allowed them to generate a mathematical equation that can be used to more precisely estimate long-term evapotranspiration at any location in the continental United States.
“The map of the long-term average annual evapotranspiration rates for different areas should be immensely helpful for ensuring the long-term, sustainable use of water in different regions, especially since forecasted climate change will, in many places, change the amount of precipitation and evapotranspiration that occurs,” Sanford said. “This tool, for example, allows water managers to quantify surface water runoff to reservoirs or water recharge to aquifers. It will also enable natural resource planners to understand the water needed for healthy-functioning ecosystems.”
One interesting finding illustrated in the maps is that in certain regions of the United States, such as the High Plains and the Central Valley of California, evapotranspiration exceeds the amount of precipitation because water is imported from other regions. The map also shows that the Pacific Northwest has many areas with low evapotranspiration to precipitation rates because of the area’s very high rainfall and low-to-moderate temperatures. In contrast, counties in the arid Southwest have evapotranspiration rates that usually exceed 80 percent of precipitation.
The research was published this week in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association. To read the article and see the maps, click here.
Western Michigan University – Radio News Service Advisory – Global Warming Happening Faster Than Expected
Wrap, suggested lead: Scientists who warned of the dire consequences of global warming were right. But as Mark Schwerin reports, it’s happening even quicker than they thought.
It’s all happening, just like they said it would. But the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere and its consequences, including more severe storms, drought and sea level rise, is happening faster than predicted, says Dr. David Karowe, a WMU professor of biological sciences.
Karowe says the technology is available today to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy. From Western Michigan University, I’m Mark Schwerin.
CUT ONE: Karowe says the Earth’s climate has always changed, but it is changing 20 times faster today than at any time in the past 55 million years.
CUT TWO: Karowe says the Earth’s average temperature has gone up 0.8 of a degree Celsius, which doesn’t sound like much, but was only 5 degrees cooler during the last ice age.
CUT THREE: Karowe says extreme weather linked to climate change, including deep droughts and severe storms, already are beginning and have been worse in the United States.
Interior Prepares to Conduct Landsat 8 Scientific Programs After Successful Launch of Latest Earth-Observing Satellite
Secretary Salazar Says Interior-NASA Partnership Provides Model for New Strategy to Strengthen Science Education and Careers
VANDENBERG AFB, CA – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today joined NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science Anne Castle, United States Geological Survey (USGS) Director Dr. Marcia McNutt and other Interior and NASA officials to launch the nation’s newest Earth-observing satellite into space.
Launched by NASA from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the satellite is expected to transmit images and data about the Earth within 100 days. Landsat data from more than 3 million current and archived images of Earth – available free of charge through the Interior Department’s USGS – have spurred extensive research and innovations, ranging from scientific investigations around the globe to the development of applications like Google Earth.
“Landsat has been delivering invaluable scientific information about our planet for more than forty years,” said Salazar. “It’s an honor to be a part of today’s launch to ensure that this critical data will continue to help us better understand our natural resources and help people like water managers, farmers, and resource managers make informed decisions.”
“Landsat is a centerpiece of NASA’s Earth Science program, and today’s successful launch will extend the longest continuous data record of Earth’s surface as seen from space,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “This data is a key tool for monitoring climate change and has led to the improvement of human and biodiversity health, energy and water management, urban planning, disaster recovery and agriculture monitoring – all resulting in incalculable benefits to the U.S. and world economy.”
The Landsat program is a joint partnership between NASA and the USGS. NASA develops the remote-sensing instruments and spacecraft, launches satellites, and validates their performance. The USGS then assumes ownership and operation of the satellites, in addition to managing ground-data reception, archiving, product generation, and distribution. The result is a long-term, impartial register of natural and human-induced changes on the global landscape.
“Seeing the world from a birds-eye view has been a primal desire since the earliest days of our civilization, in order to gain a better understand of how the world operates,” said Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle. “In an era of rapid world population growth, climate change, and increased competition for natural resources, we can’t afford not to have the long-term, objective perspective that Landsat’s eyes on the Earth provide.”
From a distance of more than 400 miles above the earth surface, a single Landsat scene can record the condition of hundreds of thousands of acres of grassland, agricultural crops, or forests. Each Landsat image gives a view as broad as 12,000 square miles per scene while describing land cover in units the size of a baseball diamond.
The Landsat program also offers substantial economic benefits, including an estimated $100 million per year in management of water for irrigated agriculture in western states.
Federal, state and local agencies rely on Landsat as a data source on wildfires, consumptive water use, land cover change, crop conditions, rangeland status and wildlife habitat. Landsat images can show where vegetation is thriving and where it is stressed, where droughts are occurring, where wildland fire is a danger, and where erosion has altered coastlines or river course.
“Over the last 40 years, students, land managers, scientists, relief workers, water managers, and ordinary citizens from nearly 200 nations have come to rely on Landsat as the authoritative source of unbiased information on changes in our planet’s solid surface,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “The launch of Landsat 8, in the nick of time as Landsat 5 is decommissioned and Landsat 7 is experiencing continued hardware failures, allows us to continue to provide this vital information to the world.”
Salazar today also released a new strategy to strengthen and inspire education and careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Interior’s STEM strategic plan is designed to provide a five-year framework for engaging the American public—particularly youth underrepresented in STEM fields—to become scientifically literate stewards of our natural and cultural resources while building a future workforce that fully represents the diversity of America for the 21st century.
“We need to make sure that there’s a next generation of cutting edge scientists to design and run Landsat 9, 10, 11 and beyond,” said Salazar. “This new plan will pave the way for our youth to choose the innovative and technical careers that are increasingly needed in federal service and in managing increasingly complex natural and cultural resource challenges.”
STEM careers can be found at all of Interior’s nine agencies including not only USGS—the nation’s premier science agency in various disciplines—but also the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and others.
Interior employs nearly 15,000 scientists and engineers, many of whom will be retiring in the coming decade. By emphasizing fields of study in STEM, the Department is better positioned to fill in these critical gaps.
Over the next five years, Interior plans to engage more partners in science education, to better coordinate access to the Department’s educational resources, to engage students and other citizens in place-based learning and service opportunities, and to strengthen career training and workforce development.
The five-year STEM plan is available online.
Nonfuel mineral production values increased in the United States for the third consecutive year, up $1.7 billion since 2011, the U.S. Geological Survey announced today in its Mineral Commodity Summaries 2013.
The estimated value of mineral raw materials produced at mines in the United States in 2012 was $76.5 billion, a slight increase from $74.8 billion in 2011. Net exports of mineral raw materials and old scrap contributed an additional $21 billion to the U.S. economy.
The annual report from the USGS National Minerals Information Center is the earliest comprehensive source of 2012 mineral production data for the world. It includes statistics on about 90 mineral commodities essential to the U.S. economy and national security, and addresses events, trends, and issues in the domestic and international minerals industries.
“Minerals are the raw materials for construction, manufacturing, high technology, new industries, jobs, and ultimately economic expansion,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “These summaries are where Geology meets Economics, to create the complex tapestry of variations in mineral production over time and space.”
The United States continues to rely on foreign sources for raw and processed mineral materials but, for the first time since 2002, the United States was not 100% import reliant for rare earths as rare earth mining resumed at Mountain Pass, California.
Minerals remained fundamental to the U.S. economy, contributing to the real gross domestic product (GDP) at several levels, including mining, processing, and manufacturing finished products. Minerals’ contribution to the GDP increased for the second consecutive year.
“Decision makers and policy makers in the private and public sectors rely on the Mineral Commodity Summaries and other USGS minerals information publications as consistent and unbiased sources of information to make business decisions and national policy,” said John DeYoung, Director of the USGS National Minerals Information Center.
Production and prices increased for most industrial mineral commodities mined in the United States in 2012, but production and prices for nearly all metals declined. Industrial mineral commodities include things like limestone, silica, sand and gravel, and are used for industrial purposes like building and road construction, plastics, glass, and paper.
Domestic raw materials and domestically recycled materials were used to process mineral materials worth $704 billion. These mineral materials, including aluminum, brick, copper, fertilizers, and steel, and net imports of processed materials (worth about $27 billion) were, in turn, consumed by downstream industries with a value added of an estimated $2.4 trillion in 2012.
The construction industry began to show signs of improvement during 2012, with increased production and consumption of cement, construction sand and gravel, and gypsum, mineral commodities that are used almost exclusively in construction. Crushed stone production, however, continued to decline.
The nonmetallic mineral products industry was boosted by the rebound in construction activity in 2012, with more than half of its output going to the construction sector. The recovery in the U.S. housing industry is fueling demand for industrial minerals and products.
Mine production of 15 mineral commodities was worth more than $1 billion each in the United States in 2012. These were, in decreasing order of value, gold, crushed stone, copper, cement, construction sand and gravel, iron ore (shipped), molybdenum concentrates, phosphate rock, lime, industrial sand and gravel, soda ash, clays (all types), salt, zinc, and silver.
Eleven states each produced more than $2 billion worth of nonfuel mineral commodities in 2012. These states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. Nevada produced the largest value at $11.2 billion. The mineral production of these states accounted for 64 percent of the U.S. total output value.
The USGS Mineral Resources Program delivers unbiased science and information to understand mineral resource potential, production, consumption, and how minerals interact with the environment. The USGS National Minerals Information Center collects, analyzes, and disseminates current information on the supply of and the demand for minerals and materials in the United States and about 180 other countries.
The USGS report “Mineral Commodity Summaries 2013″ is available online. Hardcopies will be available in February from the Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents. For ordering information, please call (202) 512-1800 or (866) 512-1800 or go online.
For more information on this report and individual mineral commodities, please visit the USGS National Minerals Information Center.
Editors: Pictures of Wisdom’s chick available online
MIDWAY ATOLL — A Laysan albatross known as “Wisdom” – believed to be at least 62 years old – has hatched a chick on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge for the sixth consecutive year.
During the morning hours on Sunday, the chick was observed pipping its way into the world by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Pete Leary, who said the chick appears healthy. Wisdom was first banded in 1956, when she was incubating an egg in the same area of the refuge. She was at least five years old at the time.
“Everyone continues to be inspired by Wisdom as a symbol of hope for her species,” said Doug Staller, the Fish and Wildlife Service superintendent for the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (Monument), which includes Midway Atoll NWR.
Staff and volunteers stationed on Midway are responsible for monitoring the health of the beautiful seabirds that arrive every year by the hundreds of thousands to nest. Upon the seabirds’ arrival, field staff monitor them and gather information for one of the longest and oldest continuous survey data sets for tropical seabirds in the world.
Wisdom has worn out five bird bands since she was first banded by U.S. Geological Survey scientist Chandler Robbins in 1956. Robbins estimated Wisdom to be at least 5 years old at the time, since this is the earliest age at which these birds breed. Typically, they breed at 8 or 9 years of age after a very involved courtship lasting over several years so Wisdom could be even older than 62.
Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the North American Bird Banding Program at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, MD, said Wisdom has likely raised at least 30 to 35 chicks during her breeding life, though the number may well be higher because experienced parents tend to be better parents than younger breeders. Albatross lay only one egg a year, but it takes much of a year to incubate and raise the chick. After consecutive years in which they have successfully raised and fledged a chick, the parents may take the occasional next year off from parenting. Wisdom is known to have nested in 2006 and then every year since 2008.
“As Wisdom rewrites the record books, she provides new insights into the remarkable biology of seabirds,” Peterjohn said. “It is beyond words to describe the amazing accomplishments of this wonderful bird and how she demonstrates the value of bird banding to better understand the world around us. If she were human, she would be eligible for Medicare in a couple years yet she is still regularly raising young and annually circumnavigating the Pacific Ocean. Simply incredible.”
Sue Schulmeister, manager of the Midway Atoll NWR, said, “Wisdom is one is one of those incredible seabirds that has provided the world valuable information about the longevity of these beautiful creatures and reinforces the importance of breeding adults in the population. This information helps us measure the health of our oceans that sustain albatross.”
Almost as amazing as being a parent at 62 is the number of miles this bird has likely logged – about 50,000 miles a year as an adult – which means that Wisdom has flown at least 2 to 3 million miles since she was first banded. Or, to put it another way, that’s 4 to 6 trips from the Earth to the Moon and back again with plenty of miles to spare.
Albatross are legendary birds for many reasons – in Samuel Coleridge’s poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” a sailor has to wear an albatross around his neck as punishment for killing the bird. According to seafaring legends, albatross are the souls of lost sailors and should not be killed. However, as reported by James Cook, sailors regularly killed and ate albatross.
Albatross are remarkable fliers who travel thousands of miles on wind currents without ever flapping their wings. They do this by angling their 6-foot wings to adjust for wind currents and varying air speeds above the water.
Nineteen of 21 species of albatross are threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Present threats to the birds include lead poisoning of chicks on Midway from lead paint used in previous decades; longline fishing, where the birds are inadvertently hooked and drowned, though conservation groups have banded with fishermen and dramatically lowered the number of deaths from this cause; and pollution, especially from garbage floating on the ocean.
The birds ingest large amounts of marine debris – by some estimates 5 tons of plastic are unknowingly fed to albatross chicks each year by their parents. Although the plastic may not kill the chicks directly, it reduces their food intake, which leads to dehydration and most likely lessens their chance of survival. In addition, albatross are threatened by invasive species such as rats and wild cats, which prey on chicks, nesting adults and eggs. Albatross evolved on islands where land mammals were absent, so have no defenses against them.
For more information
- North American Bird Banding Laboratory
- For more information about Wisdom, go to the USGS Top Story
- Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge/Battle of Midway National Memorial
- Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
The release of new US Topo maps covering Kansas and Oklahoma usher in the second round of quadrangle revisions, updates and product improvement
Last September the U.S. Geological Survey marked the important milestone of completing the initial round of US Topo map production for the 48 contiguous states. The agency is continuing to improve the US Topo map product, moving into the second round of national map revisions. Hawaii is in production and Alaska production will start later this year.
The first two states to undergo this second US Topo map revision are Kansas and Oklahoma. The 1,403 quadrangles for Kansas and 1,032 quads covering Oklahoma replace the current US Topo maps, which will be added to the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection. All of these maps are available for free download from The National Map and the USGS Map Store website.
Other new feature additions and improvements on the updated US Topo maps include:
- Woodland tint derived from the National Land Cover Dataset
- Fire stations
- State and county boundaries
- Forest service boundaries
- Commercial roads in lieu of census roads
- Forest Service roads and road numbers
“We are excited to begin our second part of our three-year mapping cycle,” said Mike Cooley, the US Topo Project Manager. “During the past year, more than 3,000 US Topo maps were downloaded every day, and that number continues to increase.”
US Topos are derived from key layers of geographic data found in The National Map, which delivers visible content such as high resolution aerial photography, which was not available on older paper-based topographic maps. The new US Topo maps provide modern technical advantages that support wider and faster public distribution and on-screen geographic analysis tools for users.
Future enhancements to the US Topo are scheduled to include additional tools and map content such as a shaded relief layer, updated structures, enhanced transportation, additional federal boundaries and Forest Service trails. Wyoming, which was added in the fall of 2012, also featured Public Land Survey System (PLSS). The USGS expects to produce more than 18,500 revised quadrangles annually. US Topo maps are updated every three years.
For more information, visit US Topo Quadrangles – Maps for America.
View looking west along the New Jersey shore. Storm waves and surge cut across the barrier island at Mantoloking, NJ, eroding a wide beach, destroying houses and roads, and depositing sand onto the island and into the back-bay. Construction crews with heavy machinery are seen clearing sand from roads and pushing sand seaward to build a wider beach and protective berm just days after the storm. The yellow arrow in each image points to the same feature. ((High resolution image.
Science Feature: Start with Science to Address Vulnerable Coastal Communities.
According to a new technical report, the effects of climate change will continue to threaten the health and vitality of U.S. coastal communities’ social, economic and natural systems.
The report, Coastal Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerabilities: a technical input to the 2013 National Climate Assessment, authored by leading scientists and experts, emphasizes the need for increased coordination and planning to ensure U.S. coastal communities are resilient against the effects of climate change.
The recently released report examines and describes climate change impacts on coastal ecosystems and human economies and communities, as well as the kinds of scientific data, planning tools and resources that coastal communities and resource managers need to help them adapt to these changes.
“Sandy showed us that coastal states and communities need effective strategies, tools and resources to conserve, protect, and restore coastal habitats and economies at risk from current environmental stresses and a changing climate,” said Margaret A. Davidson of NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and co-lead author of the report. “Easing the existing pressures on coastal environments to improve their resiliency is an essential method of coping with the adverse effects of climate change.”
A key finding in the report is that all U.S. coasts are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as sea-level rise, erosion, storms and flooding, especially in the more populated low-lying parts of the U.S. coast along the Gulf of Mexico, Mid-Atlantic, northern Alaska, Hawaii, and island territories. Another finding indicated the financial risks associated with both private and public hazard insurance are expected to increase dramatically.
“An increase in the intensity of extreme weather events such as storms like Sandy and Katrina, coupled with sea-level rise and the effects of increased human development along the coasts, could affect the sustainability of many existing coastal communities and natural resources,” said Virginia Burkett of the U.S. Geological Survey and co-lead author of the report.
The authors also emphasized that storm surge flooding and sea-level rise pose significant threats to public and private infrastructure that provides energy, sewage treatment, clean water and transportation of people and goods. These factors increase threats to public health, safety, and employment in the coastal zone.
The report’s authors noted that the population of the coastal watershed counties of the U.S. and territories, including the Great Lakes, makes up more than 50 percent of the nation’s population and contributed more than $8.3 trillion to the 2011 U.S. economy but depend on healthy coastal landforms, water resources, estuaries and other natural resources to sustain them. Climate changes, combined with human development activities, reduce the ability of coasts to provide numerous benefits, including food, clean water, jobs, recreation and protection of communities against storms.
Seventy-nine federal, academic and other scientists, including the lead authors from the NOAA and USGS, authored the report which is being used as a technical input to the third National Climate Assessment — an interagency report produced for Congress once every four years to summarize the science and impacts of climate change on the United States.
Other key findings of the report include:
- Expected public health impacts include a decline in seafood quality, shifts in disease patterns and increases in rates of heat-related morbidity.
- Changes in the location and the time of year when storms form can lead to large changes in where storms land and the impacts of storms. Any sea-level rise is virtually certain to exacerbate storm-surge and flooding related hazards.
- Because of changes in the hydrological cycle due to warming, precipitation events (rain, snow) will likely be heavier. Combined with sea-level rise and storm surge, this will increase flooding severity in some coastal areas, particularly in the Northeast.
- Temperature is primarily driving environmental change in the Alaskan coastal zone. Sea ice and permafrost make northern regions particularly susceptible to temperature change. For example, an increase of two degrees Celsius during the summer could basically transform much of Alaska from frozen to unfrozen, with extensive implications.
- As the physical environment changes, the range of a particular ecosystem will expand, contract or migrate in response. The combined influence of many stresses can cause unexpected ecological changes if species, populations or ecosystems are pushed beyond a tipping point.
- Although adaptation planning activities in the coastal zone are increasing, they generally occur in an ad-hoc manner and are slow to be implemented. Efficiency of adaptation can be improved through more accurate and timely scientific information, tools, and resources, and by integrating adaptation plans into overall land use planning as well as ocean and coastal management.
- An integrated scientific program will reduce uncertainty about the best ways coastal communities can to respond to sea-level rise and other kinds of coastal change. This, in turn, will allow communities to better assess their vulnerability and to identify and implement appropriate adaptation and preparedness options.
This report is available online.
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join NOAA on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels.
Calling for nominations to honor outstanding accomplishments to the topographic mapping mission of the USGS
If you have ever used a topographic map to find your way around a remote part of the country, or if you’ve ever noticed how geographic names reflect the history of the land and the culture of its inhabitants, you’ll appreciate the pioneering work of Henry Gannett. Gannett, an early American geographer, is often considered to be the father of topographic mapping in the United States.
To commemorate Gannett’s varied contributions to and passions for our nation’s geography and cartography, the U.S. Geological Survey is accepting nominations for the 2013 Henry Gannett Award.
Eligibility: Any individual or group of individuals working as a team, contractors, citizen groups, youth, and private sector entities, non-government organizations, and representatives of Federal, State, local and tribal governments whose contributions advance the USGS’ National Geospatial Program (NGP) objectives and programs are eligible to receive this award. This award may be given to any combination of entities that meet the award criteria.
Nomination Process: Each nomination package will be submitted in electronic form through the award website and include justification and related nomination information. Nominations are due February 26, 2013. The award will be presented at The National Map Users Conference and Community for Data Integration Workshop and Training during an award ceremony in May 2013.
“This award commemorates the USGS’ first Chief Geographer from 1882-1914 and his (Gannett’s) tremendous contributions to topographic mapping in the United States,” said Mark DeMulder, the Director of the NGP. “This is a unique opportunity to honor significant contributions to an individual or group of individuals that have furthered USGS topographic mapping of the Nation.”
For complete award information, nomination guidelines and history about the Gannett awards, visit the USGS Henry Gannett website.