Despite global warming, new permafrost forming

New permafrost is forming around Alaska's Twelvemile Lake.

A USGS study finds new permafrost forming near Alaska’s Twelvemile Lake.

Small local variations in temperatures eyed as factor

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey say they’ve found new patches of permafrost forming in the margins a retreating lake in the interior of Alaska. The findings run counter the conventional wisdom that permafrost will shrink and disappear as the Earth’s climate warms — but don’t jump on the happy train just yet.

The new permafrost patches are small and suggest that the areas of frozen soil are sensitive to small temperature variations and other local factors, the USGS-led study suggests. Especially important is emerging vegetation around the edge of the lake. Thick willows shade the ground to the point that the soil can freeze, the scientists said. Continue reading

USGS study eyes Caribbean tsunami risk

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Could there be a tsunami in the Caribbean?

Guadeloupe seen as focal point for unreleased tectonic strain

Staff Report

FRISCO — The risk of a large earthquake and subsequent tsunami may be greater than previously thought, U.S. Geological Survey researchers say after studying the plate boundary in the Lesser Antilles region, where 20 of the 26 Caribbean islands are located.

The geologists estimate that enough unreleased strain may have accumulated offshore of Guadeloupe to potentially create a magnitude 8.0-8.4 earthquake. A magnitude 7.5 – 8.5 quake in 1843 killed several thousand people in Guadeloupe, and a similar quake in the future could cause several tens to several hundreds of fatalities, and hundreds of millions to billions of U.S. dollars in damages. Continue reading

New map details Iceland glaciers, sub-glacial volcanoes

New map provides valuable information the global warming era

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Iceland’s glaciers are an important source of water for hydropower generation.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A team effort by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Icelandic Meteorological Office has resulted in a new map detailing all of Iceland’s glaciers, as well as subglacial volcanoes. The map incorporates historical data and coverage from aerial photographs and remote sensing satellites, helping to show recent and historic changes in Iceland’s dynamic landscape.

Iceland has about 300 glaciers throughout the country, and altogether, 269 glaciers, outlet glaciers and internal ice caps are named. The glaciers that lack names are small and largely newly revealed, exposed by melting of snow pack due to warmer summer temperatures. The number of identified glaciers has nearly doubled at the beginning of the 21st century. Continue reading

Study: Bighorn sheep vulnerable to new diseases

Bighorn sheep Colorado

Bighorn sheep gather along the edge of U.S. Highway 6 near Loveland Pass. Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Research to help guide management

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal wildlife biologists tracking population declines in bighorn sheep say the animals may be vulnerable to new threats, including chronic wasting disease, found in ungulates with overlapping habitat in parts of the West.

A new U.S. Geological Survey study shows those diseases are occurring in or near natural bighorn sheep environments. These fatal diseases are caused by mysterious proteins called prions, and are known to infect domestic sheep (scrapie) and non-domestic deer, elk, and moose (CWD). The USGS study is published in the journal BMC Veterinary Research, and is available online. Continue reading

USGS study finds widespread stream degradation

Streamflow modifications, pollution impacts affect majority of waterways in urban and agricultural areas

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Pristine streams like Meadow Creek, which flows out of a wilderness area, are hard to find.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — More than 80 percent of streams in urban and agricultural areas show signs of reduced stream health, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. A new report from the agency documents how stream health is being degraded by streamflow modifications and elevated levels of nutrients and pesticides.

The national assessment of stream health was unprecedented. Instead of just measuring chemical or physical properties of water, the study took a more comprehensive look at entire biological communities, as well as measurements of more than 100 chemical constituents in water and streambed sediments. Continue reading

USGS maps potential hurricane impacts

Online toolkit designed to help coastal planners and decision makers

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A NOAA seasonal map shows the path of 2011 Atlantic hurricanes.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After a decade of study, USGS scientists are releasing new mapping tools that will help planner and decision-makers address coastal vulnerabilities to storm surges and wave action from hurricanes.

The information could help identify the best locations for coastal defenses, especially when sea level rise is added into the equation. The pinpoint mapping could also help inform decisions ranging from changes to building codes and locations for new construction, to determining the best evacuation routes for future storms.

The two reports assess the coastline from Florida to North Carolina, and  from Virginia to New York, showing that, even during the weakest hurricane, a category 1 with winds between 74 and 95 miles per hour, 89 percent of the dune-backed beaches from Florida to New York coast are very likely to experience dune erosion during a direct landfall.  Continue reading

Study: U.S. could store 500 years worth of CO2

USGS assessment identifies most promising areas by region

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The eastern U.S. and the Rocky Mountain region hold the greatest potential for carbon dioxide sequestration, according to a new assessment by the USGS>

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The U.S. Geological Survey says there’s potential to store more than 600 years (at 2011 emission rates) worth of carbon dioxide in various geologic formations around the country.

The first-ever detailed national geologic carbon sequestration assessment looked at all sedimentary basins, but 36 were assessed in detail because existing geologic conditions or the available data suggested only these 36 met the assessment’s minimum criteria.

“This USGS research is ground-breaking because it is the first realistic view of technically accessible carbon storage capacity in these basins,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “If enough of this capacity also proves to be environmentally and economically viable, then geologic carbon sequestration could help us reduce carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change.”

More information:

Continue reading

Colorado: Sequestration threatens more stream gages

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A gage along Straight Creek, near Dillon, Colorado.

More cuts possible for critical stream monitoring efforts

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — It’s hard enough to make water management decisions if you have all the information at your fingertips, but the job is about to get even more difficult for resource managers.

The U.S.Geological Survey recently announce it will discontinue operation of up to 375 streamgages nationwide due to budget cuts as a result of sequestration. Additional streamgages may be affected if partners reduce their funding to support USGS streamgages.

Currently, the USGS is looking at shutting down three gages in Colorado: on Halfmoon Creek, near Malta, on the Arkansas River below John Martin Reservoir and along the Gunnison River, near Grand Junction. Continue reading

Study projects earlier sea-level rise threat to islands

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Midway Atoll is likely to face serious flooding problems as sea level rises. Photo courtesy NASA.

Dynamic modeling suggests serious flooding threats much sooner than thought

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Low-lying islands may be facing more global warming trouble than previously thought.

New modeling that includes storm wind and wave action shows some islands could face regular inundation within the next few decades as sea level rises.

Even if the islands are not permanently submerged, ocean flooding is likely contaminate freshwater supplies, damage agriculture and infrastructure and threaten important bird, sea turtle and marine mammal habitat. Continue reading

Colorado: Drones eyed for greater sage-grouse monitoring

Public invited to learn more about the use of unmanned aircraft at a demonstration in Kremmling

FORT scientist and Raven-A sUAS pilot Leanne Hanson launches the drone. USGS photo.

FORT scientist and Raven-A sUAS pilot Leanne Hanson launches the drone in the San Luis Valley as part of an effort to monitor sandhill cranes.  USGS photo.

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — State and federal scientists may use small drones to monitor greater sage-grouse in their breeding grounds, and will offer the public a chance to see how the technology works starting next week.

The planned test flights are a collaboration between Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Geological Survey. The agencies will conduct test flights to evaluate whether the small unmanned aircraft can save time and money and offer a safer and enhanced alternative to gather greater sage-grouse data.

The low-flying aircraft may be able to get more detailed counts of the threatened birds, and may even help biologists find previously unknown leks.

“The aircraft proved successful in other recent wildlife inventory projects conducted by USGS,” said Lyle Sidener, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Hot Sulphur Springs. “We are interested to see if greater sage-grouse will tolerate the craft flying near their leks at the lower altitudes necessary to provide useful data.” Continue reading

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