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USGS Current Events

National Land Cover Database
April 22, 2014 | USGS

USGS has released the latest edition of the The National Land Cover Database.

The nation’s most comprehensive look at land-surface conditions from coast to coast shows the extent of land cover types from forests to urban areas.

New USGS Topo Maps of Utah
April 10, 2014 | United States Geological Survey

USGS announced that they have published new topographic maps and orthophoto images for the state of Utah in pdf format. A small sample of the Moab quad is shown below. If you want to see it full size in a pdf document click here (28 megabytes).

M7.8 Onshore in Chile With Shake Map of IX
April 3, 2014 | USGS

USGS reports that a magnitude 7.8 earthquake has occurred onshore in Chile with a depth of only about 12 miles and about 14 miles from the population center of Iquique.

M9.2: The Great Alaska Earthquake
March 20, 2014 | USGS on YouTube

March 27 is the 50th anniversary of The Great Alaska Earthquake – America’s largest recorded earthquake. Geological information about the earthquake is presented in this eleven minute video.

USGS Budget Request
March 13, 2014 | USGS

“The President’s fiscal year 2015 budget request for the U.S. Geological Survey is $1.1 billion, an increase of $41.3 million above the FY 2014 enacted level.” Quoted from the USGS press release.

Copper Consumption Exploding in China
March 11, 2014 | USGS

The graph below shows the trend of copper consumption in the United States, India and China.  Consumption in the US has been about 2 million metric tons per year since about 1980.   Since 2000 consumption in India has  more then doubled, and consumption in China has more than quadrupled.

Related: Facts about Copper

USGS Merging the National Map and National Atlas
March 11, 2014 | USGS

During this year, National Atlas of the United States and The National Map will transition into a combined single source for geospatial and cartographic information.

Human Induced Earthquakes Triggering Even Larger Quakes?
March 9, 2014 | USGS

“Scientists observed that a human-induced magnitude 5.0 earthquake near Prague, Oklahoma in November 2011 may have triggered the larger M5.7 earthquake less than a day later. This research suggests that the M5.7 quake was the largest human-caused earthquake associated with wastewater injection.”

Estimating Stream Discharge in Winter
January 30, 2014 |

“USGS hydrologic technician Bob Reaves collects streamflow measurements from the cableway at the USGS streamgage on the Snake River near Moran, WY.” Quoted from the blog.

Dr. Suzette M. Kimball Nominated as USGS Director
January 12, 2014 | Department of the Interior

“Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell praised President Obama’s intent to nominate Dr. Suzette M. Kimball to serve as the Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, Interior’s chief science agency. Kimball has led the agency in an acting capacity since February 2013.” Quoted from the Department of the Interior press release.

Who Uses Landsat Images and Why
December 4, 2013 | USGS

“To learn more about who uses Landsat imagery and the value these users see in Landsat imagery, the U.S. Geological Survey analyzed responses to a survey of more than 40,000 individuals who accessed free Landsat images from the archive at the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center. Quoted from the USGS press release.

USGS Releases New Topo Maps of Ohio
November 19, 2013 | USGS

“It is great to have these 748 updated US Topo maps for our state available online at no charge.” said Charley Hickman, the Geospatial Liaison for Ohio. “We appreciate the continuing improvements in this product, including the availability of PLSS township, range, and section information.”

Quarry Blast Triggered Release of Tectonic Strain?
November 17, 2013 | ABC Local

On November 4 people throughout the Chicago area were frightened by ground motion that was thought to have been a powerful blast at a quarry south of the city. Now, USGS believes that a small blast at the quarry may have triggered an earthquake about seven seconds later.

Ancient Seawater Under Chesapeake Bay?
November 14, 2013 | USGS

“USGS scientists have determined that high-salinity groundwater found more than 1,000 meters (0.6 mi.) deep under the Chesapeake Bay is actually remnant water from the Early Cretaceous North Atlantic Sea and is probably 100-145 million years old. This is the oldest sizeable body of seawater to be identified worldwide.” Quoted from the USGS press release.

Slow Moving Groundwater Delays Water Quality Actions
November 13, 2013 | USGS

New research by the USGS indicates it may take several decades for many water-quality management practices aimed at reducing nitrogen input to Chesapeake Bay to achieve their full benefit due to the influence of groundwater.

Earthquake BOOMS in Oklahoma
November 5, 2013 |

Many residents of Oklahoma are reporting that events in the earthquake swarm occurring there produce large noises that sound like thunder. An Oklahoma Geological Survey staff member addresses the noise in this article.

(Since January 2009, more than 200 magnitude 3.0 or greater earthquakes have rattled Central Oklahoma. See the USGS report here.)

Quarry Blast Frightens Chicago?
November 5, 2013 | Chicago Tribune

At shortly after noon today, people throughout the Chicago area were frightened because they thought that an earthquake was occurring. A USGS scientist reported that it appeared to be an unusually strong quarry blast south of Chicago. A portion of the USGS “Did you feel it?” map is shown below with more USGS data here. People as far away as Wisconsin and Indiana claimed that they felt the shaking.

New Atomic Weights for 19 Elements
October 31, 2013 | USGS

The standard atomic weights of nineteen elements have been changed as the result of cooperative research supported by the U.S. Geological Survey and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

The standard atomic weights of molybdenum, cadmium, selenium, and thorium have been changed based on recent determinations of terrestrial isotopic abundances. In addition, the standard atomic weights of 15 elements have been revised based on a new assessment of their atomic masses by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics.

The Frightening Threats to Bats
October 31, 2013 | USGS

“Each year on Halloween, as children dress up and go door to door looking for treats and excitement, bats—the very animal we associate with the celebration—are in serious trouble and we need to “treat” them with the respect they deserve.” Quoted from the USGS press release.

Related: Troglobites: Animals that Live in a Cave

Understanding Galapagos Volcanoes
October 31, 2013 | USGS

“The chance transit of a satellite over the April 2009 eruption of Fernandina volcano — the most active in South America’s famed Galápagos archipelago — has revealed for the first time the mechanism behind the characteristic pattern of eruptive fissures on the island chain’s volcanoes.”

The Magnetic Storm of Halloween 2003
October 29, 2013 | USGS

“Ten years ago during the Halloween of 2003, while children in costumes paraded door-to-door for treats, the Sun was playing its own tricks with planet Earth.” Quoted from the USGS press release.

The Government Shutdown and Geology
October 15, 2013 | American Geophysical Union

The American Geophysical Union has a short article that explains why the “Government Shutdown Affects More Than Jobs“.

Drought in the United States
September 26, 2013 | USGS

Drought is one of the most costly natural disasters. USGS has a two part article that considers the current drought problems in the United States.

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Induced Earthquakes in the Central and Eastern States
September 26, 2013 | USGS

“The number of earthquakes has increased dramatically over the past few years within the central and eastern United States. More than 300 earthquakes above a magnitude 3.0 occurred in the three years from 2010-2012, compared with an average rate of 21 events per year observed from 1967-2000. This increase in earthquakes prompts two important questions: Are they natural, or man-made?” Quoted from the USGS press release.

Carbon Dioxide Storage Potential of the USA
September 18, 2013 | USGS

“The United States has the potential to store a mean of 3,000 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide in geologic basins throughout the country, according to the first-ever detailed national geologic carbon sequestration assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey.” Quoted from the USGS press release.

New Topo Maps for Colorado and Minnesota
September 18, 2013 | USGS

“In keeping with rapid demand, the USGS has posted new US Topo quadrangles covering Colorado (1,794 maps) and Minnesota (1,689). These new quads replace the first edition US Topo maps for those states.” Quoted from the USGS press release.

These maps are beautiful. If you want to see a sample we have Mammoth Cave, Kentucky unzipped and ready for you to download as a .pdf document (30 megs). Click here to download. Be sure to zoom in to see the great detail.

Exploring for Geothermal with Self-Flying Planes
September 9, 2013 | USGS

USGS has an article that explains how they have been using self-flying planes to evaluate the geothermal potential of the Basin and Range area.

RRE Mines Deposits and Occurrences
September 9, 2013 | USGS

USGS has an interactive map: Rare earth element mines, deposits, and occurrences. It gives access to information on mineral deposits containing rare earth elements and yttrium from around the world with grade and tonnage, and mineralogy.

Related: What are rare earth elements?

Potential Tsunami Impact on Southern California from an Alaska Earthquake
September 8, 2013 | USGS

“The Science Application for Risk Reduction tsunami scenario depicts a hypothetical but plausible tsunami created by an earthquake offshore from the Alaska Peninsula and its impacts on the California coast. ” Quoted from the USGS Newsroom.

400 New Topo Maps for Alaska
September 4, 2013 | United States Geological Survey

“More than 400 new topographic maps are now available for the state of Alaska. The new maps are part of the U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Mapping Initiative, to update foundational data for the state and to replace the existing maps that are about 50 years old.” Quoted from the USGS Newsroom.

Detecting Large Landslides in Remote Areas
September 4, 2013 | NASA Earth Observatory

“Even when they occur in remote areas, large landslides can dam rivers and lead to devastating downstream floods. [...]

Automated earthquake detection systems are tuned to monitor intense, “short-period” waves produced by sudden slips along tectonic faults. Landslides produce seismic waves as well, though their short-period signal is weak. Instead, they make powerful long-period waves that are sometimes detectable at great distances.” Quoted from the Earth Observatory article.

Naturally Occurring Methane in Household Water Wells
August 30, 2013 | United States Geological Survey

USGS tested twenty household water wells in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania for methane. Seven of the wells contained detectable amounts of dissolved methane and two wells were considered to have an “elevated” methane content. None of the wells tested were located near currently producing natural gas wells.

Massachusetts Shale Gas?
August 29, 2013 | Massachusetts Geological Survey

Although Massachusetts is not expected to be a state where shales yield oil and natural gas the Massachusetts Geological Survey has posted “Frequently Asked Questions About Shale Gas and Hydraulic Fracturing in Massachusetts“. It seems that some Massachusetts residents got excited after seeing the Hartford Basin on USGS Fact Sheet 2013-3075.

Monitoring the Nitrate Pulse of the Mississippi River
August 29, 2013 | USGS

Cutting edge optical sensor technology is being used in the Mississippi River basin to more accurately track the nitrate pulse from small streams, large tributaries and ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico.

Magmatic Water on the Moon?
August 29, 2013 | United States Geological Survey

“Scientists have detected magmatic water — water that originates from deep within the Moon’s interior — on the surface of the Moon.” Quoted from the USGS press release.

Sandy Eroded Half of Fire Island Beaches and Dunes
August 27, 2013 | USGS

“Beaches and dunes on Fire Island, New York, lost more than half of their pre-storm volume during Hurricane Sandy, leaving the area more vulnerable to future storms.” Quoted from the USGS press release.

Sampling a Lava Flow
August 22, 2013 | USGS on

This USGS video shows researchers sampling a lava flow in Hawaii.

Surficial Geologic Maps of Massachusetts
August 20, 2013 | Massachusetts Geological Survey

USGS has published a collection of digital Surficial Geologic Maps of Massachusetts.

USGS Southern California Wildfire Risk Project
August 19, 2013 | USGS on

This video looks at the 1961 Bel Air Wildfire in southern California and current research on wildfires being done by USGS.

USGS image
Imploding a Building to Learn about the Hayward Fault
August 15, 2013 | USGS

“When 13-story Warren Hall is imploded by demolition experts this weekend on the Hayward campus of California State University, East Bay, U.S. Geological Survey scientists will monitor the pulse of energy on nearly 600 seismometers temporarily placed in a two-mile radius around the building with help from hundreds of citizen-scientist hosts and volunteers.” Quoted from the USGS website.

USGS Water Contamination Report
August 6, 2013 | USGS

USGS has published a study on the vulnerability of public water supply wells to contamination in ten aquifers across the United States.

USGS Geologic Map of the Winslow Quad
August 5, 2013 | United States Geological Survey

USGS has published: Geologic map of the Winslow 30’ × 60’ quadrangle, Coconino and Navajo Counties, northern Arizona: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3247, pamphlet 25 p., 3 sheets, scale 1:50,000, by Billingsley, G.H., Block, D., and Hiza Redsteer, M.

New Topo Maps for IN IA NC PA and VA
August 4, 2013 | USGS

USGS has published nearly 4000 new topo maps covering the states of Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Retired maps can be downloaded at their Historical Topographic Map Collection. New maps are available for free download from The National Map.”

These maps are beautiful. If you want to see a sample we have Mammoth Cave, Kentucky unzipped and ready for you to download – but be warned that it is a really big file (30 megs) and will take quite a while to download – but well worth the wait…

If you have Adobe Reader or equivalent software, click here, get the download started, go for coffee, come back to a great map. Be sure to zoom in to see the great detail.

Uses of Chromium
July 24, 2013 | United States Geological Survey

Chromium has many uses that range from the pigment that produces the familiar “chrome yellow” of school buses and highway lines to the metal used to create an alloy that we know as “stainless steel”.

Related: Chromite – the only ore of chromium.

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The Health of US Streams
July 24, 2013 | USGS

“A new USGS report describes how the health of our Nation’s streams is being degraded by streamflow modifications and elevated levels of nutrients and pesticides.” Quoted from the USGS press release.

USGS on Man-Made Earthquakes
July 22, 2013 | USGS

“The number of earthquakes has increased dramatically over the past few years within the central and eastern United States. [...] This increase in earthquakes prompts two important questions: Are they natural, or man-made?” Quoted from the USGS blog post.

Uses of Nickel
July 14, 2013 | USGS

“Nickel is a silvery-white metal that is used mainly to make stainless steel and other alloys stronger and better able to withstand extreme temperatures and corrosive environments.” Quoted from the USGS Fact Sheet

More Landscape Disturbance Publications from USGS
June 21, 2013 | USGS

“Landscape change in Pennsylvania’s Somerset and Westmoreland counties resulting from construction of well pads, new roads and pipelines for natural gas and coalbed methane exploration is being documented to help determine the potential consequences for ecosystems and wildlife, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report.” Quoted from the USGS publication announcement.

Variable Atomic Weights?
June 18, 2013 | USGS

“Standard atomic weights for chemical elements have commonly been considered as constants of nature, along with the speed of light and the attraction of gravity. Hold on to your Newtonian hat and prepare for the possibility of elementary nuances.” Quoted from the USGS press release.

World Uranium Resources
June 11, 2013 | USGS

USGS has published: “Critical Analysis of World Uranium Resources”. World requirements have been outpacing world production for more than two decades.

We are constantly looking for interesting items related to geology and general science. When we find something interesting we share it here. Bookmark this page and visit often. You can also receive our news for free by RSS feed or email. We publish updates three or four days per week.

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