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USGS Presents a World of Science at AGU
Released: 5/28/2002

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Diane Noserale 1-click interview
Phone: 703-648-4333



Note to Editors: Interviews with the scientists during the American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference can be arranged by contacting Diane Noserale in the AGU newsroom, phone: 202-371-5016.

Is the World Running Out of Oil?: Where will future oil and gas supplies come from? Of the oil and gas endowment of about 5.6 trillion barrels of oil, USGS estimates that the world has consumed about 18 percent, leaving about 82 percent to be used or found. USGS scientist Thomas Ahlbrandt will discuss frontiers in fossil fuel exploration, nonconventional oil and gas, alternatives to oil and gas, and time frames for potential shortfalls. "Future Oil and Gas Resources of the World: A Coming Supply Crisis?," in Session U32A, is scheduled for 1:50 pm on Wednesday, May 29, Washington Convention Center Room 30. Please note: A news conference on this session is scheduled for 9:00 am on Wednesday, May 29 in the Press Briefing Room, Washington Convention Center Room 1. Digital products from the World Energy Project may be downloaded at: http://energy.cr.usgs.gov/energy/WorldEnergy/WEnergy.html

Vanishing Glaciers -- New Alliances or More Conflict in Central Asia?: Throughout the world, glaciers are shrinking. Some of the fastest retreat is in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya (HKH) region, where scientists expect that more than 15,000 square miles of glaciers will disappear during the 21st century, particularly in major valleys and low mountain passes. Glaciers supply much of the fresh water and hydroelectric power in South and Central Asia. Will shared economic interests in water, hydroelectricity, and the mitigation of flood hazards improve relations among Central and South Asian nations? Will the disappearance of this natural barrier open new corridors for trade and cultural exchange and forge new economic, military and political alliances in the region, or will it simply open transit routes for militants and for military offensive action? Will terrorists find it harder to hide but easier to move? Glaciers are relevant to the conflict in Kashmir, to security in Afghanistan, and to the current insurgency in Nepal. USGS scientist Jeffrey Kargel will discuss a joint USGS/NASA Pathfinder project and its global consortium of glaciologists who are using satellite remote sensing to map and monitor the HKH glaciers and other glaciers throughout the world. "Glaciers in 21st Century Himalayan Geopolitics," in Session U22A, is scheduled for 3:25 pm on Tuesday, May 28, Washington Convention Center Room 30. Please note: A news conference on this session is scheduled for 9:00 am on Tuesday, May 28 in the Press Briefing Room, Washington Convention Center Room 1. For more on the Global Land Ice Measurements from Space (GLIMS), please see: http://wwwflag.wr.usgs.gov/GLIMS/

More on Vanishing Glaciers: As glaciers retreat, new land uses become possible: Transportation corridors may open; previously inaccessible energy and mineral resources may become available; new wildlife habitat and migration routes may develop, and for a time, more fresh water and hydropower will be available. In Alaska, more than 7,700 square miles of land are expected to emerge from beneath ice over the next century, producing a potential economic windfall estimated at $360 million per year. In western China, the economic development and well-being of the populace is partly dependent on melting glaciers. In India, melting glaciers and snowfields account for about $4 billion per year of hydroelectric power (at $0.03/kW-hr), more than $400 million of which results from the net loss of glacial mass that the region is currently experiencing. What about the future? The rapid retreat of Hindu Kush-Himalaya glaciers will eventually result in more water shortages in a region where clean water already is in short supply. And because many glaciers store large amounts of meltwater and release it suddenly, lives downstream will be lost. Rising sea level could displace many and destroy property in coastal areas throughout the world. The net loss or benefit of receding glaciers has not been calculated, but the effect is apt to be sharply negative. USGS scientist Jeffrey Kargel will discuss these issues. "A World of Changing Glaciers: Hazards, Opportunities, and Measures of Global Climate Change," in Session U31A, is scheduled for 9:45 am on Wednesday, May 29, Washington Convention Center Room 30. Please note: A news conference on this session is scheduled for 9:00 am on Tuesday, May 28 in the Press Briefing Room, Washington Convention Center Room 1. For more on the Global Land Ice Measurements from Space (GLIMS), please see: http://wwwflag.wr.usgs.gov/GLIMS/

Measuring Subtle Changes from Space to Understand Earthquakes: To resolve major questions about earthquakes and continental tectonics, researchers need increasingly accurate and detailed measurements of the ground surface, and of how it deforms on time scales of seconds to tens of thousands of years. EarthScope is a multi-agency initiative that scientists are proposing to better understand the Earth by gathering GPS and a variety of remote sensing imagery, including satellite and airborne radar and laser ranging that can measure ground movement on the order of fractions of an inch. USGS scientist Ken Hudnut will describe EarthScope’s potential to use current technologies to open a new era in our understanding of how fault systems behave. "Merging Geodesy and Geomorphology for Seismotectonics," in Session G32A, is scheduled for 3:35 pm on Wednesday, May 29, Washington Convention Center Room 29. Please note: A news conference on this session is scheduled for 11:00 am on Wednesday, May 29 in the Press Briefing Room, Washington Convention Center Room 1.

While You’re At It, Point That Satellite Here: Studies of ancient movements of faults on the Caribbean islands of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad indicate a significant earthquake hazard on each island. In Hispaniola, the major North American-Caribbean plate-boundary fault traverses a densely populated and rapidly developing area that apparently accommodates about half of the total plate-boundary motion of approximately 3/4 inch per year. Studies of the recurrence interval suggest that a significant earthquake could be due for this area. In Puerto Rico, repeated surface rupture occurred on a previously unrecognized fault in the Lajas Valley during the past 7,500 years. Trinidad is located along the South American-Caribbean plate boundary. Data from the GPS satellite system suggests that the Central Range Fault in central Trinidad accommodates a significant part of the total plate-boundary motion and geologic studies show that surface rupture has occurred within the past 4500 years on this previously unrecognized, active fault. USGS scientist Carol Prentice will present "Paleoseismology in the Caribbean: A Review of Studies in Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and Trinidad," in Session T31A, scheduled for 8:30 am on Wednesday, May 29, Washington Convention Center Room 29.

Lidar’s Many Uses: Over the past three years, USGS, NASA and local scientists have been using the Puget Sound area as a testing ground of the potential to apply a recently developed technology called Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) to address a variety of research questions. Lidar allows scientists to quickly and accurately map topography over a large area with an airborne laser beam. Scientists can then determine origins and relative ages to topographic features. USGS scientist Ralph Haugerud will describe applications that include identifying fault features in earthquake hazard studies, mapping deep-seated landslides, determining ice-flow direction during glacial melting, mapping habitats, and planning development. "Lidar Surveys for Earth Sciences Investigations in Western Washington," in Session G32A, is scheduled for 3:55 pm on Wednesday, May 29, Washington Convention Center Room 29. Please note: A news conference on this session is scheduled for 11:00 am on Wednesday, May 29 in the Press Briefing Room, Washington Convention Center Room 1.

Using Satellites to Uncover Mt. Rainier’s Past: Debris flows are perhaps the most troublesome hazard posed by Mt. Rainier. USGS scientist Bernard Hubbard will discuss two new space-borne instruments: ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer) and SRTM (Shuttle Radar Topography Mission) that could be useful for estimating inundation levels of past debris-flows preserved along river valleys draining Mount Rainier. "Paleohydrologic Analysis of Debris-Flow Inundation at Mount Rainier, Washington Using ASTER and SRTM Derived Topography," poster in Session V21B, is scheduled to begin at 8:30 am on Tuesday, May 28, Washington Convention Center Hall D. Presenters will be available for 1 hour between 9-11:00 am for morning poster sessions.

Fighting Terrorists with Science: The terrorist bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on April 19, 1995, was recorded on two permanent seismographs, about 4 and 16 miles away. The more distant seismograph recorded two low-frequency wave trains, which militia groups speculated were caused by separate explosions and hinted at a government cover up. USGS scientist Thomas Holzer will describe how USGS monitoring of the demolition of the damaged building on May 23, 1995, provided a timely resolution of the ambiguity of the seismogram and publication of results discouraged a conspiracy defense by the terrorists. "Forensic Seismology and the 1995 Oklahoma City Terrorist Bombing," in Session U22A, is scheduled for 2:40 pm on Tuesday, May 28, Washington Convention Center Room 30. Please note: A news conference on this session is scheduled for 9:00 am on Tuesday, May 28 in the Press Briefing Room, Washington Convention Center Room 1.

What Will a Restored Everglades Look Like?: Scientists have recovered 2,000 years of plant history in pollen-bearing sediment cores from the Florida Everglades. These records are helping scientists to determine how the Everglades might respond to restoration of the natural water flow that existed before the 1930s. USGS scientist Debra Willard will discuss human-induced changes to plant communities in the Everglades, with a look to the future. "Everglades Plant Community Response to 20th Century Hydrologic Changes," in Session H41B, is scheduled for 9:00 am on Thursday, May 30, Washington Convention Center Room 29.

Runoff, Fallout, and Bad Fish in the Everglades: Some of the highest concentrations of methylmercury known have been found in freshwater fish from the Everglades. Methylmercury is a potent toxin in humans that attacks the nervous system, and is a particular threat to unborn children. It accumulates up the food chain, in people through consumption of fish. USGS scientist William Orem will discuss the role of sulfur in methylmercury production, and present evidence indicating that atmospheric fallout of mercury and contamination of the Everglades by sulfate from agricultural runoff produces the severe methylmercury problem in the Everglades. "Sulfur, a Key Water Quality Issue in the Everglades," in Session H41B, is scheduled for 8:00 am on Thursday, May 30, Washington Convention Center Room 29. Note: This is a change from the meeting program.

Are Docks and Traffic Polluting Suburban Washington, D.C. Lake?: Sediment cores, collected from Lake Anne in Reston, Virginia show increasing concentrations of arsenic and copper since 1964, when the lake was formed. USGS scientist Karen Rice will present evidence that in-lake leaching of pressure-treated lumber accounts for more than half of the arsenic concentration and road runoff was the primary source of the copper. "Anthropogenic Sources of Arsenic and Copper to Sediments of a Suburban Lake, 1964-1998," in Session B52B, is scheduled for 3:15 pm on Friday, May 31, Washington Convention Center Room 25.

Slow Progress in Reducing Contaminants to Chesapeake Bay: The majority of rivers entering the Chesapeake Bay show no significant decrease since the mid-1980s in nitrogen and phosphorus loads, in spite of efforts to reduce nutrient sources. The factors contributing to the slow water-quality improvement include stream flow variability, watershed characteristics, and the influence of ground water on nitrogen transport. USGS scientist Scott Phillips will discuss the implications of the slow water-quality response in regard to removing the Chesapeake Bay from the "impaired water" list under the Clean Water Act. "The Relation Between Nutrient Trends in Rivers and Management Actions in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed," in Session H51E, is scheduled for 11:05 am on Friday, May 31, Washington Convention Center Room 28.

Earlier Spring Comes to Maine: Long-term hydrologic records of Maine’s lakes and rivers show significantly earlier spring warming in recent decades. USGS scientist Thomas Huntington will report that lakes and rivers in Maine became ice-free at earlier dates during the 20th century. Spring river discharge measurements indicate that snowmelt has also advanced during the past 100 years. River ice thickness, water temperature, and snow/water equivalent data are also consistent with an earlier spring warming. "Long-term Hydrologic Time Series in Maine," poster in Session H51A, is scheduled to begin at 8:30 am on Friday, May 31, Washington Convention Center Hall D. Presenters will be available for 1 hour between 9-11:00 am for morning poster sessions.

Climate Change Could Accelerate Calcium Depletion in Maine’s Forests: Field studies suggest that calcium levels of Maine’s forests are likely declining and will decrease faster in the future if forest growth rates increase. Climate warming, a longer growing season, more atmospheric carbon dioxide, and recovery from insect-induced mortality and excessive harvesting in recent years are among the current conditions that scientists expect will promote faster forest growth and calcium depletion. Trees require calcium, so its depletion can affect forest growth and vigor, resistance to disease and insect pressures, and could lead to changes in forest species composition. Calcium depletion can also cause acidification of surface waters and therefore adverse effects on sensitive aquatic biota. Maine’s forests are probably at lower risk of calcium depletion than many forests in the central and southeast US because growth rates are relatively slow and acidic deposition is lower in Maine; however, climatic and other trends, including likely changes in species composition could accelerate calcium depletion. USGS scientist Thomas Huntington will present "Potential Effects of Climate Change on Calcium Status of Maine Forests," poster in Session B31A, scheduled to begin at 8:30 am on Wednesday, May 29, Washington Convention Center Hall D. Presenters will be available for 1 hour between 9-11:00 am for morning poster sessions.

When Natural Cleanup is Best: Long-term observations of a crude-oil spill near Bemidji, Minnesota are helping scientists learn when the best way to clean up contamination is to let nature do it. Research under the USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program is showing that, even under "unfavorable" conditions, natural processes can mitigate significant amounts of hydrocarbon contamination. USGS scientist Isabelle Cozzarelli will discuss the dynamic conditions at the Bemidji site, how they affect contaminant migration and cleanup, and the importance of long-term monitoring where natural cleanup appears to be the best choice. "Developing Conceptual Models of Biodegradation: Lessons Learned From a Long-Term Study of a Crude-Oil Contaminant Plume," in Session H22D, is scheduled for 2:15 pm on Tuesday, May 28, Washington Convention Center Room 31.


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