New USGS diagram re-envisions how Earth’s most precious commodity cycles the planet

Starting today, educators around the nation will have a more accurate and more comprehensive tool to explain the Earth’s water cycle with the unveiling of the new U.S. Geological Survey water cycle diagram.

The revised version replaces one used by hundreds of thousands of educators and students internationally every year since 2000. So why the new water cycle? This depiction brings humans into the picture, showing the water cycle as a complex interplay of small, interconnected cycles that people interact with and influence, rather than one big circle.

“So much about the water cycle is influenced by our actions, and it’s important that we clearly see the role that each of us can play in sustainable water use amid a changing climate,” said Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo. “The water crisis is one of the most important challenges we face today, and it is time we recognize the bigger picture of water availability.”

“This updated water cycle diagram will set a new international standard for how we visualize and communicate water’s complex journey on Earth, with the potential to better inform our next generation of scientists, natural resource managers and policymakers as they tackle the increasing challenge of sustainable water-resource management.”

USGS Director David Applegate

USGS experts consulted with more than 100 educators and more than 30 hydrologic experts to develop the new diagram. The vast amounts of water data that USGS has collected in recent decades has informed a nuanced perspective of the water cycle, demonstrating how both its human and natural components are interconnected. Where the existing water cycle diagram depicted only the natural aspects of the cycle, the new version depicts how Earth’s water moves and is stored, both naturally and because of human actions.

Not only does the new diagram illustrate a more comprehensive view of the water cycle, it draws on principles of information design to focus attention on the water as it moves through the natural and built environment. It shows how multiple ecosystems – including a coastal plain, dry basin, wet basin and agricultural basin – are connected across watersheds and at continental scales.

The new diagram will initially be available in both English and Spanish, with the expectation it will be translated into many other languages by end users, as was the previous version.

To view or download the new water cycle diagram, visit the USGS website..

Democratizing the data: An updated Marine Energy Atlas could give communities greater energy autonomy

Read the full story from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

With free, publicly available tools, like the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Renewable Energy Atlas and Marine Energy Atlas, anyone anywhere in the world can access the data they need to start planning their clean energy future. Now, new features in the Marine Energy Atlas make it even easier for communities to decide how and where to incorporate marine energy into their power mix and for marine energy developers to learn how much electricity their device could produce at various U.S. sites.

Energy Justice Dashboard

This Department of Energy tool is intended to allow users to explore and produce reports on census tracts that DOE has categorized as disadvantaged communities, or DACs, pursuant to Executive Order (EO) 14008 – Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.

Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation

Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation (CMRA) integrates information from across the federal government to help people consider their local exposure to climate-related hazards. View climate-related hazards in real time and use information on past, present, and future conditions to understand exposure in your area in order to plan and build more resilient community infrastructure.

People working in community organizations or for local, Tribal, state, or Federal governments can use the site to help them develop equitable climate resilience plans to protect people, property, and infrastructure. The site also points users to Federal grant funds for climate resilience projects, including those available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Connecticut’s shellfish population gets a boost with state’s first restoration guide

Read the full story from Pew.

The Connecticut Shellfish Restoration Guide provides science-based, well-tested techniques to help oyster farmers, state and local officials, academic institutions, and others involved in restoration efforts increase shellfish and fish populations, improve water quality, strengthen coastal habitats, and stabilize shorelines.

One component of the guide is the CT Shellfish Restoration Map Viewer, an online, interactive mapping tool released in 2021. Previously, without a central, comprehensive habitat map to work from, oyster restoration practitioners had insufficient information from which to choose sites effectively, and state and local agencies had a hard time properly evaluating shellfish restoration projects. That led to approval and permit delays, among other problems. The viewer helps users identify the best locations for siting shellfish restoration projects.

Lithium and the Future of Electrification

DOE’s new Lithium StoryMap lays out the relationship between geothermal energy and lithium while exploring why the DOE is investing in technologies supporting lithium extraction from geothermal brines. Using an easily digestible format, visitors can scroll through the role of lithium in renewable energy today, how the critical material is currently obtained, and why the Salton Sea region of California may prove to be a key domestic source—with a little help from geothermal energy. As lithium demand continues to grow, geothermal energy may soon play a greater role in our lives and in the green economy.

Sustainability requires new thinking

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

As we build tenfold the number of solar, wind, and clean storage facilities, we must not cause unintended consequences. We cannot negatively impact vulnerable communities or the environment. We must protect clean water supplies, vegetated wetlands, and valuable vistas for future generations.

To ensure we plan correctly and don’t make the same mistakes we did in the past, planners use a concept called Geodesign.

Researchers race to understand what lies beneath the Great Lakes

Read the full story at Bridge Michigan.

Scientists say we have more robust data about the surface of Mars than the floor of the Great Lakes. A new effort spearheaded by academics and government aims to map the entire Great Lakes lakebed. Experts say the data is crucial to understanding the lakes, particularly as climate change and other threats bring rapid changes.

Landsat turns 50: How satellites revolutionized the way we see – and protect – the natural world

The Yellow River in China winds past aquaculture and an oil and gas field on its way to a newly formed channel. NASA

by Stacy Morford, The Conversation

Fifty years ago, U.S. scientists launched a satellite that dramatically changed how we see the world.

It captured images of Earth’s surface in minute detail, showing how wildfires burned landscapes, how farms erased forests, and many other ways humans were changing the face of the planet.

The first satellite in the Landsat series launched on July 23, 1972. Eight others followed, providing the same views so changes could be tracked over time, but with increasingly powerful instruments. Landsat 8 and Landsat 9 are orbiting the planet today, and NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey are planning a new Landsat mission.

The images and data from these satellites are used to track deforestation and changing landscapes around the world, locate urban heat islands, and understand the impact of new river dams, among many other projects. Often, the results help communities respond to risks that may not be obvious from the ground.

Here are three examples of Landsat in action, from The Conversation’s archive.

Tracking changes in the Amazon

Wide aerial view of Amazon rainforest and the dam under construction.
The Belo Monte Dam’s construction, shown here in 2012, flooded land and changed the river. Mario Tama/Getty Images

When work began on the Belo Monte Dam project in the Brazilian Amazon in 2015, Indigenous tribes living along the Big Bend of the Xingu River started noticing changes in the river’s flow. The water they relied on for food and transportation was disappearing.

Upstream, a new channel would eventually divert as much as 80% of the water to the hydroelectric dam, bypassing the bend.

The consortium that runs the dam argued that there was no scientific proof that the change in water flow harmed fish.

But there is clear proof of the Belo Monte Dam project’s impact – from above, write Pritam Das, Faisal Hossain, Hörður Helgason and Shahzaib Khan at the University of Washington. Using satellite data from the Landsat program, the team showed how the dam dramatically altered the hydrology of the river.

“As scientists who work with remote sensing, we believe satellite observations can empower populations around the world who face threats to their resources,” Das and his colleagues write.

It’s hot in the city – and even hotter in some neighborhoods

A woman holds a young girl up to a fan in front of a store on a hot day.
A street fan provides relief on a hot summer day in New York City. Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

Landsat’s instruments can also measure surface temperatures, allowing scientists to map heat risk street by street within cities as global temperatures rise.

“Cities are generally hotter than surrounding rural areas, but even within cities, some residential neighborhoods get dangerously warmer than others just a few miles away,” writes Daniel P. Johnson, who uses satellites to study the urban heat island effect at Indiana University.

Neighborhoods with more pavement and buildings and fewer trees can be 10 degrees Fahrenheit (5.5 C) or more warmer than leafier neighborhoods, Johnson writes. He found that the hottest neighborhoods tend to be low-income, have majority Black or Hispanic residents and had been subjected to redlining, the discriminatory practice once used to deny loans in racial and ethnic minority communities.

Two maps of New York City show how vegetation matches cooler areas by temperature.
Comparing maps of New York City’s vegetation and temperature shows the cooling effect of parks and neighborhoods with more trees. NASA/USGS Landsat

“Within these ‘micro-urban heat islands,’ communities can experience heat wave conditions well before officials declare a heat emergency,” Johnson writes.

Knowing which neighborhoods face the highest risks allows cities to organize cooling centers and other programs to help residents manage the heat.

The making of ghost forests

Dead tree trunks with low ground cover below.
The white trunks of a ghost forest mark a coastal North Carolina landscape. Emily Ury, CC BY-ND

Satellites that scan the same areas year after year can be crucial for spotting changes in hard-to-reach regions. They can monitor snow and ice cover, and, along U.S. Atlantic coast, dying wetland forests.

These eerie landscapes of dead, often bleached-white tree trunks have earned the nickname “ghost forests.”

Emily Ury, an ecologist now at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, used Landsat data to spot wetland changes. She then zoomed in with high-resolution images from Google Earth – which includes Landsat images – to confirm that they were ghost forests.

“The results were shocking. We found that more than 10% of forested wetland within the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge [in North Carolina] was lost over the past 35 years. This is federally protected land, with no other human activity that could be killing off the forest,” Ury writes.

A satellite image of the coast with red spots along a river inlet indicating dead forests
Landsat’s view of the Alligator River and refuge shows signs of ghost forests on the east side of the river. NASA Earth Observatory

As the planet warms and sea levels rise, more salt water is reaching these areas, increasing the amount of salt in the soil of coastal woodlands from Maine to Florida. “Rapid sea level rise seems to be outpacing the ability of these forests to adapt to wetter, saltier conditions,” Ury writes.

Many more stories can be found in Landsat’s images, such as an overview of the war’s effects on Ukraine’s wheat crop, and how algae blooms have spread in Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. Countless projects are using Landsat data to track global change and possibly find solutions to problems, from deforestation in the Amazon to the fires that have put Alaska on pace for another historic fire season.

An illustration of a satellite with a large solar panel for power high over a coastal area
An artist’s rendering of Landsat 8. NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

Stacy Morford, Environment + Climate Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Google makes Earth Engine available to all businesses and governments

Read the full story at ZDNet.

For the past decade, researchers in academia and the nonprofit world have had access to increasingly sophisticated information about the Earth’s surface. Now, any commercial or government entity will have access to Earth Engine