Published by the American Geological Institute
|Newsmagazine of the Earth Sciences
Our focus this month is on work of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). In this month’s Comment, USGS Director “Chip” Groat calls for integrated science. Four articles describe the survey’s coastal studies, water quality program, geologic mapping and world energy assessment. These complement other Geotimes articles by USGS scientists, such as the April issue’s look at natural hazard mitigation and the May issue’s retrospective of the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption.
The USGS is a premier geological organization, judged by the size and quality of its scientific contributions. The positive impact of the USGS on earth scientists and earth-science societies increased steadily throughout the last century. In the last decade, however, the survey has suffered recisions, reorganizations and congressional challenges. In spite of this loss of innocence, the need for the USGS to develop scientific information as a basis for policy decisions has never been greater. The content of this issue clearly makes that point.
Groat emphasizes interdisciplinary initiatives, partnerships and customer input in his Comment. He ends with the question, “What is the unique contribution of the USGS to understanding and resolving societal issues?” and invites comments and suggestions regarding USGS programs. This is your chance to act on your convictions.
John Haines and S. Jeffress Williams present a sobering overview of coastal problems. Fifty percent of the U.S. population currently lives in coastal areas — and by 2025 that number will be 75 percent. The coastal zone is a major issue for the earth sciences. This article is basic, required reading.
John Pallister, coordinator of the USGS National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, focuses on frontiers in representing and presenting 3-D, layered, animated and forward-modeled spatial information. He suggests that making map information more user-friendly is driving demand for detailed mapping, especially by policy-makers and land-use planners.
USGS hydrologists Pixie Hamilton, Jeffrey Stoner and Robert Gilliom summarize findings of the National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. Readers will find interesting the wide dispersion of contaminants found in surface water and groundwater and the need to better understand the significance of these data.
And closing up the collection of USGS perspectives, Thomas Ahlbrandt and others present a summary of a recent USGS assessment of world oil and gas resources.
The USGS and its work are important to us as earth scientists and as citizens. The articles that follow are part of our continuing education. It is now up to us to react to the USGS and to interpret this information to our fellow citizens.
Believe your compass.
Samuel S. Adams