USGS Submissions



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The Dawn mission is the current NASA spacecraft in the asteroid belt, studying the 2nd largest asteroid, Vesta.  It will soon move on to the largest asteroid, the dwarf planet Ceres.  Astrogeology supports Dawn with the ISIS software, participation on the science team, and dealing with issues related to the coordinate systems of asteroids, many of which cannot be well described with the spherical geometry that underpins centuries of cartography.  An area of emphasis for Astrogeology staff is combining visible and spectroscopic data to understand the distribution of


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The innermost planet of our Solar System is being investigated by the NASA MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, Geochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) mission.  The software is used for processing the data from the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS).  Astrogeology is also tasked with leading the international effort to combine data from the laser altimeter and stereo imaging to produce the highest quality global topographic map of Mercury.  This is the first time altimetry and stereogrammetry are being combined to this degree on a global scale for any body. 

Monitoring Frozen Ground in the Snake River Plain and Columbia Plateau using Satellite Remote Sensing

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In FY2011, USGS scientists used the passive microwave observations from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSMI) on board a Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellite to explore the linkages between seasonally frozen ground, climate change, and groundwater recharge in the Pacific Northwest. If the ground is frozen, less surface water can infiltrate the soil to become recharge.  In agricultural regions that rely on groundwater for irrigation, small changes in recharge rates can have a dramatic effect on water supply and the region’s economy.


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Earth’s natural satellite is currently under observation by the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft.  Astrogeology is involved in a number of studies as part of the science team for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, which is obtaining hundreds of terabytes of high-resolution (0.5-2 m/pixel) images of the Moon, the DIVINER infrared imaging spectrometer, and the Mini-RF radar system which produces 7.5 m/pixel views inside the permanently shadowed polar craters.  Astrogeology is playing a leading role in cataloging and understanding the diversity of explosive vo


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The Cassini spacecraft is in orbit around Saturn, investigating its rings and moons as well as the giant planet.  The Astrogeology staff provides ISIS software for multiple imagers and the radar system onboard Cassini.  Research has largely focused on Titan, a moon with a thick atmosphere and an active hydrocarbon “hydrologic” cycle.  Recent results use the topographic information from the radar to identify sites on Titan that are likely to have “cryovolcanism” where water behaves like lava in the frigid environment of the outer solar system.  Another study is detecting

Climate Change

Glacier Monitoring

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More than 50 years ago, as part of the International Geophysical Year (IGY), nine Alaskan glaciers were photographed and mapped at a 1:10,000 scale by the American Geographical Society (AGS) to: “ provide the basis for more satisfactory and more accurate interpretation of the response of these glaciers to meteorological and other factors.”   The USGS Ice and Climate Project working with the Global Fiducials Program ( re-photographed these glaciers, along with seve


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The USGS LandCarbon program, is using MERIS 1km Chlorophyll and total suspended sediment estimates to determine the impact of sediment discharge on settling and burial of anthropogenic carbon on the U.S. conterminous coastal shelf. In addition, estimates and projections of carbon sequestration on the coastal shelf depend on remotely sensed data (Landsat, WorldView2) to model land use and land change associated with climate variability based on IPCC scenarios. 

Subsurface permafrost mapping, Yukon Flats, Alaska

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Airborne electromagnetic (AEM) data were acquired over a portion of the Yukon Flats in Alaska to map the three-dimensional distribution of permafrost to depths of approximately 100m.  Images of the subsurface derived from the AEM data helped determine both geologic and thermal boundaries over a densely sampled area of ~300 sq.