« PreviousContinue »
The Year in Review
As the Nation's principal earth science research agency, the U.S. Geological Survey has a special responsibility to present an annual report of its investigations to the public it serves. In 1984, our endeavors included new investigations of natural phenomena, responses to urgent public concerns and legislation, and special efforts to adapt advanced technology that will make us more efficient in meeting the challenges that lie ahead. As Director, I am privileged to highlight here some of the results of the Geological Survey's many activities that are described in this Yearbook.
Natural events have played a crucial role throughout the agency's 105 years. Our formal earthquake program, for example, began 100 years ago in the wake of the Charleston, South Carolina, earthquake of 1886. In the past few years, work with natural hazards has become an increasingly significant part of our overall program. Since the explosive eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, we have increased greatly our monitoring efforts for other volcanoes of the Cascade Range. In 1984, we successfully predicted three of the four latest eruptions of Mount St. Helens. In Hawaii, Mauna Loa Volcano began erupting on March 25, 1984, and lava moved to a point 5 miles from the city of Hilo. Geological Survey scientists provided round-the-clock surveillance throughout the several weeks of the eruption. Earthquakes continue to pose a major threat to life and property in the United States. During this year, we have made considerable progress toward more effective automated monitoring networks, advanced our understanding of earthquake mechanisms, and begun an important earthquake prediction experiment at Parkfield, California. In addition to our progress in earthquake studies, landslide hazards have been the focus of new cooperative efforts with the States.
In response to intense droughts in the late 1970's, we established a comprehensive program to study the major regional aquifer systems of the United States. Studies of six of these aquifers
were completed by 1984. The study for the High Plains regional aquifer resulted in the first accurate mapping of ground water depleted from the aquifer by irrigation and in a successful model to test alternative strategies for mitigating the effects of ground-water depletion. In striking contrast to the scarcity of water in the previous decade, storms and flooding were a major problem from 1982 through 1984. A record rise in the Great Salt Lake, for example, caused extensive damage to property. The lake rose 5 feet from September 1983 to July 1984, the second largest seasonal rise since 1847. These dramatic variations in natural processes require intensive scientific study for us to better prepare the public to cope with such hazards now and in the future.
In addition to natural events, public concerns and legislation related to earth science issues have played a large role in the direction of Geological Survey activities. Continuing national interest in energy supplies has led to important new accomplishments by our employees. In 1984, our energy studies located highpotential geothermal fluids at Newberry volcano, contributed to improved methods for estimating remaining oil and gas resources from past production records, and produced the first maps that will be the basis for a new atlas of oil and gas data. During the past year, we transferred management of the Barrow gas fields in Alaska to the North Slope Borough. A significant result of our North Slope studies before the transfer was the development of new methods for assessing oil and gas resources without damage to the fragile environments in cold regions.
During this year, we responded in new and positive ways to needs of other Federal agencies that deal with the national concern for adequate supplies of clean water. We provided major assistance in the development of the hydrologic part of the National Ground Water Protection Strategy formulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Our investigations in this program involved the physical, chemical, and biological processes that affect the
Terminus of Columbia Glacier, as recorded by an automatic camera, on June 5, 1984 (top), and September 4, 1984 (bottom). The terminus ice cliff is 3.1 miles wide; the cliff was about 200 feet high on September 4. For scale, the dark island in the left foreground is 1,100 feet wide. Floating ice, including huge icebergs, chokes the water of Columbia Bay in front of the ice cliff. On June 5, a floating tongue of ice still is attached to the grounded glacier. Because of the rapid flow, virtually all the ice seen in the June 5 photograph had calved off and been replaced by new ice by September 4. (Photographs by Robert M. Krimmel, Water Resources Division, U.S. Geological Survey.)