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UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1990
For sale by the Books and Open-File Reports Section, U.S. Geological Survey Federal Center, Box 25425, Denver, CO 80225
Cover: The Earth from space. Africa and Arabia lie north of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans,
Message from the Director
nce again we have gone through a year of change-a year of major challenges. During this past fiscal year,
devastating earthquakes in Armenia, volcanic activity in Hawaii and Alaska, and Hurricane Hugo's rampage along the Atlantic coastline reminded us all too well of the destructive effects of the forces of nature. Hardly had the old fiscal year ended when the Nation faced another major natural disaster with the “World Series” earthquake in California, the most costly earthquake in the United States since 1906. The need to understand the processes of natural disasters and to find ways to mitigate their effects has never been greater. Coupled with the need to understand the forces of nature is the equally compelling need for reliable scientific information on the water, energy, and mineral and land resources of the Earth. The challenges to earth scientists these days are many and complex.
As we move into a new decade, the U.S. Geological Survey begins a renewed commitment to pursue the scientific knowledge that is needed to provide the Nation and the world with the tools to better understand, to predict, to mitigate, to manage, and to better cope with the environmental and natural resource challenges that face us.
The new decade brings with it a renewed challenge from the environment. In the world at large, there is a renewed commitment to the environment as a whole. Political and social attention is focused on: What is the state of our natural environment? How is it changing? What effects are caused by human interaction? Attention is being focused on an integrated environment in which the natural resources-renewable and nonrenewable-and the people resources are seen as aspects of a whole that must work together.
The USGS is intensely involved in research on the environment. Accurate assessments of the mineral and energy resources of the land and the offshore realm provide the Nation with more realistic expectations for the availability of needed resources. Detailed investigations of the quality of the surface- and ground-water resources—and how that quality may be changing-provide basic information for planning how water will be used and shared by multiple users. Basic geologic mapping of the structure of the Earth's surface provides a picture that can be used to pinpoint areas that are susceptible to landslides and other hazards, to target areas for likely mineral or energy exploration, to select safer sites for dams and reservoirs, and to build repositories for hazardous waste. By using sophisticated mapping and computer technology, we are able to combine land-use, geologic, hydrologic, and other information for analysis and manipulation in thousands of ways to provide answers for questions that we could not even ask a decade ago.
The year 1990 will begin the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), a worldwide focused effort to reduce loss of life and economic impacts from
earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, landslides, volcanic eruption, tsunamis, wildfires, and drought. The IDNDR has been endorsed by the United Nations and is being cosponsored by more than 150 nations. The underlying message for the decade is that it is only through international cooperation and scientific sharing that we can hope, on a global scale, to reduce the impacts of natural disasters and to live in a less hazardous world.
The global perspective is one that is becoming increasingly important in many of our scientific endeavors. The entire science of global change is forcing us to widen our horizons, scientifically and socially, and to consider on an international level the impacts of our human actions and how we conduct our science to deal with those human impacts as well as with natural processes.
In my role as Chairman of the Committee on Earth Sciences, I have become intensely involved in the work of global change research. It is an exciting-and sometimes daunting-field in which to be engaged. The challenges are many, including developing an understanding of the complexities of land, atmosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere interactions and then modeling those complexities at scales that can be meaningful in developing policies and plans for coping with change. There can be arguments about how much global change has occurred. There can be arguments about the causes of that change, whether natural or human induced. But what cannot be argued, based on the scientific record and the research to date, is that our global environment is and will be changing. How much change and with what effects are two of the major questions that we as earth scientists are being asked to answer.
As you will see from articles in this Yearbook, the USGS is integrally involved in many aspects of global change, from land classification studies, remote sensing, and river-basin studies to studies of ancient climates, glacial advance and retreat, and coastline changes. We are, after all, scientists of the Earth.
We are excited and challenged by the tasks that lie before us in furthering our understanding of the global environment. The tasks ahead, the information that must be gathered, and the research that must be conducted will all allow the USGS to further its commitment to provide more and better "Earth Science in the Public Service.” It is with great pleasure that I present to you the “U.S. Geological Survey Yearbook for Fiscal Year 1989.”
lacea L.keed Dallas L. Peck
By John A. Kelmelis Introduction
The Earth is in a constant state of change. Past climates have been
warmer-and colder-than today. Sea levels have risen and fallen, changing the shape of shorelines. The diversity of plant and animal life on Earth has changed over time. There have been times of drought and times of flooding. The face of the landscape has changed over millions of years, responding to forces that built, eroded, shifted, and moved the land surface. Some global change is the result of natural processes; other change is the result of human influence on or interaction with those natural processes. The important goal of global change research is to understand the natural aspects of global change, which aspects are caused by human activities, and, most critically, what are the effects of those changes on the global environment. Only with a sound scientific understanding of all the processes in
volved can the Nation and the world make informed decisions to deal with global change.
To be more certain that the scientific issues involved in global change are being adequately addressed, the Committee on Earth Sciences (CES) was established by a directive of the Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (FCCSET) on March 6, 1987. The CES was initially charged with reviewing Federal research in earth science, both national and international, and with improving the planning, coordination, and communication among those Federal agencies involved in earth-science research. The CES was then assigned the responsibility of establishing the needs and priorities for a unified approach to global change research. The scientific objectives of Federal research efforts are to monitor, to understand, and, ultimately, to predict global change. The overriding goal of the U.S. Global Change Research Program is to gain a