Science Snapshots

Alaska CSC

Herd of caribou walk across a snowy tundra in Alaska, with mountains in the backgroundSmall Changes in Temperature Have Big Impact on Alaska's Snowpack

Alaska relies on snowpack. The amount of snowpack and when it melts determines the availability of water, the viability of hydropower, and the reliability of the backcountry transportation network. It impacts Alaska’s salmon streams, which ultimately affects subsistence, sport, and commercial fishing. Reduced snowpack can also mean more severe wildfires, reduced hunting success, and big hits to the state’s recreational economy. 

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Glacier Change Impacts to Alaska's Coastal Ecosystems

The Gulf of Alaska is one of the most productive marine ecosystems on Earth, supporting salmon fisheries that alone provide nearly $1 billion per year in economic benefits to Southeast Alaska. The region also has a vibrant and growing tourism industry, valued at $1.2 billion in 2015. Glaciers are central to many of the area’s natural processes and economic activities, but are melting faster than glaciers almost anywhere else, impacting coastal ecosystems. 

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North Central CSC

The Wind River Indian Reservation - river in foreground, rolling hills in background.Preparing for Drought on the Wind River Indian Reservation

The Wind River Indian Reservation in west-central Wyoming is home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes. In this semi-arid landscape, the glacier and snowpack-fed tributaries of the Wind River are the main source of water. Yet the region has recently experienced frequent, severe droughts that have threatened ranching and farming; subsistence harvesting, hunting, and fishing; and other livelihood demands. 

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Northeast CSC

A placid, calm lake in Wisconsin with forest in the backgroundWarmer Waters Could Impact Sport Fishing in Wisconsin

Sport fishing in Wisconsin generates over $2 billion annually in economic activity. Yet warming temperatures in the state’s lakes and streams are altering habitat conditions, favoring some fish species while threatening others. Walleye, one of the most sought after species among Wisconsin’s anglers and a fish that prefers cooler water, has been declining in numbers over the last 30 years. Conversely, largemouth bass, which thrive in warmer waters, have been increasing.

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A male and female mallard duck swimming in clear blue waterDistribution of Deer & Waterfowl Could Change as Winters Become Less Severe in the Great Lakes Region

Winter conditions have changed substantially in the Great Lakes region over the last 50 years. Winter temperatures have increased, causing lake ice cover to decrease. Since 1973, the five Great Lakes have lost 71% of their winter ice cover. These changes have direct implications for deer and waterfowl, two major sources of hunting revenue for states in the region.

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Northwest CSC

USGS scientist Clint Muhlfeld holds a native westlsope cutthroat trout in his handsWarmer Waters Threaten Montana's Prized Westslope Cutthroat Trout

The native westslope cutthroat trout has drawn generations of fly-fishers to the remote Flathead River system in western Montana. Trout fishing contributes tens of millions of dollars to Montana’s economy each year, and the westslope cutthroat is one of the state’s most highly prized fish. Yet the freshwater ecosystems on which the species depends are changing, threatening the longevity of this economically, ecologically, and culturally important fish.

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A wildfire burns in a forest; the fire is approaching a river or lake.

Wildfires Threaten Future Water Supplies

Across the West, wildfires are expected to increase in frequency, size, and severity as temperatures rise and precipitation patterns change. Not only is fire a threat to life and property, but it can also reduce the quality of water supplies by increasing the amount of sediment entering streams – turning clear mountain waters brown. Given the projected increase in wildfires, coupled with the West’s growing population, identifying how fire could further stress the region’s water resources is critical.

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Pacific Islands CSC

An aerial view of the Island of Kaua'i, with lush green mountains and turquoise waters meeting the coastlineMapping Erosion Hazard Areas on the Island of Kauaʻi

The beaches of the Hawaiian Islands attract nearly 9 million visitors each year, who inject around $15.6 billion into the state’s economy and support almost 200,000 jobs. Beyond their economic importance, Hawaiian beaches are also culturally and ecologically valuable. However, climate change driven sea-level rise is causing many beaches to disappear, endangering property, infrastructure, and critical habitats.

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South Central CSC

The Red River with very little streamflow; the landscape is dry with only grasses and shrubs as vegetation.Managing for Drought in the Red River Valley

Stretching from the High Plains of New Mexico eastward to the Mississippi, the Red River is a vital source of water in the South Central U.S., supporting municipal water supplies and ecosystems and feeding the region’s agricultural and recreation economies. In recent years, the region has experienced a damaging multi-year drought, threatening communities, ecosystems, and agriculture.

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Southeast CSC

Black bear and three cubs walking through a green meadowLack of Connected Habitat in the Southeast Has Consequences for Wildlife

As temperatures rise and rainfall patterns change, many wildlife species are expected to shift their range and move into new habitats in search of more suitable conditions. Yet in the eastern U.S., it’s estimated that less than 2% of natural areas are connected enough to allow for the movement of wildlife from one area to the next. Urban areas, roads, and farms all fragment natural areas, creating a patchwork of natural and developed lands – and limiting the ability of species to move.

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Southwest CSC

The Colorado River as it passes through red canyons with green vegetation at the water's edge

Rising Temperatures Impact Colorado River Water Resources

The economic and environmental health of the Southwest is closely tied to the Colorado River. The river supplies water to roughly 40 million people, irrigates nearly 6 million acres of farmland within and beyond the basin, and contributes an estimated $26 billion each year to the region’s recreational economy. Yet climate projections for the Southwest show a future marked by chronic drought and reduced water availability.

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Close up photo of wildfire burning debris, leaves, shrubs

Linking Atmospheric Rivers to Wildfire Patterns

Most of the West Coast's extreme storms can be linked to atmospheric rivers - events in which large amounts of moisture are carried in narrow bands, often from the tropics, up to the West Coast. While weak atmospheric rivers are critical providers of winter rain and snow, strong events can cause extreme flooding, mudslides, and avalanches.

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NCCWSC

A heard of pronghorn in a Southwestern shrub/grass-dominated landscape, with barren hills in the background

Will the Antelope Still Roam? Pronghorn at Risk in the Southwest

Admired for their speed and endurance, the pronghorn can power across prairies and deserts at speeds of 60 mph. The only antelope-like species on the continent is also economically important - pronghorn hunting contributes over $9 million annually to New Mexico's economy alone. Yet in the Southwest, America's fastest land mammal is in decline, and drought may be partially to blame.

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An eastern brook trout swimming in a clear streamWarmer Waters Mean More Driving, Less Fishing

For millions of years, the eastern brook trout thrived in the valleys of the Appalachian Mountains. The East Coast’s only native trout, it was a staple of Native American diets and for some tribes considered a gift from spiritual leaders. It has also been a prized species among anglers since early colonial times. Yet the species has disappeared from 28% of its native range, and warming temperatures are expected to further reduce its cold-water habitat.

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