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Geoscience Policy Monthly Review: August 2013

The Monthly Review is part of a continuing effort to improve communications about the role of geoscience in policy. Current and archived monthly reviews are available online.

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  • New USGS report shows public supply well vulnerabilities

The U.S. Geological Survey released the results of a study designed to identify factors that affect the vulnerability of public water supply wells to contamination. More than one-third of the U.S. population gets its drinking water from these wells, and the study was done in response to evidence indicating low concentrations of contaminants in groundwater in many parts of the nation.

The report looks at water wells in ten regions across the U.S., four of which are highlighted in a video overview of the results. The study found that the source of a well’s recharge water, the geochemical conditions encountered by groundwater traveling to a well, and the age of the groundwater accessed by a well are important indicators of a well’s potential for contamination. The study also noted that water in some regions has preferential flow pathways – such as sinkholes in karst systems – which enable it to move quickly from the land surface to a well, decreasing the time available for contaminants to be degraded.

The study was done as part of the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program, which provides nationwide information on water quality conditions, how those conditions change over time, and how they are affected by natural processes and human activities.

The full report can be accessed on the USGS website.

  • New study suggests warming patterns could cause sea level to rise 30-feet

A new study predicts that human-induced climate change may mimic similar conditions not seen for more than 115 thousand years. Published in Nature Geoscience, the new study has found that during the Eemian, a period of warming that preceded the last ice age approximately 127-116 thousand years ago, high temperatures caused sea levels to rise almost 30 feet. Although the exact timing is unclear, climate models now predict that we are on track to experience similar increases if we maintain current warming rates.  If correct, this could have serious implications for coastal communities attempting to prepare for and mitigate against the effects of coastal erosion, storm surge, and flooding.

You can view the current Federal Emergency Management Administration’s coastal flooding maps here.

  • 1987 Montreal Protocol helped soften climat change, study says

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was established in 1987 to reduce the production and use of certain compounds that erode sections of the Earth’s stratosphere, making us more vulnerable to radiation. Now, a new study published in the Journal of Climate concludes that the Montreal Protocol did more than just protect us from radiation; it also helped lessen the effects of climate change. The new research put out by scientists at New York University and Columbia University shows that the reduction in chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) mandated by the Montreal Protocol also protected the planet from any major disruptions in global rainfall patterns, thereby reducing the effects of global warming and climate change.








Monthly Review prepared by: Maeve Boland, Geoscience Policy Director; Abby Seadler, Geoscience Policy Associate; Sophia Ford, AGI/AAPG Fall Intern; and Brittany Huhmann, Clinton Koch, and John Kemper 2013 AGI/AIPG Summer Interns.

Sources: The American Meteorological Society, the Arctic Council, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Register, the House of Representatives, National Academies Press, National Park Service, Nature Geoscience, Scottish Carbon Capture and Sequestration, Space Policy Online, Union of Concerned Scientists, United Nations Environment Program, United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Government Printing Office, U.S. Senate, the White House


This monthly review goes out to members of the AGI Geoscience Policy Committee, the leadership of AGI's member societies, and others as part of a continuing effort to improve communications about the role of geoscience in policy. More information on these topics can be found on the Geoscience Policy Current Issues pages. For additional information on specific policy issues, please visit the web site or contact us at or (703) 379-2480, ext. 228.



Compiled September 9, 2013


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