USGS To Map The Bottom Of Lake Tahoe

June 30, 1998

The fabled waters of Lake Tahoe may soon become clearer as U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists make plans to map the mysterious floor of the lake, using the ocean exploration technology known as "multi- beam bathymetry." The project will provide researchers with a never-before-seen, high-resolution, 3-D digital picture of the lake's floor. The photographic-like map will be the base for scientists trying to understand and solve the problems affecting Lake Tahoe's acclaimed clarity.

The USGS project, satisfying a commitment made at last year's Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum, will commence in August and will involve trucking a boat equipped with hull-mounted, multi-beam acoustic sonar from Louisiana to Lake Tahoe. Once on the lake, the vessel will sail in tightly choreographed rows, or swaths, over the surface of the lake, bouncing acoustic signals from the vessel to the lake's floor and back to on-board computers. The project will cover almost the entire lake and will take less than two weeks to complete. The digital product will be available almost instantaneously.

"The shaded-relief final product should be amazing, giving a person the ability to virtually fly over the lake's floor and explore the many canyons and crags," said Michael V. Shulters, acting western regional director of the USGS. "The last published map of the bottom of Lake Tahoe was done in the 1920's, so this project should immensely improve our understanding of Lake Tahoe and put a few myths to rest."

There are many local legends surrounding the depth and content of Lake Tahoe. Myths as to the depth of the lake range from thousands of feet to bottomless. Reported contents include sunken ships, aircraft, and a Loch Ness-like creature affectionately known to locals as "Tessie."

The acoustic mapping technology, used almost exclusively by oceanographers, has the potential to expose objects 'about as large as a Volkswagen Beetle,' according to USGS Marine Geologist, Jim Gardner. "The USGS has found previously undiscovered ships off the coast of California, and sunken barges in the San Francisco Bay, although that is not our intent."

The USGS intends to use the final map to understand sediment patterns, lake-floor geology, and underwater landsliding, and to act as a base map for other projects announced at last year's Presidential Forum. Other projects include a feasibility study to reintroduce the Lahontan cutthroat trout, the recent monitoring and detection of the controversial fuel additive MTBE, and the recently coordinated multi-agency Lake Tahoe mapping database.

As an agency of the Department of the Interior, the USGS has been monitoring water levels and quality in Lake Tahoe for more than 20 years. The agency was instrumental in the Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum and the recent National Ocean's Conference in Monterey, Calif.

As the nation's largest water, earth and biological science and civilian mapping agency, the USGS works in cooperation with more than 2,000 organizations across the country to provide reliable, impartial, scientific information to resource managers, planners, and other customers. This information is gathered in every state by USGS scientists to minimize the loss of life and property from natural disasters, contribute to the sound conservation, economic and physical development of the nation's natural resources, and enhance the quality of life by monitoring water, biological, energy, and mineral resources.
-end-
This press release and in-depth information about USGS programs may be found on the USGS home page: http://www.usgs.gov. To receive the latest USGS news releases automatically by email, please send a request to listproc@listserver.usgs.gov. Please specify the listserver(s) of interest from the following names: water-pr; geologic-hazards-pr; biological-pr; mapping-pr; products-pr; lecture-pr. In the body of the message say subscribe (name of listserver) (your name). Example: subscribe water-pr joe smith.

Editors: You will be notified of the exact date of the commencement of the Lake Tahoe mapping project, probably during the week of August 3, and on the media availability of scientists and technicians involved with the project.
-end-


US Geological Survey

Related Geological Survey Articles from Brightsurf:

New tool predicts geological movement and the flow of groundwater in old coalfields
A remote monitoring tool to help authorities manage public safety and environmental issues in recently abandoned coal mines has been developed by the University of Nottingham.

The geological record of mud deposits
The UPV/EHU's HAREA: Coastal Geology research group has conducted a study into how human activities may have influenced the mud depocentres on the Basque shelf, in other words, in the area of the Basque Mud Patch (BMP) on the coast of Gipuzkoa down the ages.

Uranium chemistry and geological disposal of radioactive waste
A new paper to be published on Dec. 16 provides a significant new insight into our understanding of uranium biogeochemistry and could help with the UK's nuclear legacy.

High diversity of harvestmen in Atlantic Rainforest and ancient geological events
Mountain range uplift, river formation and other events that occurred 30 million years ago explain the emergence of new species of the arachnid in the biome's southernmost portion, according to a Brazilian study.

Study: Microbes could influence earth's geological processes as much as volcanoes
By acting as gatekeepers, microbes can affect geological processes that move carbon from the earth's surface into its deep interior, according to a study published in Nature and coauthored by microbiologists at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

A survey machine and a data trove: Dark Energy Survey's rich legacy
On the night of Jan. 9, 2019, the V. M.

Study: Kidney stones have distinct geological histories
A geologist, a microscopist and a doctor walk into a lab and, with their colleagues, make a discovery that overturns centuries of thought about the nature and composition of kidney stones.

Aquaplaning in the geological underground
Scientists propose a mechanism that explains how the biggest earthquake ever happened and how more than 50 years later another large earthquake in the same region released some of the stress that had built up in the depth.

Geological change confirmed as factor behind extensive diversity in tropical rainforests
The tropical rainforests of Central and South America are home to the largest diversity of plants on this planet.

Old Faithful's geological heart revealed
University of Utah scientists have mapped the near-surface geology around Old Faithful, revealing the reservoir of heated water that feeds the geyser's surface vent and how the ground shaking behaves in between eruptions.

Read More: Geological Survey News and Geological Survey Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.