Conduct geological and geophysical surveys to determine the potential of Alaskan land for production of metals, minerals, fuels, and geothermal resources, the potential geologic hazards to buildings, roads, bridges, and other installations and structures; and conduct such other surveys and investigations as will advance knowledge of the geology of the state. (AS 41.08)
- Produce timely and reliable new energy-related geologic information in areas of poor geologic understanding and high energy-resource potential.
- Produce timely and reliable new minerals-related geological and geophysical information in areas of limited information and high mineral-resource potential.
- Produce timely and reliable new information on geologic hazards in areas at risk of casualties, economic losses, and infrastructure failure from natural disasters.
- Provide timely delivery of geological and geophysical information to industry, government, and the public in support of resource exploration, development, and pre-disaster hazard mitigation for continued economic growth and public safety.
- Preserve the state's archive of representative geologic materials from across the state and provide improved public access to the non-proprietary sample inventory in support of resource exploration, land management, and geologic education.
|Mission Results||Core Services|
|Mission Results||Core Services|
|Mission Results||Core Services|
|A: Result - GEOLOGIC DATA COLLECTION AND INTERPRETATION: Continually gather and interpret new geologic field data in emerging areas of interest related to energy supply, mineral deposits, and geologic hazards.|
Target #1: Publish new geologic mapping to address the state's needs for evaluating energy resources, mineral resources, and geologic hazards.
Square Miles of Published New Geologic Mapping
Analysis of results and challenges: Detailed, reliable, and publicly available geologic maps and analytical data are critical for attracting new exploration investment in minerals and energy resources; identifying geologic hazards that pose risks to public safety, infrastructure and the environment; and providing detailed information for state resource and land-use management. Detailed geological and geophysical maps of Alaska at scales needed for resource exploration, land-use management and geologic-hazards assessment are scattered geographically and currently available for only about 20 percent of the state but our field programs are increasing this coverage gradually each year. The division prioritizes the selection of new mapping areas in consultation with other state agencies, appropriate state boards and commissions, its Geologic Mapping Advisory Board, industry resource-interest groups and other stakeholders. The division is committed to delivering the results of our extensive field mapping programs to the public in a timely manner.
Several large-area maps were released in early FY2016, including a sizable amount of field mapping performed many years ago. Included in the FY2016 total is 11,916 sq. mi. published by Nokleberg, W.J and others, 2015, Geologic maps of the eastern Alaska Range, Alaska (44 quadrangles, 1:63,360 scale). Total square miles of published mapping (2,015 sq. mi.) was above average in FY2020, derived from three reports highlighting the bedrock geology of the Alaska Highway corridor traversing through the Little Gerstle River, Dot Lake, and Tetlin Junction to the Canada border.
|A1: Core Service - Produce timely and reliable new energy-related geologic information in areas of poor geologic understanding and high energy-resource potential.|
Target #1: Publish reports on energy-related geology that assist the energy industry and state agencies in exploring for and managing energy resources on state-interest lands.
New Reports Published on Energy-Related Geology
Analysis of results and challenges: Publicly available detailed geologic knowledge is important for energy resource development and management. This information must result from the most modern analyses and incorporate all available data in order to identify frontier areas of energy exploration and encourage investment on state lands. A critical component of this effort is the publication of geologic reports on a wide range of energy sources.
During FY2020, the Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys published 4 reports providing new geologic data to assist oil and gas exploration throughout Alaska. The publication total is two less than the target, reflecting the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in many contract analyses being delayed by closures at vendor laboratories, hindering efforts to synthesize information in a timely manner. The summer 2020 field season was also canceled, resulting in a lack of new field data. Despite these challenges, two major digital products were published, both the result of large structure-from-motion surveys. This photogrammetric method produces very high-resolution digital surface models and ortho-imagery of important outcrops and serves as a base for mapping reservoir-scale sand bodies. One survey was of the Usibelli Group type section in Suntrana Creek, and represents a potential analogue for fluvial reservoir geometry in the nearby Nenana Basin subsurface. The other survey is from key exposures of the Nanushuk and Torok Formations at Slope Mountain on the North Slope. This data will be used to inform seismic and reservoir models, including at the newly discovered oil fields at Pikka and Willow. The other two publications are companion papers than report very high precision stratigraphic ages using U-Pb geochronology. The first paper was published in an influential peer-reviewed journal and focused on the novel techniques and protocols developed in collaboration with Boise State University. The second paper was published through DGGS and focuses on an application of these new methods to important potential reservoir units in Cook Inlet.
During FY2020, Energy Section staff collaborated extensively with geologists from the U.S. Geological Survey, most notably through planning and permitting efforts to drill multiple stratigraphic test-cores on the North Slope. This program was postponed due to COVID-19. Collaborations with the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology (BEG) were funded by industry and involved new assessments of important Brookian reservoir intervals on the eastern North Slope.
Target #2: Collect new geologic field data to support resource evaluations of areas prospective for oil, gas, and coal.
Square Miles of Prospective Hydrocarbon Resource Areas Evaluated with New Geologic Field Data
Analysis of results and challenges: The evaluation of new geologic field data in areas of high energy-resource potential is critical for attracting new industry players and providing detailed information for government, academia, and exploration companies. The Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys set the FY2020 target of evaluating 9,000 square miles of hydrocarbon resource areas based on evaluating the central and eastern North Slope. The Energy Resources Section exceeded this target by evaluating the Cretaceous and Cenozoic geology and petroleum systems on the central and eastern North Slope. Additional reconnaissance evaluations and mapping was conducted in upland areas adjacent to the Nenana and Copper River Basins. The FY2021 target is 7,500 square miles, reflecting the lack of a summer 2020 field season. This goal, however, reflects anticipated stratigraphic studies and core drilling during June and July, 2021 on the central North Slope and eastern North Slope, near ANWR. The latter work will be partially funded by a federal grant.
|A2: Core Service - Produce timely and reliable new minerals-related geological and geophysical information in areas of limited information and high mineral-resource potential.|
Target #1: Publish airborne geophysical survey data for Alaska's minerals-interest lands.
Square Miles of Published Minerals-Related Airborne Geophysical Data
Analysis of results and challenges: Much of Alaska's lands with high mineral-resource potential have poorly exposed geology due to tundra and tree cover. Airborne geophysical surveys measure physical properties of the earth; these properties correspond to various geologic features and measurements are not affected by vegetation. Airborne geophysical survey data are invaluable for guiding subsequent ground-based geologic mapping, sampling, and associated mineral-assessment work. Only about 28 percent of prioritized mineral-bearing state lands have been geophysically surveyed, and the Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys (DGGS) is committed to acquiring data in remaining areas of the state that have high mineral-resource potential, subject to availability of funding.
In FY2020 and FY2021 1,000 square miles of helicopter magnetic and radiometric data were collected. Funding for these data was provided by the State of Alaska (40%) and mineral industry contributions (60%). These data will be published in FY2021.
The federal Earth MRI critical minerals program was funded by the U.S. Congress in FFY2019, and it is anticipated to be a 10-year project to acquire airborne geophysical surveys, geologic mapping, and lidar over areas of the nation with critical minerals potential. DGGS has been contracted by the USGS to manage the federal geophysical contracts covering large portions of Alaska's mineral districts. USGS Earth MRI funding from federal fiscal year 2019 will support the collection of 7,500 square miles of fixed-wing magnetic and radiometric data in FY2021. BLM resource-assessment and USGS Earth MRI funding from federal fiscal year 2020 will allow the state to collect and additional 8,500 square miles of fixed-wing magnetic and radiometric data during FY2021. Publication of these federally funded surveys are planned for early FY2022.
Contractors for the federally funded Earth MRI 2019 and 2020 fixed-wing surveys were unable to travel to Alaska in summer 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions, so this work has been rescheduled for summer 2021. Initial surveying of about 7,500 square miles is planned for spring/summer 2021 in the Yukon-Tanana Uplands, and publication of survey data in early FY2022.
Target #2: Publish reports and/or digital data sets on mineral-resource geology and mineral-industry exploration activity.
Published Reports and Datasets on Mineral-Resource Geology and Mineral-Industry Exploration
Analysis of results and challenges: The Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys' minerals-related geologic reports and digital datasets provide important statewide, up-to-date geologic information for mineral exploration companies and state land managers regarding the potential of Alaska land for hosting mineral resources, and has been shown to directly influence industry investment decisions and exploration success in Alaska and increase state revenue. Additionally, the annual Alaska's Mineral Industry report provides an accurate record of industry activity and economic statistics relevant to a broad user base including legislators, industry, and investors. The sharp increase in the number of mineral-resource geology reports and datasets in FY2014-16 reflects geochemical and other geologic datasets that are a direct result of work completed as part of the FY2012-14 Strategic and Critical Minerals Capital Improvement Project appropriations. Output again started to increase in FY2019 as the state received $1 million in federal funds for statewide critical-minerals-related geophysical and geologic mapping; for FY2020-FY2021 funding increased to $1.1 million per year. It is anticipated to be a 10-year program. In FY2020, the division also upgraded and re-published its historical geophysical survey collection and released minerals-related geologic hazard reports.
Target #3: Attract maximum industry investment in mineral exploration in Alaska for each state dollar spent on mineral resource assessment.
Industry Exploration Dollars Spent per State Dollar Spent on Mineral Resource Assessment
Analysis of results and challenges: A primary goal of the Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys' (DGGS) Airborne Geophysical/Geological Mineral Inventory program is to attract exploration investment by private companies to Alaska. While there are many factors that influence a company's decision whether to spend their exploration capital in Alaska versus elsewhere, the public availability of detailed, reliable geological and geophysical data helps to significantly reduce exploration risks and attract industry investment.
One way to gauge the effectiveness of state investment for encouraging mineral-industry activity in the state is to compare industry expenditures on mineral exploration in Alaska to state expenditures for mineral-resource assessment and knowledge transfer. Data on exploration investment comes from DGGS' annual mineral industry report. Reported exploration value is compared to the estimated expenditures for mineral-resource assessment during the previous state fiscal year.
From historical data, a ratio of $100 of industry exploration for every state dollar spent was a reasonable annual target from FY2005 through FY2012, but that situation changed dramatically in FY2013-FY2015. Worldwide metal prices and availability of venture capital for exploration peaked in 2011 and entered a downward trend that continued through 2016; in 2016, metal prices reversed the trend and are being reflected in a doubling of exploration spending in 2018 over levels in 2017, and exploration spending increased 16 percent in FY2019. An external factor that contributed to lower exploration expenditures in FY2013-15 was cessation of exploration at Pebble. While industry spending slowed, the state increased spending through the Strategic and Critical Minerals project in FY2011-14. The combination of lower industry spending and higher state investment resulted in a ratio below 100 for FY2012-15. In FY2019, a state capital project provided one year of state funds to help stimulate industry activity. Industry cycles usually last for 3 to 5 years, and ratios below 100 can be expected when worldwide mineral economy cycles are at lower levels. The long-term investment of the state spurs renewed mineral industry activity in Alaska once market investment capital again becomes available.
|A3: Core Service - Produce timely and reliable new information on geologic hazards in areas at risk of casualties, economic losses, and infrastructure failure from natural disasters.|
Target #1: Publish reports or maps providing improved assessment of geologic hazards that could pose significant risks to public safety or infrastructure.
Published New Reports on Geologic Hazards that Pose Significant Risks to Public Safety
Analysis of results and challenges: Preventing economic losses and threats to public safety from natural disasters is closely tied to our understanding of the risks presented by Alaska's complex geology. Mitigation of these risks can only come about through detailed geologic investigations that increase our understanding of natural hazards, and timely distribution of that information. Growing population and increasing development in Alaska create significant demands for acquiring new geologic data and distributing it in a timely fashion. In FY2020, DGGS authors published 40 new reports and peer-reviewed publications on geologic hazards.
Key publications of the Engineering Geology Section include final updated tsunami inundation maps for Homer and Seldovia; regional tsunami assessments for False Pass, Perryville, Shemya, and selected communities of the Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak Island, Bristol Bay, Pribilof Islands, and Southeast Alaska; lidar surveys in the western Susitna basin and Chilkat Ridge near Haines; photogrammetry data for the Yukon River crossing, Valdez Glacier ice-dammed lake, Barter Island, and a series of focus areas in and near Anchorage that were affected by the 2018 Anchorage earthquake; and information circulars about a potential earthquake early warning system for Alaska and the science and hazards of naturally occurring holes in ice. Other published engineering-geologic studies on the geomorphology and geologic hazards of the Parks Highway-Minto Flats-Dalton Highway infrastructure corridor and potentially active faults in the area of the Yukon River bridge contributed to the understanding of geologic hazards in Alaska. Additionally, Engineering Geology Section staff were authors or co-authors of eleven scientific papers published in national and international journals, on topics ranging from glacier outburst floods and sea ice to landslides, permafrost, and coastal flooding and erosion.
The Volcanology Section, working in conjunction with federal U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and University of Alaska Fairbanks partners, published ten reports including a post-eruption study of gases and thermal waters at Okmok volcano, version 2 of the Alaska Volcano Observatory geochemical database, geochemical data on rock samples from Little Sitkin volcano, and a report detailing the chronology and impacts of the 2016-2017 Bogoslof eruption. During FY2020, DGGS Volcanology section staff responded to volcanic unrest at Cleveland, Semisopochnoi, Shishaldin, Veniaminof, and Great Sitkin volcanoes. Extensive upgrades to volcano monitoring equipment were accomplished in the Cook Inlet, on the Alaska Peninsula, and on Unimak Island. Our field teams completed the transfer of operation of stations on Unimak and Akutan Islands from UNAVCO (a university research consortium) to AVO, as well as the transfer of four Alaska Transportable Array (TA) seismic sites to AVO operation. The upgrades in ground-based instrumentation includes seismometers, infrasound sensors, and web cameras, significantly improving the Alaska Volcano Observatory's ability to detect unrest, forecast eruptive activity, and issue timely alerts of volcano hazards.
Target #2: Evaluate Alaska land for potential geologic hazards affecting public safety or existing or proposed infrastructure.
Square Miles Evaluated for Geologic Hazards to Public Safety or Infrastructure
Analysis of results and challenges: Public safety and preventing economic disasters caused by natural phenomena are closely tied to our understanding of the risks associated with the complex geology of Alaska. Mitigation of these risks can only come about through detailed field mapping and understanding of the natural hazards and processes, and timely distribution of that information to emergency planners, the government, and the public. The survey's capacity to conduct geologic hazards assessments has been greatly enhanced by its ability to collect, process, and interpret high-resolution Light Detection and Ranging (lidar) elevation data.
Total square miles evaluated for geologic hazards was very high in FY2020 due primarily to regional-scale work for the Arctic Strategic Transportation and Resources (ASTAR) project to assess infrastructure considerations of proposed development activities across the North Slope. Approximately 3,500 square miles of new lidar data were collected in FY2020 to support hazard assessments all over the state. Seventy square miles were evaluated on active volcanoes, including Makushin and Shishaldin. The average total area evaluated annually for hazards from FY2012 to FY2016 was approximately 5,000 square miles; that average has increased five-fold over the last four years in response to a succession of large-area regional projects. The higher numbers will likely continue in FY2021 as DGGS ASTAR project activities expand, along with new studies planned to evaluate snow avalanches, glacial lake outburst floods, landslides, permafrost, coastal flooding and erosion, volcano hazards, and active faults throughout the state.
|B: Result - ARCHIVE AND PUBLISH GEOLOGIC INFORMATION: Function as the state's lead repository and primary source of information concerning Alaska's geologic energy resources, mineral resources, and geologic hazards.|
Target #1: Deliver high-quality printed or digital-media geologic publications in response to requests from industry, government, academia and the public.
Reports and Datasets Distributed
Analysis of results and challenges: Products of the Division of Geological & Geophysical Survey's (DGGS) field-geologic and geophysical studies are published as hardcopy technical reports, geological and geophysical maps, and informational publications; as PDF downloads of those reports; and as digital datasets, web map and feature services, and online interactive maps. Each year, division staff collect field data for many different areas, analyze those data and publish the products. DGGS archives and maintains more than 1 petabyte (1 PB = 1,000 terabytes, TB) of digital and map-based geological, geophysical, and geochemical data in a division-wide database that drives its website.
During FY2020, DGGS continued to publish as much data as possible via the popular online interactive map format. The most frequently accessed data to date is Elevation Datasets in Alaska (link below), which includes all publicly accessible data, from numerous agencies, collected using LiDAR, IfSAR/InSAR and Structure from Motion (SfM) technologies. In FY2018, DGGS celebrated the release of its 5,000th publication: Potential maximum permanent flooding maps for the communities of Chignik and Chignik Lagoon, Alaska. With the report's publication, DGGS achieved an average rate of releasing one publication every four business days since statehood in 1959.
DGGS publication, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), cartographic, and programming services helped foster 1,043,036 downloads of digital datasets and reports, totaling 32.45 terabytes (13.8 TB just from elevation data) of information in FY2020. This year's lower value is likely due to more data being provided through interactive maps, online databases, and GIS services and reduced industry activity due to the global pandemic. Only 77 hard-copy publications were distributed in FY2020.
|B1: Core Service - Provide timely delivery of geological and geophysical information to industry, government, and the public in support of resource exploration, development, and pre-disaster hazard mitigation for continued economic growth and public safety.|
Target #1: Respond to requests for geologic information needed by exploration companies, resource planners, emergency managers, scientific organizations, land managers, developers, and the public.
Responses to Requests for Geologic Information
Analysis of results and challenges: Current, timely geologic information is critical for public safety, resource exploration, emergency management, scientific research, land management, and development. Regardless of the amount of information gathered, the distribution of that knowledge to those who need it is key to providing the desired outcome. The Alaska Volcano Observatory routinely responds to questions from the public regarding volcanic activity with frequent emails asking questions about steaming from active volcanoes such as Mt. Cleveland, Redoubt, Pavlof, or Shishaldin. The large numbers of requests in FY2020 were driven by increased interest in and DGGS response to geologic hazards, requests for publications and online datasets, and inquiries to the Geologic Materials Center about available samples, tax credit seismic data, and donation offers. The slight decrease from the previous year was due to reduced industry activity due to the global pandemic.
The Governor's continued focus on community resilience and response resulted in a high number of requests for information relating to geologic hazards, especially coastal erosion and flooding. In FY2020, the Mineral Resources section received an increased number of requests for minerals-related information and guidance, as many new claims have been staked and new companies are coming to Alaska. Additionally, funding for radon education outreach and free radon test kits generated significant public interest and requests.
The Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys is committed to providing a timely response to all requests for geologic information.
Target #2: Deliver public presentations about geologic resources and hazards in Alaska, including technical talks and information displays at conferences, speaking at or teaching classes, and speaking at public meetings.
Public Presentations on Geologic Resources and Hazards in Alaska
Analysis of results and challenges: Public awareness and knowledge of the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys' geologic work and data archive is paramount to success of the organization's mission. Although the website and distribution of hard-copy publications are important tools to that end, the power of physical presence at public forums cannot be underestimated. Local and national technical conferences and public forums often provide the most cost-effective and timely method of disseminating new geologic findings about geologic resources and hazards in Alaska to the broadest audience of end-users. The division dedicates significant effort to this method of knowledge transfer, which is followed up by formal publication of data and interpretations. The division presents geologic knowledge in a wide range of other important public venues including schools, trade shows, and community meetings.
The above average increase in FY2020 was, in part, due to an impressive 43 public presentations by the Engineering Geology section, 31 presentations by the Mineral Resources section, and 44 public tours at the Geologic Materials Center in Anchorage, including industry, academic, legislative, and White House visitors. In support of the Governor's focus on community resilience, DGGS continued to focus on the public awareness of geologic hazards through targeted outreach to support mitigation planning and resilience to earthquakes, tsunamis, avalanches, landslides, coastal erosion and inundation, permafrost, and snow and ice hazards. Many presentations by the DGGS Energy Resources section were given to the oil and gas industry.
|C: Result - MAINTAIN ALASKA'S GEOLOGIC SAMPLE REPOSITORY: Maintain and provide public access to Alaska's invaluable archive of representative geologic samples from across the state.|
Target #1: Accommodate and encourage client visits to the Geologic Materials Center for the purpose of studying rock or sediment samples in the interest of resource exploration or geologic-hazard evaluation.
Client Visits to the Geologic Materials Center
Analysis of results and challenges: A significant amount of effort and capital has been spent over the past 60 years to obtain rock and mineral samples from locations throughout Alaska. Most of these samples are irreplaceable or would be extremely difficult and expensive to re-acquire.
There were 1,112 visits to the facility in FY2020, falling slightly short of the target of 1,200. Proximity and higher visibility to the much larger population center of Anchorage has continued to attract both institutional and public visitors to the facility. Visits from the energy industry continued strongly this year as interest in the North Slope Nanushuk play remained high. In the fourth quarter, restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic took GMC visitation down 92%.
|C1: Core Service - Preserve the state's archive of representative geologic materials from across the state and provide improved public access to the non-proprietary sample inventory in support of resource exploration, land management, and geologic education.|
Target #1: Provide efficient, user-friendly online access to the Geologic Materials Center's sample inventory.
Public Search Queries Using the GMC Online Inventory Interface
Analysis of results and challenges: During FY2016, there was a drastic shift in tracking client access to the GMC inventory. The former static file-based inventory to online inventory information was replaced by a more modern browser-based inventory search interface in January 2016. The new database-driven search engine allows users to quickly and easily view real-time details of the more than 700,000 sample inventory items before visiting the facility. This innovative and complex database and online search engine was developed in-house by DGGS staff and continues to serve user needs and receive positive feedback from industry.
FY2020 was the third full fiscal year that users were directed to the new browser-based inventory search interface. This metric tracks the number of distinct queries initiated on the data server to search the inventory through the browser-based interface. The 11,878 user sessions in FY2019 appears to be settling into a baseline number of around 13,000 annual inventory searches. The new browser-based format is addressing user needs, but will continue to be refined to improve the user experience. Reduced industry activity due to the global pandemic resulted in a lower number of search sessions.
Current as of October 23, 2020