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James O'connor

ResearchHydrologist, Team Lead

Contact Info


Short Biography

 

Jim O’Connor is a Pacific Northwest native long interested in the processes and events that shape the remarkable and diverse landscapes of the region. Following this interest with a Geological Science major at University of Washington and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at University of Arizona, he has spent the last 20 years focused on the “science of scenery” (as ascribed to the field of geomorphology), for the last 15 years with the U.S. Geological Survey Water Science Center in Portland, Oregon.

 



1. Columbia River Geomorphology and Quaternary Geology

This project investigates late Pleistocene and Holocene dynamics of the lower Columbia River, Oregon and Washington. Specific objectives include (1) mapping and developing an overall stratigraphic framework for late Quaternary deposits adjacent to the Columbia River, (2) evaluation of the short-term and persistent effects of large sediment pulses from eruptions of Cascade Range volcanoes on Columbia River channel and floodplain morphology and dynamics, and (3) relating observations and inferences of channel and valley-bottom processes to river ecology and patterns of human use. This project is being conducted in conjunction with the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory, USGS Western Earth Surface Processes Team (Pacific Northwest geologic mapping and urban hazards), the Lower Columbia River Estuary Program, and students at Portland State University and Washington State University. The primary approaches are (1) geologic mapping, stratigraphic analysis, well-log interpretation, and geochronology of late Quaternary and Holocene deposits flanking the present channel, (2) analysis of historic maps and records of 19th and 20th century channel and floodplain conditions, and (3) geographic information system analysis (GIS) for deposit mapping and correlation. This work builds on substantial previous work investigating the late Pleistocene Missoula Floods in the Columbia River valley and geologic mapping in the Willamette Valley.

Project and related websites:

Pacific Northwest Geologic Mapping and Urban Hazards

http://geomaps.wr.usgs.gov/pacnw/index.html

USGS Volcano Hazards Program, Cascade Volcano Observatory

http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/

2. Flood Studies

This work, with a variety of collaborators and funding sources, is part of a career-long effort to better understand flood processes, including those that generate floods as well as assessing the effects of floods on landscapes. Current work is focused on using gaged, historical, and geologic records of floods to establish linkages between flood magnitude and controlling factors such as climate, geology, and topography. Ongoing research with USGS streamgage records of peak flows involves linking station data to watershed characteristics (with GIS) to quantitatively assess relations between peak flows and watershed attributes. A parallel effort is also underway investigating the factors leading to outburst floods from natural and anthropogenic dams. Accompanying analyses of gaged and historic records of flooding are ongoing field-based studies of flood deposits and erosional features, aimed at (1) improving flood hazard assessments for specific locations; (2) investigating linkages between millennial-scale climate change, geologic environment and flood magnitude and frequency, and (3) evaluating the roles of floods from meteorological sources and natural dam failures on long-term valley evolution. Such studies are in progress for the Owyhee River, Oregon, and for the Black Hills region of South Dakota. 

Project and related websites:

Black Hills Paleoflood project:

http://sd.water.usgs.gov/projects/Paleoflood/paleoflood.html

 

 

3. Channel Processes and Assessment

This “project” encompasses a variety of research and review activities focused on aiding land-management and regulatory agencies with issues regarding fluvial geomorphology, sediment transport, channel migration, and related habitat and hazards issues. One major effort has been devoted to assessment of channel migration and historical changes to rivers in the Pacific Northwest; thereby assisting counties, Indian Nations, and state and federal agencies in assessing channel change and providing a rational basis for establishing regulatory channel migration zones for protection of river channel processes and for prioritization of restoration activities. Another major effort is the analysis of the effects of dams and dam removal on rivers, leading to recent analyses and reviews being conducted for private utilities and the U.S. Forest Service regarding the effects of hydropower dams on sediment transport and channel conditions on the Clackamas, Deschutes, Sandy, and Snake rivers in Oregon, and development and implementation of an intense monitoring effort in conjunction with the Oct. 2007 removal of Marmot Dam on the Sandy River. A major new program is now underway in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in which we are quantitatively evaluating bedload transport and the consequences of instream gravel extraction for gravel transport and channel conditions in Oregon rivers.

Project and related websites:

Chetco River studies:

http://or.water.usgs.gov/chetco/

Marmot Dam Removal studies:

http://or.water.usgs.gov/projs_dir/marmot/index.html

 

 

 

 

 

 



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Books, Monographs, Circulars, Edited Volumes, Geologic Maps and USGS Reports

O'Connor, J.E., Dorsey, R.J., and Madin, I.P., editors., in press, Volcanoes to Vineyards: Geologic Field Trips through the Dynamic Landscape of the Pacific Northwest: Geological Society of America Field Guide 15.

Wallick, J.R., Anderson, S.W., Cannon, Charles, and O'Connor, J.E., 2009, Channel change and bed-material transport in the lower Chetco River, Oregon: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009-1163, 83 p.

Available at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2009/1163/

O'Connor, J.E., Wallick, J.R., Sobieszczyk, Steven, Cannon, Charles, and Anderson, S.W., 2009, Preliminary assessment of vertical stability and gravel transport along the Umpqua River, Oregon: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009-1010, 40 p.

Available at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/ofr/2009/1010/

Evarts, R.C., and O'Connor, J.E., 2008, Geologic Map of the Camas Quadrangle, Clark County, Washington, and Multnomah County, Oregon, U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3017 (with 32 p. accompanying descriptive and interpretative pamphlet).

Available at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/sim/3017/

O'Connor, J.E., and Costa, J.E., 2004, The World's largest floods, past and present-Their causes and magnitudes: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1254, 13 p.

Available at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/2004/circ1254/

O'Connor, J.E., and Costa, J.E., 2003, Large floods in the United States: Where they happen and why: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1245, 13 p.

Available at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/2003/circ1245/

Minervini, J.J., O'Connor, J.E., and Wells, R.E., 2003, Maps [1:250,000] showing inundation depths, ice-rafted erratics, and sedimentary facies of late Pleistocene Missoula Floods in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 03-408

Available at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2003/of03-408/

O'Connor, J.E., and Grant, G.E., editors, 2003, A peculiar river: Geology, geomorphology, and hydrology of the Deschutes River, Oregon: American Geophysical Union Water Science and Application Series, no. 7, 220 p.

O'Connor, J.E., Hardison, J.H., III, and Costa, J.E., 2001, Debris flows from failures of Neoglacial moraine dams in the Three Sisters and Mt. Jefferson Wilderness Areas, Oregon: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1608, 93 p.

Available at: http://pubs.er.usgs.gov/usgspubs/pp/pp1606

O'Connor, J.E., Sarna Wojcicki, A.M., Wozniak, K.C., Polette, D.J., and Fleck, R. J., 2001, Origin, extent, and thickness of Quaternary geologic units in the Willamette Valley, Oregon: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1620, 52 p.

Available at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1620/

O'Connor, J. E., 1993, Hydrology, hydraulics, and geomorphology of the Bonneville Flood: Geological Society of America Special Paper 274, 83 p.

Refereed Journal Articles

Evarts, R.C., O'Connor, J.E., Wells, R.E., and Madin, I.P., 2009, The Portland Basin: A (big) river runs through it: GSA Today, v. 10, no. 9 p. 4-10.

Marcott, S.A., Fountain, A.G., O'Connor, J.E., Sniffen, P.J., Dethier, D.P., 2009, A latest Pleistocene and Holocene glacial history and paleoclimate reconstruction at Three Sisters and Broken Top Volcanoes, Oregon, U.S.A.: Quaternary Research, v. 71, p. 181-189.

O'Connor, J., Major, J., and Grant, G., 2008, The dams come down: Unchaining U.S. Rivers: Geotimes, v. 53, no. 3, p. 22-28.

Major, J.J, O'Connor, J.E. Grant, G.E. Spicer, K.R., Bragg, H.M., Rhode, A., Tanner, D. Q., Anderson, C.W. and Wallick J.R., 2008, Initial fluvial response to the removal of Oregon's Marmot Dam, EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union, v. 89, p. 241-242.

Carter, D.T., Ely, L.L., O'Connor, J.E., Fenton, C.R, 2006, Late Pleistocene outburst flooding from pluvial Lake Alvord into the Owyhee River, Oregon: Geomorphology, v. 75, pp. 346-367

O'Connor, J.E., 2004, The evolving landscape of the Columbia River Gorge-Lewis and Clark and cataclysms on the Columbia: Oregon Historical Quarterly, v. 105, no. 3, p. 390-421.

Available at: http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/ohq/105.3/oconnor.html

Butler, V.L., and O'Connor, J.E., 2004, 9000 years of salmon fishing on the Columbia River: Quaternary Research, v. 62, p. 1-8.

O'Connor, J.E., and Costa, J.E., 2004, The spatial distribution of the largest rainfall-runoff floods from basins between 2.6 and 26,000 km2 in the United States and Puerto Rico: Water Resources Research, 40, W01107, doi:10.1029/2003WR002247.

Benito, G., and O'Connor, J.E., 2003, Number and size of last-glacial Missoula floods in the Columbia River valley between the Pasco Basin, Washington, and Portland, Oregon: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 115, p. 624-638.

O'Connor, J.E., Jones, M.A., and Haluska, T.L., 2003, Flood plain and channel dynamics of the Quinault and Queets rivers, Washington, U.S.A.: Geomorphology, v 51, p. 31-59

Walder, J. S., and O'Connor, J.E., 1997, Methods for predicting peak discharge of floods caused by failure of natural and constructed earthen dams: Water Resources Research, p. 2337 2348.

O'Connor, J. E, Ely, L. L., Wohl, E. E., Stevens, L. D., Melis, T. S., Kale, V. S., and Baker, V. R., 1994, A 4000-year record of extreme floods on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon: Journal of Geology, v. 102, p. 1-9.

O'Connor, J. E., and Costa, J. E., 1993, Geologic and  hydrologic hazards in glacierized basins resulting from 19th and 20th century global warming: Natural Hazards, v. 8, no. 2, p. 121-140.

O'Connor, J. E., and Baker, V. R., 1992, Magnitudes and implications of peak discharges from Glacial Lake Missoula: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 104. p. 267-279.

O'Connor, J. E., and Chase, C. G., 1989, Uplift of the San Pedro Martir, Baja California, Mexico: Tectonics, v. 8, p. 833-844.

O'Connor, J. E., Webb, R. H., and Baker, V. R., 1986, Paleohydrology of pool-and-riffle pattern development: Boulder Creek, Utah: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 97, p. 410-420.

Edited Volume Contributions

O'Connor, J.E. and Beebee, R.A., in press, Floods from natural rock-material dams, in Burr, D., Carling, P., and Baker, V. editors, Megafloods on Earth and Mars: Cambridge University Press.

O'Connor, J.E., and Burns, S.F., 2009, Columbia cataclysms and controversy-Aspects of the geomorphology of the Columbia River Gorge, in O'Connor, J.E., Dorsey, R.J., and Madin, I.P., eds., Volcanoes to Vineyards: Geologic Field Trips through the Dynamic Landscape of the Pacific Northwest: Geological Society of America Field Guide 15, doi: 10.1130/2009.fld015(12).

O'Connor, J.E., Curran, J.H., Beebee, R.A., Grant, G.E., and Sarna-Wojcicki, A., 2003, Quaternary geology and geomorphology of the lower Deschutes River canyon, Oregon, in, O'Connor, J.E., and Grant, G.E., eds., A Peculiar River-Geology, Geomorphology, and Hydrology of the Deschutes River, Oregon: American Geophysical Union Water Science and Application Series No. 7, pp. 73-94.

O'Connor, J.E. Grant, G.E., and Haluska, T.L., 2003, Overview of geology, hydrology, geomorphology, and sediment budget of the Deschutes river basin, Oregon, in, O'Connor, J.E., and Grant, G.E., eds., A Peculiar River-Geology, Geomorphology, and Hydrology of the Deschutes River, Oregon: American Geophysical Union Water Science and Application Series No. 7, pp. 7-29.

Curran, J.H., and O'Connor, J.E., 2003, Formation and evolution of valley-bottom and channel features, lower Deschutes River, Oregon, in, O'Connor, J.E., and Grant, G.E., eds., A Peculiar River-Geology, Geomorphology, and Hydrology of the Deschutes River, Oregon: American Geophysical Union Water Science and Application Series No. 7, pp. 95-119.

Hosman, K.J., Ely, L.L., and O'Connor, J.E., 2003, Holocene paleoflood hydrology of the lower Deschutes River, Oregon, in, O'Connor, J.E., and Grant, G.E., eds., A Peculiar River-Geology, Geomorphology, and Hydrology of the Deschutes River, Oregon: American Geophysical Union Water Science and Application Series No. 7, pp. 121-146.

Beebee, R.A., and O'Connor, J.E., 2003, The outhouse flood: a large Holocene flood on the lower Deschutes River, Oregon, in, O'Connor, J.E., and Grant, G.E., eds., A Peculiar River-Geology, Geomorphology, and Hydrology of the Deschutes River, Oregon: American Geophysical Union Water Science and Application Series No. 7, pp. 147-168.

Jacobson, R.B., O'Connor, J.E., and Oguchi, Takashi, 2003, Surficial geologic tools in fluvial geomorphology, in Kondolf, G, M., and Piegay, Herve, eds., Tools in fluvial geomorphology, John Wiley and Sons, pp. 25-57.

O'Connor, J.E., Grant, G.E., and Costa, J.E., 2002, The geology and geography of floods, in House, P.K., Webb, R.H., Baker, V.R., and Levish, D.R., Ancient floods, modern hazards: principles and application of paleoflood hydrology: American Geophysical Union Water Science and Application Series, No. 5, pp. 359-385.

Beebee, R.A., O'Connor, J.E., and Grant, G.E., 2002, Field trip guide to the geology and geomorphology of the lower Deschutes River canyon, in Moore, G.W., ed., Field Guide to Geologic Processes in Cascadia, Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries Special Paper 36, pp. 91-108.

Costa, J. E., and O'Connor, J. E., 1995, Geomorphically effective floods, in, Costa, J.E., Miller, A.J., Potter, K.W., and Wilcock, P.R., eds., Natural and anthropogenic influences in fluvial geomorphology, Geophysical Monograph 89 (American Geophysical Union), pp. 45-56.

O'Connor, J. E., and Webb, R. H., 1988, Hydraulic modeling for paleoflood analysis, in, Baker, V. R., Kochel, R. C., and Patton, P. C., eds., Flood Geomorphology, New York, John Wiley and Sons, pp. 393-402.

Webb, R.H., O'Connor, J.E., and Baker, V.R., 1988 Paleohydrologic reconstruction of flood frequency on the Escalante River, south-central Utah, in Baker, V.R., Kochel, R.C., and Patton, P.C., eds., Flood Geomorphology, New York, John Wiley and Sons, pp. 403-418.

 

 



Contact Information

James O'connor
2130 SW 5th Avenue
Portland, OR 97201
oconnor@usgs.gov
503-251-3222
503-251-3470 - Fax
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