Shrinking Arctic Sea Ice Leads to Erosion

Experts say the Alaskan coastline has been dwindling in recent years

Shrinking sea ice is blamed for Alaska erosion

A mid-November storm caused erosion throughout northwest Alaskan coast lines. The coastal town of Deering, Alaska, estimated 10- to 20-ft eroded in this storm alone. The relatively average storm, clocking in at 30-mph winds, prompted investigation into erosion trends.

While data surrounding this region is scarce, the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) has compiled erosion data based off of high-altitude photography and remote sensing along the U.S. coastline. By comparing images from the 1940s to the early 2000s, the USGS found that Alaska’s north coast is eroding at an average of 1.5 meters per year. Additionally, coastal erosion has doubled between 1955 and 2005 along part of the National Petroleum Reserve.  

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources points to climate change as the sea ice which previously protected the coastlines gradually is shrinking. Jacquelyn Overbeck, the coastal hazards program manager said, “In Alaska, we have a lot of storms with no names, so they may never get the same attention. But they’re impacting Americans just the same.”

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