The western coastline of Alaska is highly susceptible to coastal storms, which can cause erosion, flooding, and saltwater storm surge, affecting natural ecosystems, human communities, and commercial activity. Historically, a large buffer of ice along the shoreline has protected this region from some of the more severe effects of coastal storms. However, climate change may not only increase the frequency and intensity of storms, but also cause a loss of shoreline ice, possibly increasing the incidence of coastal erosion and flooding and introducing saltwater to freshwater environments. These hazards have the potential to substantially disrupt the environment and commerce in the region, but more information is needed to determine the likely impacts.
To fill this gap, researchers sought to better understand how coastal processes will be affected by climate change. Specifically, they modeled the relationship between shoreline ice, storm surge, and coastal flooding along the western Alaska coast. The model will be subsequently evaluated for its usefulness to entities such as the National Weather Service (for better forecast capabilities) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and local communities (for better design and emergency management services). This project was a collaborative effort among the Alaska Climate Science Center, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative.
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“Coastal tundra, Yukon Delta NWR - Credit: Kristine Sowl, USFWS”
“Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge - Credit: Kristine Sowl, USFWS”