The Effect of Changing Sea Ice on the Vulnerability of Arctic Coasts Public Deposited

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  • Shorefast sea ice prevents the interaction of the land and the ocean in the Arctic winter and influences this interaction in the summer by governing the fetch. In many parts of the Arctic the sea-ice-free season is increasing in duration, and the summertime sea ice extents are decreasing. Sea ice provides a first order control on the vulnerability of Arctic coasts to erosion, inundation, and damage to settlements and infrastructure. We ask how the changing sea ice cover has influenced coastal erosion over the satellite record. First, we present a pan-Arctic analysis of satellite-based sea ice concentration specifically along the Arctic coasts. The median length of the 2012 open water season in comparison to 1979 expanded by between 1.5 and 3-fold by Arctic sea sector which allows for open water during the stormy Arctic fall. Second, we present a case study of Drew Point, Alaska, a site on the Beaufort Sea characterized by ice-rich permafrost and rapid coastal erosion rates where both the duration of the sea ice free season and distance to the sea ice edge, particularly towards the northwest, has increased. At Drew Point, winds from the northwest result in increased water levels at the coast and control the process of submarine notch incision, the rate-limiting step of coastal retreat. When open water conditions exist, the distance to the sea ice edge exerts control on the water level and wave field through its control on fetch. We find that the extreme values of water level set-up have increased, consistent with increasing fetch.

Date Issued
  • 2014-05-07
Academic Affiliation
Journal Title
Journal Volume
  • 8
File Extent
  • 2277-2329
Last Modified
  • 2020-03-09
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