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Alaska Shoreline Erosion Term Paper

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Updated: Mar 26th, 2020

Executive Summary

The purpose of this report was to explore the impact of Alaska Shoreline Erosion. It was established that current events associated with erosion at the Alaska coastline have increased significantly. Consequently, shoreline erosion has become a threat to local villages and therefore, there is a need for both short-term and long-term measures to address these challenges. It is expected that all stakeholders will collaborate to find the most suitable solutions for mitigating effects of shoreline erosion in Alaska.

Background Information

Alaska shoreline erosion has emanated from natural coastal conditions and activities of the global sea-level changes such as the melting permafrost beneath the soil (Gorokhovich and Leiserowiz 174). Today, erosion has become a major challenge in several areas of Alaska coastal line.

Geographically, the North and West Alaska along the coastline of Beaufort Sea and Bering Sea are the most affected by the erosion. The melting of permafrost exposes these areas to storm and they generally become unstable over time. Researchers have noted that coastal erosion could be attributed directly to effects of global warming. The same challenges have been noted in the Arctic region.

It is imperative to understand the current situation of Alaska. Ravens et al. (122) have shown that Alaska coastal setting has suffered unprecedented increments in erosion since the year 2000. There has been a remarkable increment in the mean rate of annual erosion, which rose from β€œ6.8 m a-1 (1955 to 1979), to 8.7 m a-1 (1979 to 2002), to 13.6 m a-1 (2002 to 2007)” (Jones et al. 1). It is evident that spatial types of erosion have become increasingly similar along the coast.

In addition, it was observed that erosion was common even during the ice-free period of the year 2007. This happened without storm. Simultaneous changes in Arctic were noted and attributed to the rapid shifts in the rates of erosion and increased land loss, declining levels of sea ice, high temperatures during summertime, sea-level increments and several activities of storm power and waves.

All these events when taken together, points to a serious potential future challenge that could create a new form of ocean and land interaction, repositioning and reshaping the entire Alaska coastline and displacing villagers (Foley par. 1).

Therefore, the effects of accelerated Alaska shoreline erosion have demonstrated critical land loss, high rates of lake expansion and creation of drainage along certain parts in the North Slope of the shoreline. This implies that immediate action is required in the area of Beaufort Sea coast because the rate of land loss in this area has risen significantly in the recent years.

Impacts of Alaska Shoreline Erosion

The purpose of this report is to demonstrate the impacts and provide recommendation on Alaska Shoreline Erosion. The shoreline erosion in several parts of North and West Alaska have created new challenges for the local communities, but a potential major challenge for the global community due to effects of the global warming. The increased rates of permafrost melting have exposed the area to flooding and constant storms. Similar challenges are also notable in the Arctic.

Recent studies have demonstrated that the mean rate of annual erosion rose from β€œ6.8 m a-1 (1955 to 1979), to 8.7 m a-1 (1979 to 2002), to 13.6 m a-1 (2002 to 2007)” (Jones et al. 1). As a result, some reports suggest that the whole village of Newtok may be underwater by the year 2017 and therefore the village must be relocated due to shoreline erosion.

The US Army Corp of Engineers has attributed these events to climate changes in Alaska (Foley par. 3). There are also concerns that the erosion could engulf about 30 old oil wells. These wells must be cleaned and closed before they become parts of the sea (Bohrer par. 3). Notably, in the year 2005, the J.W. Walton well was cleaned and closed, but today it is submerged under the sea.

The effects of shoreline erosion have been devastating to many nearby communities, for example, Homer. The erosion had caused Matanuska River to sweep away over 90 feet of its banks within four days while surrounding villages have lost between 10 and 20 feet of land every year. The shoreline erosion threatens the entire Homer. Land adjust to the coastline has become part of the sea while Shishmaref village will also need to relocate because of erosion that facilitates severe storms to hit the region.

Evidently, Alaska Shoreline Erosion is a threat to humanity. Notable changes in climate and Arctic regions have led to these rising rates of erosion and land loss in Alaska. The sea ice has declined, there are higher summertime temperatures, increasing sea level, and remarkable frequent storms and floods alongside increased wave activities.

When all these events are taken together, then shoreline erosion could lead to a completely new form of land and ocean interaction, which will reshape and reposition the entire coastline of Alaska within the next few years with devastating effects to human existence.


There is a need for constant evaluation of Alaska Shoreline Erosion and its potential threats. Alaska requires immediate action plan to cater for the most affected villages such as Newtok, Shishmaref and the City of Homer among others. To address the problem of erosion effectively, both federal and state governments must work with local communities to find both short-term and long-lasting solutions to erosion.

Works Cited

Bohrer, Becky. “BLM to tackle four high-risk abandoned wells this year.” Alaska Journal of Commerce 3.2013. 2013. Web.

Foley, James A. “Alaskan Town Could Be Underwater By 2017, Villagers Dubbed ‘America’s Climate Refugees’.” Nature World News. 2013. Web.

Gorokhovich, Yuri and Anthony Leiserowiz. “Historical and Future Coastal Changes in Northwest Alaska.” Journal of Coastal Research 28.1A (2012): 174-186. Print.

Jones, Benjamin, Christopher Arp, M. T. Jorgenson, K. M. Hinkel, Joel Schmutz, and P. L. Flint. “Increase in the rate and uniformity of coastline erosion in Arctic Alaska.” Geophysical Research Letters 36.3 (2009): 1. Print.

Ravens, Thomas, Benjamin Jones, Jinlin, Zhang, Christopher Arp, and Joel Schmutz. “Process-Based Coastal Erosion Modeling for Drew Point, North Slope, Alaska.” Journal of Waterway, Port, Coastal, and Ocean Engineering 138.2 (2012): 122- 130. Print.

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