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Storms, Floods, Erosion, and Sea Level Rise
Study findings and technical report by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska District, March 2009. The coordinated study effort identified dozens of communities throughout Alaska where erosion was believed to be causing negative impacts. In total, 178 communities were identified as having erosion problems. (PDF, 2.25 MB)
M. Kumar. Geotimes (2007). Northern Alaska is crumbling into the sea, according to newly released satellite images that show how rising global temperatures appear to be rapidly transforming the polar landscape.
Hearings before the Committee on Appropriations, United States Senate, 108th Congress, Second Session, Special Hearings, June 29-30, 2004, Anchorage, Alaska. (PDF, 29.02 MB)
Alaska Native villages: Limited progress has been made on relocating villages threatened by flooding and erosion
Report to Congressional Requesters by the United States Government Accountability Office, GAO-09-551, June 2009. GAO was asked to report on (1) the flooding and erosion threats that Alaska Native villages currently face, (2) the federal programs that are available to assist villages facing potential disasters, (3) the status of village relocation efforts, and (4) how federal assistance to relocating villages is prioritized. GAO interviewed and gathered documentation from federal and state agency officials as well as regional organizations and village representatives. (PDF, 2.15 MB)
Alaska Native villages: Most are affected by flooding and erosion, but few qualify for federal assistance
Report to Congressional Requesters by the United States Government Accountability Office, GAO-04-142, December 2003. Congress directed GAO to study Alaska Native villages affected by flooding and erosion and to (1) determine the extent to which these villages are affected, (2) identify federal and state flooding and erosion programs, (3) determine the current status of efforts to respond to flooding and erosion in nine villages, and (4) identify alternatives that Congress may wish to consider when providing assistance for flooding and erosion. (PDF, 5.25 MB)
PBS NewsHour, July 10, 2008. In Shishmaref, Alaska -- a 600-person village 20 miles south of the Arctic Circle -- residents are feeling the effects of climate change: earlier sea ice melts and increasing storm surges. Tom Bearden reports on how the residents are coping.
R.D. Brunner et al. Arctic (2004) 57(4):336-346. The purpose of the research reported here is to help the community in Barrow, Alaska, clarify its vulnerability to extreme weather events, and devise better-informed policies for reducing that vulnerability and adapting to climate variability and change. (PDF, 2.96 MB)
C. Wohlforth. National Wildlife (2005) 43(3):48-55. Since the mid-1970s, the floating Arctic ice pack has lost an area the size of Texas and Arizona combined. With a shorter season of sea ice, fall storms batter Alaska's Arctic coast as never before, causing erosion that threatens communities.
Assessing the vulnerability of Alaska's coastal habitats to accelerating sea-level rise using the SLAMM model: A case study for Cook Inlet
Report prepared by the National Wildlife Federation, 2010. This report increases our understanding of the vulnerability of Alaska's coastal systems to climate change and can help inform future coastal restoration, protection, and adaptation measures. (PDF, 3.75 MB)
C.W. Schmidt. Environmental Health Perspectives (2009) 117(7):A307-A309. Adaptation refers to the measures humans can take to minimize damage from climate change—for instance, by protecting infrastructure and communities against flooding, erosion, and extreme weather. Adapting to climate change's anticipated health problems is a more recent concern.
S. Lewis. Windspeaker (2008) 25(10). Excessive flooding, endangered animals, exotic insect migration and the onset of erratic weather patterns are the things Hollywood films are made of. But for three Indigenous nations from different regions of the globe, these occurrences are very real and gradually altering their way of life.
NPR's "All Things Considered," March 11, 2008. According to the National Research Council, much of the transportation system—including 60,000 miles of highways, major airports, railroads, low-lying tunnels, and ports—will be increasingly vulnerable to flooding and sea-level rise.
A. Armstrong. Nature Geoscience (2010) 3(10):669. Small-scale, but intense storms strike the Arctic and Southern oceans every winter. These polar low-pressure systems create hazardous shipping conditions and threaten offshore activities such as oil and gas exploration. Like tropical cyclones, the storms usually dissipate once they hit the land, but on occasion they create heavy snowfall and gale-force winds that disrupt coastal communities.
NPR's "Morning Edition," November 30, 2005. Villages along the northwestern Alaskan coast are facing widespread erosion and flooding that not only threatens homes, but also artifacts and archeaological treasures clustered near the beach. From Alaska Public Radio Network, Gabriel Spitzer reports on efforts to save ancient dwelling places and artifacts.
Report prepared by the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), University of Alaska Anchorage, June 2007. Warmer temperatures and more precipitation will affect both natural and man-made systems in Alaska, with widespread social and economic consequences. One effect will be to damage public infrastructure and shorten its useful life, although not all areas or all types of infrastructure will be equally affected. A report summary is available here. (PDF, 2.79 MB)
Immediate Action Workshop Recommendations to the Governor's Subcabinet on Climate Change, March 2009
The Immediate Action Workgroup of the Governor's Executive Subcabinet on Climate Change was established to address known threats to communities caused by coastal erosion, thawing permafrost, flooding, and fires. (PDF, 2.21 MB)
Impacts of a recent storm surge on an Arctic delta ecosystem examined in the context of the last millennium
M.F.J. Pisaric et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2011) 108(22):8960-8965. One of the most ominous predictions related to recent climatic warming is that low-lying coastal environments will be inundated by higher sea levels. The threat is especially acute in polar regions because reductions in extent and duration of sea ice cover increase the risk of storm surge occurrence. The authors examined growth rings of alder shrubs and diatoms preserved in dated lake sediment cores to show that a recent marine storm surge in 1999 caused widespread ecological changes across a broad extent of the outer Mackenzie Delta.
L.O. Næss et al. Global Environmental Change Part A (2005) 15(2):125-138. This article examines the role institutions play in climate adaptation in Norway using examples from two municipalities in the context of institutional responses to floods. The findings have important implications for vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in terms of policy options and the local level as the optimal level for adaptation.
Institutional capacity-building for targeting sea-level rise in the climate adaptation of Swedish coastal zone management. Lessons from Coastby
S. Storbjörka, J. Hedrén. Ocean & Coastal Management (2011) 54(3):265-273. This case study suggests that the ability of the political administrative system to acknowledge and deal with institutional conflicts is a critical condition for ensuring an integrated and proactive climate adaptation in coastal zone management.
Sea level rise is an indicator that our planet is warming. Much of the world's population lives on or near the coast, and rising seas are something worth watching. This video is one episode of NASA's series called "Tides of Change." [4:31 min]
B.M. Jones et al. Arctic (2008) 61(4):361-372. This study presents modern erosion rate measurements based upon vertical aerial photography captured in 1955, 1979, and 2002 for a 100 km segment of the Beaufort Sea coastline. (PDF, 17.15 KB)
Science Daily, August 25, 2011. Ocean waters expand as they warm. This, along with melting glaciers and ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, drives sea levels higher over the long term. While the rise of the global ocean has been remarkably steady for most of this time, every once in a while sea level rise hits a speed bump. This past year, it's been more like a pothole: between last summer and this one, global sea level actually fell by about a quarter of an inch, or half a centimeter.
NPR's "Talk of the Nation," March 4, 2011. Rear Adm. David Titley, a meteorologist and Navy oceanographer, discusses how melting glaciers, changing sea ice and rising sea levels might affect Navy operations in the Arctic and around the worldâand how the Navy is preparing.
On complex extremes: Flood hazards and combined high spring-time precipitation and temperature in Norway
R.E. Benestad, J.E. Haugen. Climatic Change (2007) 85(3-4):381-406. A combination of high temperature and heavy precipitation during spring can produce flooding when run-off due to snow-melt adds to river discharge from the rainfall. Such combined events are often referred to as 'complex extremes.'
Perceptions of Gulf of St. Lawrence coastal communities confronting environmental change: Hazards and adaptation, QuÃ©bec, Canada
S. Friesinger, P. Bernatchez. Ocean & Coastal Management (2010) 53(11):669-678. Awareness of the factors responsible for coastal hazards does not seem sufficient to identify solutions to increase coastal communities' resilience to environmental change. Raising awareness in coastal areas about various coastal hazards, and, most importantly, adaptive measures, is still necessary.
Slide presentation by M.J. Coffey, Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, June 2008. Coastal communities and their infrastructure are vulnerable to accelerated coastal erosion due to storm activity and wave action eroding shorelines once protected by shore-fast sea ice. (PDF, 3.38 MB)
Recommendations report to the Governor's Subcabinet on Climate Change: Final report from the Immediate Action Workgroup, April 17, 2008
The Immediate Action Workgroup of the (Alaska) Governor's Executive Subcabinet on Climate Change was established to address known threats to communities caused by coastal erosion, thawing permafrost, flooding, and fires, threats that include loss of life, loss of infrastructure, loss of public and private property, and health epidemics. The objective was to create a unifying mechanism to assist the communities of Newtok, Shishmaref, Kivalina, Koyukuk, Unalakleet, and Shaktoolik. (PDF 1.05 MB)
CBC News, Alaska Dispatch, July 20, 2011. Landslides and low water levels in the Northwest Territories in the wake of record-breaking warmth have prompted calls for changes in infrastructure planning. The Yukon government is already spending millions fixing roads affected by landslides, erosion, and washouts caused by extreme weather such as heavy rainstorms. Such extreme weather events are expected to become more frequent as the weather gets warmer in the North.
Responses to coastal erosion in Alaska in a changing climate: A guide for coastal residents, business and resource managers, engineers, and builders
O.P. Smith, M.K. Hendee, Alaska Sea Grant, 2011, 120 pages. This illustrated book addresses the basics of coastal erosion along Alaska's huge and diverse shoreline, and reviews options for responses available to residents and managers of coastal resources.
B. Alexander. World & I (2003) 18(12):172-181. Storms in the Chukchi have battered the coast of Sarichef Island for centuries, but Alaska's mean temperatures have increased by 5 degrees in summer and 10 degrees in winter over the past 30 years. This warming is thawing the permafrost that used to reinforce the ground on Sarichef's coastline. (PDF, 45 KB)
D.L. Forbes, ed. (2011). This report addresses a recognized need for a more detailed assessment of the impacts of environmental and social change in the Arctic coastal zone. The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA, 2005) provided an overall synthesis of observed and anticipated impacts on social and ecological systems in the Arctic, but did not attempt a focused treatment of the coastal zone. (6.90 MB, archived webpage)
Science Daily, May 16, 2011. Scientists from Queen's and Carleton universities head a national multidisciplinary research team that has uncovered startling new evidence of the destructive impact of global climate change on North America's largest Arctic delta.
J.M. Broder, New York Times, March 10, 2011. A report commissioned by the United States Navy concludes that climate change will pose profound challenges for the sea service in coming decades, including a need to secure Arctic shipping lanes, prepare for more frequent humanitarian missions, and protect coastal installations from rising seas.
NPR's "Day to Day," July 29, 2008. The warming climate has caused massive erosion along Alaska's coast. Two of the hardest hit villages are taking different approaches; Kivalina is suing and waiting for help while Newtok is piecing together small grants to help residents relocate. Elizabeth Arnold reports.
A. McRobie et al. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A (2005) 363(1831):1263-1270. In the 50 years since the catastrophic southern North Sea storm surge of 1953, there have been technological advances in the engineering of flood protection and increased understanding of extreme events. This paper reviews how the scientific understanding of surge events, their impacts, and the human responses to them is evolving on many fronts, often across disciplinary boundaries. (PDF, 288.8 KB)
A multimedia documentation of the effect of climate change on the island of Shishmaref in Alaska, which will soon be moved as the ocean claims the island.
Towards a vulnerability assessment of the UK and northern European coasts: The role of regional climate variability
M.N. Tsimplis et al. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A (2005) 363(1831):1329-1358. Within the framework of a Tyndall Centre research project, sea level and wave changes around the UK and in the North Sea have been analyzed. This paper integrates the results of this project. (PDF, 1.46 MB)
Report by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, 2009. This report casts a light on one of the most critical aspects of adaptation—ensuring that infrastructure is resilient over its lifespan in the face of climate change. The report shows how we can use existing risk management tools to reduce infrastructure vulnerabilities and adapt more effectively to climate change in Canada's North. (PDF, 6.13 MB)
CBC News, September 8, 2009. Seas rising from global warming and land sinking as permafrost thaws are threatening the Arctic community of Tuktoyaktuk.
Yale Environment 360, March 11, 2011. A warming world will pose major challenges to the U.S. Navy in the coming century, including the need to secure shipping lanes opened by the melting Arctic Ocean and a threat to $100 billion in Navy installations imperiled by rising seas, according to a report commissioned by the Navy.
NPR's "The Picture Show," April 19, 2011. Two-thirds of the Arctic coastline is made of permafrost—an environment that is very sensitive to warming temperatures. A new report says erosion is causing these coastline regions to recede by an average of 1.5 feet per year.