Alaska has some of the most aggressive rates of shoreline erosion in the world. These findings are part of a new study released Wednesday by the U.S. Geological Survey.
USGS scientists studied nearly 1000 miles of shoreline from the Canadian Border to Icy Cape. The most extreme erosion was found around Drew Point, north of Teshekpuk Lake, about 70 miles east of Barrow.
USGS geologist Ann Gibbs is the lead author of the study. She says the most destructive erosion happens on elevated land.
“When the bluffs erode as opposed to a beach that might, the sand might get deposited offshore and then get washed back up, that happens a lot in more temperate climates,” Gibbs said. “Once the bluff erodes, it’s gone, it’s not coming back.”
An average of a meter per year is eroding overall. Gibbs says on the Chukchi side, the rate is about 0.3 meters per year.
“And on the Beaufort coast it’s about six times higher, 1.7 meters a year, so there’s a lot more going on on the Beaufort coast and we don’t quite know why that is. it has to do with the geology, the rock strength and the energy of waves hitting that part of the coast,” Gibbs said.
The study is part of an ongoing assessment of the nation’s shoreline. It did not address climate change.