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Coastal changes in the Arctic

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  • Geological Survey of Canada - Natural Resources Canada

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The arctic environment is changing: air temperatures, major river discharges and open water season length have increased, and storm intensities and tracks are changing. Thirteen quantitative studies of the rates of coastline position change throughout the Arctic show that recently observed environmental changes have not led to ubiquitously or continuously increasing coastal erosion rates, which currently range between 0 and 2 m/yr when averaged for the arctic shelf seas. Current data is probably insufficient, both spatially and temporally, however, to capture change at decadal to sub-decadal time scales. In this context, we describe the current understanding of arctic coastal geomorphodynamics with an emphasis on erosional regimes of coasts with ice-rich sedimentary deposits in the Laptev, East Siberian and Beaufort seas, where local coastal erosion can exceed 20 m/yr. We also examine coasts with lithified (rocky) substrates where geomorphodynamics are intensified by rapid glacial retreat. Coastlines of Svalbard, Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago are less frequently studied than ice-rich continental coasts of North America and Siberia, and studies often focus on coastal sections composed of unlithified material. As air temperature and sea ice duration and extent change, longer thaw and wave seasons will intensify coastal dynamics in the Arctic.
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Geological Society, London, Special Publications Online First
February 12, 2014; doi 10.1144/SP388.13 , first publishedGeological Society, London, Special Publications
Lantuit, D. St-Hilaire-Gravel, F. Günther and S. Wetterich
P. P. Overduin, M. C. Strzelecki, M. N. Grigoriev, N. Couture, H.
Coastal changes in the Arctic
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Coastal changes in the Arctic
P. P. OVERDUIN1*, M. C. STRZELECKI2,3, M. N. GRIGORIEV4, N. COUTURE5,
H. LANTUIT1, D. ST-HILAIRE-GRAVEL6,F.GU
¨NTHER1& S. WETTERICH1
1
Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research,
Telegrafenberg A43, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
2
Department of Geography, Durham University, Durham, UK
3
Department of Geomorphology, University of Wroclaw, Wroclaw, Poland
4
Melnikov Permafrost Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Siberian Branch, Yakutsk, Russia
5
Natural Resources Canada, Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa, Canada
6
School of Ocean Technology, Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial
University of Newfoundland, St John’s, Canada
*Corresponding author (e-mail: paul.overduin@awi.de)
Abstract: The arctic environment is changing: air temperatures, major river discharges and open
water season length have increased, and storm intensities and tracks are changing. Thirteen quan-
titative studies of the rates of coastline position change throughout the Arctic show that recently
observed environmental changes have not led to ubiquitously or continuously increasing coastal
erosion rates, which currently range between 0 and 2 m/yr when averaged for the arctic shelf
seas. Current data is probably insufficient, both spatially and temporally, however, to capture
change at decadal to sub-decadal time scales. In this context, we describe the current understanding
of arctic coastal geomorphodynamics with an emphasis on erosional regimes of coasts with ice-rich
sedimentary deposits in the Laptev, East Siberian and Beaufort seas, where local coastal erosion
can exceed 20 m/yr. We also examine coasts with lithified (rocky) substrates where geomorpho-
dynamics are intensified by rapid glacial retreat. Coastlines of Svalbard, Greenland and the Cana-
dian Archipelago are less frequently studied than ice-rich continental coasts of North America and
Siberia, and studies often focus on coastal sections composed of unlithified material. As air temp-
erature and sea ice duration and extent change, longer thaw and wave seasons will intensify coastal
dynamics in the Arctic.
The Arctic Coastal Dynamics project of the Inter-
national Arctic Science Committee defines the arc-
tic coastal zone as the region both landward and
seaward of the coastlines of the arctic shelf seas,
including all islands and archipelagos (Lantuit
et al. 2012a). This zone is characterized by a strong
seasonality. Sea-ice cover for as much as 9 or 10
months per year reduces the impact of the waves
on the coast. Seasonal freeze–thaw cycles, the pres-
ence of permafrost (which is continuous for much
of the coastline) and frost-shattering processes also
affect high-latitude coastal zones. Although limited
to a few months of the year, erosional processes,
particularly for coasts along which ice-rich perma-
frost is exposed, are very effective and can result
in erosion rates similar to or higher than those of
temperate regions. Important topics for investiga-
tions of arctic coastal morphology are why erosion
is so rapid, what the mechanisms and processes
are by which erosion occurs, and how susceptible
they are to changing environmental conditions.
Current reviews on the geomorphology of high-
latitude coasts include the origin and present-day
functioning of unlithified coasts composed of sedi-
mentary deposits that are usually located on the
mainland and have high ground ice-contents, and
lithified or rocky coasts that are common in arc-
tic archipelagos (John & Sugden 1975; Owens &
Harper 1983; Taylor & McCann 1983; Trenhaile
1997; Byrne & Dionne 2002; Forbes & Hansom
2011). The circum-arctic distribution of the two
types of coasts is determined to some degree by
regional histories of Quaternary glaciation. The
unlithified substrates occur at the northern edge of
coastal lowlands, such as the Alaskan North Slope,
the Yukon Territory, NE European Russia west of
the Urals and Siberia (Fig. 1). Characteristic lithified
coasts, where ice sheets and glaciers may continue
to play an important role, occur in parts of Scandi-
navia, Svalbard, Greenland, the Canadian Archi-
pelago, Franz Josef Land, Novaya Zemlya and
Severnaya Zemlya (Fig. 1). The objective of this
From:Martini,I.P.&Wanless, H. R. (eds) Sedimentary Coastal Zones from High to Low Latitudes: Similarities and
Differences. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 388, http://dx.doi.org/10.1144/SP388.13
#The Geological Society of London 2014. Publishing disclaimer: www.geolsoc.org.uk/pub_ethics
at University of Durham on February 13, 2014http://sp.lyellcollection.org/Downloaded from
paper is to report on our current understanding of
processes shaping the morphologies of the arctic
coastal zone, with an emphasis on coastal sections
susceptible to erosion, since currently shifting driv-
ers of coastal change suggest that mass transport
processes are intensifying. By examining recent
studies categorized by region, we describe first-
order differences in the key processes acting in
each region.
Observations of coastal change
Rates of coastal change in the continental Arctic are
usually estimated using some combination of in situ
and remotely sensed observations, the latter being
necessary because of the large spatial scale and
remoteness of most of the coastal sections. Histori-
cal records of coastline position change in the Arctic
are relatively rare and past remote sensing measure-
ments are not generally supported by ground truth or
validation data at the same frequency of obser-
vation. The processes responsible for the observed
changes probably affect different coastlines at
different spatial and temporal scales and the mech-
anisms of these effects have not been studied in
detail. Changes in coastline position generally
result from the effects of multiple processes/
events, such as fall storms, high-water events and
summer ground thaw. Long-term (decadal) rates
are typically in the 12 m/yr range, but exceed
Fig. 1. Stereographic projection of the North Pole showing the circum-arctic coastline, regions and the continental shelf
seas. Red dots indicate western Siberian locations discussed in this paper.
P. P. OVERDUIN ET AL.
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20 m/yr at some locations (Are 1988a; Harper 1990;
Jorgensen & Brown 2005; Solomon 2005; Vasiliev
et al. 2005; Grigoriev et al. 2006; Jones et al.
2009b). Circum-polar coastline position change
rates and coastal zone characteristics were provided
by Lantuit et al. (2012a) in their description of the
Arctic Coastal Dynamics database. Regional and
larger scale change rates are shown on Figure 2.
Mean rates of coastline change for each of the
arctic seas indicate that erosion dominates over
accumulation with rates ranging between 0 and
1.1 m/yr, based on length-weighted means. The
highest mean rates are observed along the Beaufort
and East Siberian coasts, where bluffs of unlithified
and ice-rich material are exposed along most of the
coastline, and where cliff heights are comparatively
low. The lowest mean rates are observed in the
Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Greenland and Sval-
bard, whose coasts are dominated by lithified
material and lie further north. The Arctic Coastal
Dynamics database represents a snapshot of coast-
line position change at the beginning of the twenty-
first century. Determining the current trajectory and
rate of coastline position change is a socially and
biophysically relevant challenge for research along
the arctic coast.
Studies of the rate of coastline position change
based on field work and remote sensing data for con-
tinental coasts have been carried out in Siberia (Figs
3 & 4) and along the Beaufort Sea (Figs 3 & 5), on
both the Alaskan and Canadian sides of the border.
All studied sites are unlithified stretches, but differ
in geomorphology and ground composition (includ-
ing ice content and grain size). No studies have been
carried out on lithified coastlines. In Siberia, coastal
change records are available from several locations
in the Barents and Kara Seas (Vasiliev et al. 2005),
from the Bykovsky Peninsula in the Laptev Sea
(Lantuit et al. 2011) and from Oyogos Yar (the
mainland side of the Dmitry Laptev Strait connect-
ing the Laptev and the East Siberian seas; Are et al.
2005). Pizhankova & Dobrynina (2010) report
erosion rates from Bolshoy Lyakhovsky Island
between 3.2 and 5.3 m/yr depending on the eleva-
tion of ice-rich permafrost relative to sea-level.
The studies are mostly based on comparison of air-
borne and space-borne images obtained between
1947 and 2006. The spatial extent of the coastal
Fig. 2. Map of circum-arctic coastal erosion rates. For each of the arctic shelf seas (from right, clockwise: Greenland–
Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Beaufort, Chukchi, East Siberian, Laptev, Kara and Barents), mean coastal erosion,
ground ice content and cliff height are shown. Means are weighted by coastline segment length. (modified from Lantuit
et al. 2012a).
COASTAL CHANGES IN THE ARCTIC
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sections ranges from 1 km to more than 150 km.
Massive ice and ice wedges are distinct features
of the studied coastal cliffs reaching 550 m a.s.l.
at different locations. Lantuit et al. (2011) compare
meteorological data with coastline changes mea-
sured over 55 years along the coast of the Bykovsky
Peninsula, central Laptev Sea. They conclude that
coastline position change rates depend on the geo-
morphology landward of the waterline, and in par-
ticular on prior thermokarst activity and thus
indirectly on ground ice content. In that study, coast-
line position change rates do not show a long-term
trend or a dependence on storm frequency. In a
more recent study, Gu
¨nther et al. (2013a) compiled
a dataset of ortho-rectified historical and mod-
ern satellite imagery for long coastline segments
around Cape Mamontov Klyk, Buor Khaya Penin-
sula and the Oyogos Yar coast in the Laptev Sea
region. They also find varying spatial coastal ther-
mal erosion in connection with permafrost degra-
dation through thermokarst. In terms of temporal
variations, their study reveals that short-term rates
have more than doubled across all study sites to
5.3 m/yr on average over the past 2 years, compared
with the long-term average of 2.2 m/yr over the last
four decades. Based on long-term observations,
Vasiliev et al. (2006) find annual rates of erosion
of 0.8 – 2 m/yr at Marre Sale, Yamal Peninsula.
The temporal variation observed does not produce
a long-term trend, and variations are mainly attribu-
ted to differences in season length and the intensity
of erosion, rather than specific erosion events.
Gu
¨nther et al. (2013b) found a correlation between
mean daily temperature and coastal erosion rate
for a site in the central Laptev Sea that suggests
that coastal erosion rate increases 1.2 m/yr per
degree Celsius increase in mean positive summer
temperature, but the relative dependence of coastal
erosion on such environmental forcing still requires
further study.
Coastal changes along the Alaskan coast of the
Beaufort Sea have been studied since the beginn-
ing of the twentieth century. A review classifying
the coastline and estimating carbon and sediment
inputs is given by Jorgenson & Brown (2005). His-
toric annual mean retreat rates are between 0.7 and
2.4 m/yr depending on coastline type, for a total
shore length of 1957 km. However, methodology
and timing of observations at certain coastal seg-
ments have not been specified. Recent papers focus
on the Teshekpuk Lake area of the Alaskan Beaufort
Sea shore (60100 km shoreline length) using air-
borne photography from 1955, 1979, 2002 and
2007 (Jones et al. 2008, 2009a; Fig. 6). Along the
coast at Cape Halkett, annual erosion between
2007 and 2009 was almost twice as high as the long-
term mean, and reached 13.8 m/yr. The mechanism
of erosion there is block failure and probably the
result of a warmer sea surface and decreased sea
ice extent (Jones et al. 2009b; Overeem et al. 2011).
The same area (130 km shoreline length) was exam-
ined by Mars & Houseknecht (2007), who presented
calculated rates of land loss or gain using topo-
graphic maps from 1955 and space-borne images
from 1985 and 2005. Arp et al. (2010) observed
rates of up to 17.1 m/yr that were correlated nei-
ther to sea or land surface temperatures, nor to the
timing and intensity of storm events. Unlithified
ice-bonded coasts of the Beaufort Sea have been
studied in five regions of the Mackenzie Delta
region (Solomon 2005) and on Herschel Island
(Lantuit & Pollard 2008) for different time slices
between 1952 and 2000 using available air- and
space-borne imagery. The length of coastline ana-
lysed was 2000 km in the Mackenzie Delta region
and 32 km on Herschel Island. Massive ice and ice
Fig. 3. Legend for the interpretation of Figures 4 & 5. Erosion is defined as a negative coastline position change
(landward). The observation period is defined by black diamonds (initial and final coastline position observations), as
well as the mean observed erosion rate for the period. When available, the range of rates observed is given by the grey
rectangle; otherwise a black dashed line connects consecutive observations. The location of the study is given in the
upper left corner of each graph; further details on each study are provided in Table 1.
P. P. OVERDUIN ET AL.
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wedges are described as important components of
coastal cliffs whose heights vary from less than 2
to 50 m a.s.l.
For the studies of the rate of arctic coastline pos-
ition change listed above, the spatial resolution
varies greatly, from point to kilometre scale, and
the temporal resolution is decadal, with 2 57
years between observations. Spatially, the available
Fig. 5. Observed coastline position change rates at
North American study sites. For legend see Figure 3.
Fig. 4. Observed coastline position change rates at
Siberian study sites. For legend see Figure 3.
COASTAL CHANGES IN THE ARCTIC
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Table 1. Studies on coastline position change rate in the Arctic shown in Figures 4 & 5
Location Arctic shelf sea Region Observational
method(s)
Coastal section
length (km)
References
Eurasia
Cape Bolvansky Barents BM 1 Vasiliev et al. (2005)
Kolguev Island Barents AI, DGPS NA Vasiliev et al. (2005)
Marre– Sale Kara West Siberia AI, BM, DGPS, LT 3.5 Vasiliev et al. (2005)
Cape Shpindler Kara West Siberia AI, LT 2 Vasiliev et al. (2005)
Laptev Sea region Laptev Northeastern Siberia AI, BM, LT, SI 249 Gu
¨nther et al. (2013a)
Muostakh Island Laptev Northeastern Siberia AI, BM, LT, SI 1 Grigoriev et al. (2009)
Bykovsky Peninsula Laptev Northeastern Siberia AI, SI 150 Lantuit et al. (2011)
Oyogos Yar Coast East Siberian Northeastern Siberia AI 1.6 Are et al. (2005)
Bol’shoy Lyakhovsky Island East Siberian Northeastern Siberia AI, SI 158 Pizhankova &
Dobrynina (2010)
Malyi Lyakhvsky Island (NE of
Bol’shoy Lyakhovsky)
East Siberian Northeastern Siberia AI, SI 26 Pizhankova &
Dobrynina (2010)
North America
Herschel Island Beaufort Yukon Territory, Canada AI, SI 32 Lantuit & Pollard
(2008)
Outer Mackenzie Delta Beaufort Northwest Territories, Canada AI .2000 Solomon (2005)
East Richards Island (Mackenzie Delta) Beaufort Northwest Territories, Canada AI .2000 Solomon (2005)
West Richards Island (Mackenzie Delta) Beaufort Northwest Territories, Canada AI .2000 Solomon (2005)
Outer Islands (Mackenzie Delta) Beaufort Northwest Territories, Canada AI .2000 Solomon (2005)
Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula Beaufort Northwest Territories, Canada AI .2000 Solomon (2005)
Mainland coast Beaufort Alaska AI, SI 12 Jones et al. (2009b)
Mainland coast Beaufort Alaska AI, SI 1957 Ping et al. (2011)
AI, Air-borne imagery; BM, bench marks; DGPS, Differential Global Positioning System; LT, laser theodolite; NA, unknown; SI, space-borne imagery.
P. P. OVERDUIN ET AL.
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studies do not represent the circum-polar arctic
coastline well, since the wide-scale ones derive
mostly from the Beaufort Sea, and only individual
sites are studied in the Barents Sea and each of the
three Siberian seas (Kara, Laptev and East Siberian;
Fig. 1). All coastal sections are composed of unlithi-
fied materials, with no studies carried out along
lithified coast. Coastal cliff height varies from less
than 2 m (such as for much of the Beaufort Sea
coast) to over 50 m, and the ground is generally
very ice-rich and includes massive ice and ice
wedges. As a group, the sites are skewed towards
coastlines composed of recently accumulated sedi-
ments highly affected by periglacial processes.
Understanding how these processes affect coastal
response to environmental change at different
spatial scales requires further research. Some of
the studies report no statistically significant coast-
line change between decadal averages since the
1970s (Solomon 2005), whereas others report a
cyclic pattern that may be attributable to regional
or global climate oscillations (Vasiliev et al.
2005). Some recent papers have reported significant
rapid or at least short-term increases in erosion (for
example, almost doubling of the erosion rate over
about a 40 year time-frame; Mars & Houseknecht
2007; Grigoriev et al. 2009; Jones et al. 2009b;
Gu
¨nther et al. 2013a,b). Solomon & Covill (1995)
describe the impact of a severe event at several sites
along the Canadian Beaufort Sea coast. Higher
recent erosion rates may be attributable to increases
in the frequency and severity of storms (Brown et al.
2003), or simply to more effective storms owing to
changing fetch, combined with declining sea ice and
increases in sea-level and sea-surface temperature
(Jones et al. 2009a), or to increases in air tempera-
ture (Gu
¨nther et al. 2013b).
Processes unique to arctic coastal dynamics
The unlithified arctic coast includes sections with
predominantly fine-grained and ice-rich sediments.
Such ice-bonded sediments characterize 65%
of the open coast facing the Arctic Ocean (Lantuit
et al. 2012a) and smaller proportions of other coasts
in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Hudson Bay,
Labrador, Greenland and elsewhere. Ground ice
distribution is highly variable, primarily depending
on the regional environmental history and its
impact on permafrost formation. Where the land
surface was not glaciated, conditions were colder
and led to the formation of cold and thick perma-
frost. In regions with a strongly continental climate
Fig. 6. Sites discussed along the Alaskan and Canadian Beaufort Sea coast.
COASTAL CHANGES IN THE ARCTIC
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and suitable substrate, thermal (frost) contraction
cracking and annual melt water produced large
volumes of ground ice in the form of ice wedges.
The most significant of these regions lies across
central and eastern Siberia. It is composed of
Upper Pleistocene polygenetic, organic-rich and
ice supersaturated silty deposits (Schirrmeister
et al. 2011) and is usually referred to by the strati-
graphic designation ice complex (or Yedoma).
Where the land was glaciated, large bodies of
ground ice may also occur, although less exten-
sively, as in the terminal morainic deposits located
at the edge of the glacial limit on Herschel Island
(Fig. 6; Fritz et al. 2011). The presence of ice-
bonded permafrost in coastal deposits lends them a
transient strength, but renders the coast susceptible
to erosion and redistribution upon thawing (Are
et al. 2008). Previous studies have sought a corre-
lation between coastal retreat rates and ground ice
content (He
´quette & Barnes 1990; Kobayashi et al.
1999); they suggest that the presence of ground ice
can enhance coastal erosion, but find at best weak
correlations between the two, probably owing to
the paucity of data and their limited time range.
Other studies have suggested that consequences of
ground ice melt in the coastal zone, such as thermo-
karst features, render the coast more susceptible to
erosion (Lantuit & Pollard 2008). The distribution
of ice in the subsurface also influences the size, mor-
phology and distribution of coastal geomorphic fea-
tures. Thus, the identification and classification of
ice types (ice wedge, segregated and pore ice) and
cryotexture provide useful information for under-
standing coastal dynamics since they are related to
the morphology of the coastal bluff and affect the
processes that occur there.
A distinction has been made by Are (1988a,b)
between the combined mechanical and thermal
action of waves at the waterline (thermal abrasion)
and the erosive action of a positive energy balance at
the coastal cliff face (thermal denudation). Ther-
mal abrasion is accompanied by undercutting of
coastal bluffs, with subsequent block failure, creat-
ing steep walls and sharp breaks at the water level
propagating inland (Fig. 7a, b). Thermal denudation
encompasses the suite of erosional activity that is
triggered by permafrost thaw on coastal bluffs and
further proceeds under gravity, leading to landslides
and subsidence. Thermal abrasion and thermal
denudation are the most dynamic and strongly inter-
acting processes on permafrost coasts and together
they are referred to as thermal erosion, a term
which bundles the effects of wave abrasion, sedi-
ment transport along and across the shoreface, the
formation of thermo-terraces (Fig. 7a), landward
thawing of the coastal bluff and water-borne trans-
port of material from the bluff towards the beach
owing to melting of ground ice (Fig. 7b).
Depending on permafrost genesis, the distri-
bution of ground ice in unconsolidated sediments
varies widely. Ground ice that was initially formed
under subaerial conditions can form large pure
ground ice bodies, which are often in marked con-
trast to ice-poor material above and below. When
thaw is initiated along coastal sections of this type,
it results in the formation of large C-shaped failures
with distinct upslope headwalls called retrogres-
sive thaw slumps, or thermo-cirques (Liebman
et al. 2008). In contrast, although similar in outer
appearance to thaw slumps, distinct thermo-terraces
form in permafrost deposits where thick ice wedges
account for a large fraction of ground ice. The sur-
faces of such thermo-terraces are inclined towards
the shoreline and develop where thermal denudation
exceeds abrasion. Both thaw slumps and thermo-
terraces become stable features when enough
thawed sediment is deposited to exceed the depth
of seasonal thaw (the active layer), which then
protects ground ice below from thawing. A deepen-
ing of the active layer will result in the thaw of the
underlying ice-rich deposits, reactivating retreat of
the cliff in both downward and inland directions
(Fig. 7c). The landward retreat of the thermal-
abrasional cliff can result in a slope having several
thermo-terraces and retrogressive thaw slumps at
different elevations, and perhaps representing suc-
cessive episodes of relatively more intense ther-
mal denudation (Are et al. 2005; Lantuit et al.
2012b). Even during active coastline retreat, the
step-like structure of thermo-terraces may persist
over decades. Thermo-terraces rarely form if the
ice complex is less than 25 m a.s.l., but the step-like
structure of thermo-terraces is almost always
observed for higher coastlines (Grigoriev 2008).
As along temperate coasts, waves, currents and
water levels are major forcing parameters of ero-
sion. Accumulative features (such as spits and bar-
riers) are also common along many arctic coasts
and represent the reworking of sediments along
the shoreline. In the Arctic, however, other factors
contribute to coastal processes, including sea sur-
face temperature and salinity, ice-pushed ridges,
ice thaw kettles and sediment transport by sea ice.
These processes are driven by marine conditions
and are not unique to either lithified or unlithifed
coasts. In contrast to temperate and tropical coasts,
coastal dynamics in the Arctic are generally lim-
ited to the short summer ice-free season of a
few months’ duration. Under the rapid climatic
changes currently observed in the Arctic, early and
more rapid sea ice retreat in the spring and later
annual freeze-up are now resulting in longer open
water seasons and coastal dynamics are conse-
quently changing (St-Hilaire-Gravel et al. 2010;
Forbes & Hansom 2011). How sea ice and other
changing drivers (storm frequency and distribution,
P. P. OVERDUIN ET AL.
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air and water temperatures) shift coastal dynamics
is the object of considerable study, and can be
expected to vary at different spatial and temporal
scales, depending on coastal morphology and inter-
actions between land and sea.
Regional analysis of processes in the
Arctic Coastal Zone
Eastern Siberian coasts
The coastal processes of the Laptev and the East
Siberian seas have attracted scientific interest for
more than 100 years, while studies of the coastal
dynamics of the eastern Chukchi Sea coast are few.
Eroding ice-rich cliffs and land loss are widespread
along the coasts of all three seas; however, there
is limited understanding of the nature of coastal
morphogenesis in this vast region. Grigoriev et al.
(2006) conclude that less than 4% of the coastline
and around 12% of ice complex and thermokarst
affected coasts have been studied (Are 1988a,b;
Grigoriev et al. 2003, 2009; Overduin et al. 2007;
Grigoriev 2008; Pizhankova & Dobrynina 2010).
The development of permafrost over geological
time scales, the degree of regional differences in
ground ice contents and the associated permafrost
degradation, local geomorphology of coastal cliffs
and along-shore sediment dynamics, and isostatic
adjustment create a suite of endogenous param-
eters that strongly influence coastal geomorpho-
dynamics, particularly along the Laptev and East
Siberian Sea coastlines (Fig. 8). The two seas
are connected by the Dmitry Laptev Strait, which
separates the New Siberian Archipelago from the
mainland.
In the coastal lowlands continuous permafrost
extends as deep as 700 m (Romanovskii & Hub-
berten 2000). Epigenetic permafrost (frozen long
after deposition) comprises ice-poor bedrock and
ice-poor upper Quaternary sediments. When not
exposed at the coast, it almost always underlies
ice-rich syngenetic (frozen during or shortly after
deposition) upper Quaternary sediments. The total
thickness of the latter rarely exceeds 50 m and
is subject to active thermal erosion. Syngenetic
upper Quaternary permafrost exposed at the coast
of the Siberian seas often encompasses several stra-
tigraphic horizons with differing lithology and
varying ice content. The most impressive and wide-
spread relief-forming sequences are ice-rich ice
complex deposits, and thermokarst deposits (Schirr-
meister et al. 2011), which are generally lower in ice
content (3050%; Kholodov et al. 2003). The latter
are generally composed of epigenetic Holocene
lacustrine and overlying syngenetic polygon sedi-
ments (Wetterich et al. 2009).
Laptev Sea coast
Along the Laptev Sea coast, significant portions of
ice complex and thermokarst depressions are dis-
tributed over about 25% of the coastline, mostly
around Cape Mamontov Klyk in the western part,
in the Lena Delta and on the Buor Khaya and Shir-
okostan peninsulas in the southern and eastern parts.
Ice complex bluffs reach heights between 10 and
40 m a.s.l., whereas the bluffs of thermokarst
depressions are lower, between 1 and 12 m a.s.l.
(Novikov 1981; Are 1985). The striking feature of
the ice complex bluffs is the presence of large ice
wedges up to 50 m deep and 8 m wide, spaced at
around 15 m intervals, which form polygonal ice
wedge networks which can extend below current
sea-level. The overall volumetric ice content of
the ice complex (including ice wedges and other
ground ice) is generally between 40 and 85%
(Kunitsky 1989). The high ice content of high-
elevation coastal bluffs makes them susceptible to
thermal erosion and can lead to the formation of
thermo-terraces. More recent Holocene thermo-
karst depressions are characterized by lower cliff
heights, and polygon systems with a larger spacing
and smaller ice wedges. Lens-like, reticulate and
banded cryostructures (the spatial distribution of
ice in the sediment) are well developed in the sedi-
ment between ice wedges and contribute to the total
ice content, which is generally lower than that of the
ice complex. Thermo-terraces do not form in ther-
mokarst deposits, where thermal denudation and
abrasion are strongly coupled because of low cliff
heights (Gu
¨nther et al. 2013a). Block failure, the
mechanical result of intense thermal abrasion
(Hoque & Pollard 2009), is the prevailing erosion
type (Fig. 7b). Owing to the polygonal network,
the coastal slope is often characterized by thermo-
karst mounds (in Russian: baydzharakhs), which
are the remnants of polygon centres that remain
when the intervening ice wedges have thawed and
relief inversion results (Fig. 7d).
In addition to these ice-rich sedimentary depos-
its, about 22% of the Laptev Sea coast is rocky (lithi-
fied, Fig. 9). The westernmost part of the Laptev Sea
coast (including the Taimyr Peninsula and the
Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago) is characterized
by bedrock, as well as by outcrops between the
Lena Delta and Buor Khaya Peninsula and on the
New Siberian Archipelago. The permafrost is of
epigenetic origin, with ice-filled cracks (Grigoriev
et al. 2009). Syngenetic sediments deposited by
slope and alluvial processes are sparsely distributed
in flat areas between drainage channels and cover
bedrock sections in some places. Rocky coasts are
assumed to be immune to wave action when
compared with the erosion rates typical for unlithi-
fied coastlines in the region, delivering minor
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amounts of material to the sea mainly through phys-
ical weathering on bedrock outcrops (Are et al.
2002).
East Siberian Sea coast
Regional differences in the degree of permafrost
degradation are assumed to be connected with
spatial variations in neotectonic subsidence and
uplift (Gavrilov et al. 2006). Generally, coastal
morphology in the East Siberian Arctic develops
in the context of larger-scale glacial isostatic adjust-
ment. Whereas the Ob and Yenissei rivers west of
Taimyr terminate in large estuaries, East Siberian
rivers and those in the adjacent Laptev Sea end in
marine deltas (e.g. the Olenyok, Lena, Yana and
Kolyma Rivers; Figs 1 & 8). The transition zone
between these two main river mouth types (estuary
and delta) occurs in the western Laptev Sea (White-
house et al. 2007).
Fig. 7. (a) Wave action has undercut ice-rich deposits along the Yukon coast (image credit: N. Couture, August 2008).
(b) Aerial view of block failure along the Yukon coastline (image credit: N. Couture, August 2008). (c) Eroding
Holocene thermokarst depression at the southern coast of Bol’shoy Lyakhovsky Island (New Siberian Archipelago,
Dmitry Laptev Strait; image credit: S. Wetterich, July 2007). (d) Eroding late Pleistocene ice complex on Kurungnakh
Island (Lena Delta, Central Laptev Sea). The ice complex tundra is ice-rich (.50% by volume). Melting of ground ice
along the coastal cliff, mostly from ice wedge ice, leaves polygon centres exposed as isolated thermokarst mounds
(called baydzharakhs in Russian; image credit: S. Zubrzycki, July 2008).
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The coastal zone of the East Siberian Sea is
quite similar in morphology and geology to the
Laptev Sea coast. Coastal lowlands shape the west-
ern and central parts, where ice complex deposits
exist as isolated upland remnants surrounded by
a palimpsest of successive generations of thermo-
karst depressions in which degradation has comple-
tely reworked the initial ice complex surface. The
presence of ice complex deposits or thermokarst
depressions at the coastline affects the morphology
and dynamics of coastal change. For example,
north of the Dmitry Laptev Strait, 35% of the
coasts of the New Siberian Archipelago (about
1200 km) have ice complex exposed in the coastal
bluff (Arkhangelov et al. 1989; Fig. 8). Thermo-
terraces up to 160 m wide form along 70% of the
eroding ice complex coasts of Bolshoy Lyakhovsky
Island (Pizhankova 2011). Thermo-terrace develop-
ment is probably enhanced by typically higher ice
contents of up to 8590% (volumetrically) in the
uppermost parts of the coastal section where ice
wedges are 68 m wide and 9 13 m apart (Tomir-
diaro & Chernen’kii 1987; Fartyshev 1993). Holo-
cene thermokarst depressions are found along
320 km of the New Siberian Archipelago coast,
while the rest of the coast is composed of sand and
pebble Holocene accumulation terraces 24 m
high with low volumetric ice contents (18 25%).
Fig. 7. Continued
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Adjacent uplifted areas around Cape Kigilyakh
remain stable (Pizhankova & Dobrynina 2010).
In contrast, along the eastern portion of the East
Siberian coast, sediment provenance plays a more
important role regionally in controlling coastal
dynamics than do permafrost genesis or degrada-
tion (Fig. 8). The coast east of Cape Shelagskogo
is dominated by low-altitude highlands of the
Cherskii Mountains and characterized by bedrock,
except for some ice complex sections of Chauns-
kaya Bay in Chukotka. Accumulative coasts are
common between the Kolyma River mouth and
Ayon Island. Coastal sections near the mouths of
small rivers are probably recent deposits of sand
and gravel accumulation with low ice content. In
places, bedrock forms resistant coastal sections.
Beaufort Sea coast
The Beaufort Sea coastline is about 9000 km long
(Lantuit et al. 2012a) and straddles the USCana-
dian border, extending from the Chukchi Sea in
the west to the Canadian Archipelago in the east
(Figs 1 & 6). Along the Canadian Beaufort Sea
coast, the impacts of sea ice, storms and relative
sea-level (RSL) have been assessed in papers
by He
´quette & Ruz (1986, 1990), He
´quette &
Barnes (1990), Harper (1990), He
´quette (1992)
and Solomon (2005), among others. The literature
for this region from the 1990s and 2000s underlines
the level of research activity prompted by indus-
trial projects and the high rates of erosion in
this region. In the Beaufort Sea, processes are domi-
nated by high-energy, low-frequency events owing
to extensive sea-ice cover for most of the year
(Harper 1990). Despite low mean annual wave
energy, the BeaufortMackenzie coast is domi-
nated by erosional landforms and their depositional
products (Harper 1990). The widespread retreat of
coastal cliffs and sandy spits and barrier islands of
the Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula is partly attributed to
the Holocene relative sea-level rise (He
´quette
et al. 1995). The low crest elevation of most spits
and barriers facilitates the landward retreat of
these landforms through storm-induced overwash
processes. During the mid-Holocene, high rates
of RSL rise were conducive to the preservation
of breached-lake basins and possibly back-barrier
deposits in the nearshore. Work by He
´quette &
Barnes (1990) underlines the role of sea-ice
Fig. 8. Locations of settlements (squares) and coastal study sites in the Laptev, East Siberian and western Chuckchi
seas, a continental shelf region often referred to as the Eastern Siberian Arctic Shelf.
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processes, including ice gouging, ice pile-up and
ice-enhanced current scour, as significant contrib-
utors to rapid coastal erosion in the Beaufort
Sea. Conversely, Harper (1990) suggests ice push
processes as a potential transport mechanism for
moving sediment onto the barrier islands of the
Canadian Beaufort Sea coast.
More recently, the large-scale spatial and tem-
poral variability of the western Canadian Arctic
coast was analysed by Solomon (2005) and Lantuit
& Pollard (2008) using remote sensing imagery and
in situ measurements. These studies show more
severe coastal erosion in the western part of the
region, especially at sites exposed to northwestern
winds and associated waves, and less severe ero-
sion to the east. The east to west gradient in coastal
erosion is influenced by coastal morphology, gradi-
ents in rate and direction of RSL change, and sea-
ice and storm climates (Manson & Solomon 2007).
On the Alaskan side, the coastal zone is located in
the unglaciated Beringia area and is characterized
by the widespread presence of barrier islands pro-
tecting low ice-rich cliffs (Short 1979). Where the
coastline is not barred by sedimentary features it
erodes quickly: the low elevation and the ice-rich
nature of the permafrost coastline between Drew
Point and Cape Halkett in Alaska (Fig. 6) make it
the stretch with the highest reported rates of ero-
sion in the circum-arctic.
Archipelagos of the High Arctic
Compared with recent research advances obtained
along ice-rich permafrost sections of the Alaskan,
Canadian and Siberian coastlines, less work has
been done on the coastal environments of high
arctic archipelagos including Svalbard, Novaya
Zemlya, Franz Joseph Land, the Canadian Arctic
Archipelago and Greenland. To a large degree this
lack of information reflects the challenges of col-
lecting field observations in high arctic settings,
under harsh weather conditions, with a prolonged
sea-ice cover and protracted periods of winter
darkness. Probably the most important feature dis-
tinguishing these environments is the strong and
combined imprint of previous continental gla-
ciations and modern glacial activity on coastal
morphodynamics, which classifies these coasts as
paraglacial. Forbes & Syvitski (1994, p. 376)
define paraglacial coasts as ‘those on or adjacent
Fig. 9. A classification of the Laptev and East Siberian sea coastlines based on whether sediments in the coastal bluff
are lithified or unlithified. Sections shown are taken from the Arctic Coastal Dynamics circum-polar coastal
typology database.
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to formerly ice-covered terrain, where glacially
excavated landforms or glacigenic sediments have
a recognizable influence on the character and evol-
ution of the coast and nearshore deposits’. The
formation of paraglacial coasts is strongly linked
with the retreat of glaciers followed by the trans-
formation of the deglaciated landscape by fluvial,
slope and aeolian processes that lead to intensified
sediment transport to the coastal zone (Ballantyne
2002). Owing to the cold climate conditions con-
trolling landscape evolution, paraglacial processes
are dominated by intense frost activity and perma-
frost related processes (French 2007; Slaymaker
2011).
In contrast to arctic coastal lowlands, which
developed under periglacial conditions between
the Fennoscandian and Laurentian Ice Sheets (Hill
et al. 1994) and are usually composed of fine-
grained deposits, glaciated coasts are characterized
by an abundance of coarse-grained glacigenic sedi-
ments as well as by relatively high relief in the form
of steep-walled fjords and narrow straits sculpted by
ice-streams, fast-moving ice that drains the ice
sheet. Owing to their topography, such coastlines
are often protected from long-fetches and wave
activity. The comparative lack of protection from
waves and resultant exposure to storms may par-
tially explain the higher rates of coastal erosion
along mainland coastlines. As noted by Stravers
et al. (1991), fjord systems act as traps for sediments
delivered from coastal erosion, tide-water glaciers
or other terrestrial sources.
Postglacial rebound and associated relative
sea-level changes are more pronounced for most
paraglacial sites, and may either limit or facili-
tate access to terrestrial and submarine glacigenic
sediment sources (Syvitski & Andrews 1994;
Whitehouse et al. 2007). RSL change research is
inherently linked with studies of raised beaches
that are a product of glacial unloading and isostatic
rebound following the decay of ice sheets. There-
fore, the reconstruction of the pattern of postglacial
emergence of beaches is crucial to assess the dis-
tribution of former ice-sheets, calculating past ice
volumes and deciphering deglaciation histories
(Forman et al. 2004). The geomorphology and sedi-
mentology of raised beaches also contain valua-
ble information about glacio-isostatic adjustment
Fig. 10. Map showing the locations of Svalbard sites discussed in this paper. The town of Longyearbyen is indicated
with a square; the Brøggerhalvøya Peninsula, the site of the Ny A
˚lesund science station, is indicated by a circle.
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(Rasch et al. 1997), sea-ice extent, storminess and
changes in sediment supply. In the context of the
above-mentioned climatic, oceanographic and geo-
logical controls on coastal evolution, we synthesize
the most recent research in this field, focussing on
three representative regions: Svalbard, Greenland
and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.
Svalbard
Owing to its location at the boundary between
oceanic and climatic fronts, shifts in North Atlantic
atmospheric pressure and ocean currents affect
the Svalbard Archipelago, making it a key area to
study the sensitivity of the paraglacial coastal
environment to past and on-going climatic change
(Majewski et al. 2009; Figs 1 & 10). During the
twentieth century the landscape of Svalbard, includ-
ing the coast, became increasingly affected by
paraglacial erosion rather than erosion by glacial
processes (Mercier 2000). This shift has been
associated with the rapid retreat of glaciers since
the termination of the Little Ice Age (LIA) around
1900 AD (Szczucin
´ski et al. 2009). This recent
deglaciation exposed glacier forelands and valley
slopes and provided favourable conditions for para-
glacial metamorphosis of glacigenic landforms
(Lønne & Lysa
˚2005; Etienne et al. 2008; Ewer-
towski et al. 2012; Fig. 11). In several fjords, the
climate-driven transformation of glacier sys-
tems from the marine-terminated to the land-
terminated type has led to the formation of entirely
new coastlines composed of unstable glacigenic
sediments prone to abrupt modification by marine
processes (Zago
´rski et al. 2012). A study by Mercier
& Laffly (2005) on Brøggerhalvøya focused on the
strong relationship between paraglacial sediment
supply and coastal zone change. They documented
about 90 m of coastal progradation between 1966
and 1995 and associated it with a period of uninter-
rupted glaciofluvial sediment delivery from the
retreating Midre and Austre Love
´nbreen glaciers.
On the other hand, their analysis of shoreline
changes showed that, in coastal sections where
glaciofluvial sediment delivery was reduced, the
shoreline receded.
Based on observations of coastal change in the
Bellsund region, Zago
´rski et al. (2012) developed
Fig. 11. Examples of high arctic paraglacial coasts on Svalbard. (a) Prograding tidal flat and gravel-dominated barriers
that are supplied with glacigenic sediments from proglacial zones exposed after the post-Little Ice Age retreatof glaciers
in Petuniabukta, central Spitsbergen. (b) Recently deglaciated rocky shoreline in central Spitsbergen (image credit:
M. Strzelecki, 2008).
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the concept of direct and indirect glacial influences
on coastal evolution and distinguished coasts that
formed after the retreat of tide-water glaciers from
coasts that formed owing to intensification of sedi-
ment delivery from valley-glacier systems (Fig.
11). Material derived from wave erosion of glaci-
genic landforms is currently being deposited along-
shore in the form of narrow, gravel-dominated
barriers. These new coastal lowlands are fairly
quickly colonized by tundra vegetation that, as
noted by Ziaja et al. (2009, 2011), provides new
breeding and nesting areas for polar and migratory
fauna, potentially increasing the local biodiversity
and shifting the function of the coastal environ-
ment. It is likely that the longer open-water season
associated with sea-ice cover reduction (A
˚kerman
Fig. 12. Examples of rocky coasts from central Spitsbergen representing characteristic geomorphic features.
(a) Anhydrite cliffs and platforms formed in micro-tidal fjord. (b) Relict, bouldery (fractured limestone) shore platform
cut off from wave action owing to progradation of tidal flat. (c) Bouldery coast with erratics deposited by glaciers during
last deglaciation. (d) Weathered limestone cliffs exposed to the combined action of sea ice and waves (image credit:
M. Strzelecki, summer 2009).
COASTAL CHANGES IN THE ARCTIC
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2008; Day et al. 2012) will not only intensify coastal
erosion of unprotected shores but also destabilize
thawing permafrost and flood coastal lowlands
behind the high and wide storm ridges blocking
stream outlets.
The majority of the studies describing changes
to the coastal zone by transformation of the paragla-
cial landscape were located in the western and
southern parts of Spitsbergen; these regions were
therefore directly influenced by the West Spits-
bergen Current and exposed to storm waves that
developed in the Greenland and Barents seas. Little
is known, on the other hand, about the coastal zone
of the inner fjord environments of Spitsbergen,
which are characterized by sheltered locations, pro-
longed sea-ice cover, low tidal ranges and ephemeral
pulses of sediment delivery from landforms devel-
oping in a semi-arid, polar desert climate (Fig. 11).
The evolution of these coasts is strongly dependent
on sediment delivery from talus slopes and snow-
fed mountain streams that form coarse-grained
alluvial fan deltas (Mo
¨ller et al. 1995; Lønne &
Nemec 2004). This is in marked contrast to the
glacier-dominated systems of the western coast.
Approximately 35% of arctic coastlines are
rock-dominated (lithified). Coastal dynamics for
these coasts are orders of magnitude lower than
for unlithified coasts and have received compara-
tively little study. Jahn (1961) observed annual
limestone cliff retreat at Veslebogen in Hornsund
(SW Spitsbergen, Figs 10 & 12) that ranged between
0.025 and 0.05 m/yr. It led him to conclude that
frost weathering in the coastal zone is much more
intensive than in non-coastal settings. Dionne &
Brodeur (1988) pointed out that frost weathering
and shore ice dynamics may not be most effective
in arctic regions, but that they probably play a role
in shore platform formation. Wangensteen et al.
(2007) noted the severity of cryogenic weathering
along arctic shorelines in comparison with rates
observed on inland rock surfaces. Their analysis
used digital photogrammetry to identify cliff retreat
in Kongsfjorden, where bedrock is dolomitic lime-
stone of Middle Carboniferous to Early Permian
age, at rates of 0.00270.0031 m/yr. Cliff temper-
ature investigations in Kongsfjorden and Liefdef-
jorden (northern Spitsbergen) have highlighted
the duration of snow insulation, frequent subzero
temperature oscillations and the formation of segre-
gation ice in rock cracks as critical controls on rock
disintegration in arctic coastal settings (Ødega
˚rd &
Sollid 1993; Ødega
˚rd et al. 1995). This research
reinforced the views of others (such as Sunamura
1992) that heat and moisture transfers strongly
influence the rates of rock wall retreat, and that
coastal effects involving freeze thaw dry wet
cycles can greatly amplify rock weathering. Strze-
lecki (2011) used Schmidt hammer rock tests
across a recently deglaciated rocky coastal zone
in central Spitsbergen to demonstrate the reduction
of rock resistance with decreasing distance from
the present day shoreline.
Greenland
Although Greenland plays a key role in the debate
on the impacts of global warming and sea-level
change (Long 2009), research on the adjustment of
its coastal zone to ongoing environmental change
is very limited. In recent years, though, studies
along Greenland coasts have resulted in advances.
These include reconstructions of RSL based on sedi-
mentary records (Long et al. 2011) and salt marshes
(Woodroffe & Long 2009, 2010).
Morphosedimentological investigations of up-
lifted and modern beach ridges in NW Greenland
allowed Mason (2010) to reconstruct shifts in cli-
matic conditions and associated sediment fluxes
to the coast throughout the Holocene (Fig. 13). In
NE Greenland Funder et al. (2011) reconstructed a
history of sea-ice cover variability in the Arctic
Ocean over the past 10 000 years using beach
ridges as indicators of seasonally open water con-
ditions and accumulations and the provenance of
driftwood as an indicator of multiyear sea ice and
its travel pattern. Similar reconstructions have
used transitions between marine and lacustrine sedi-
ments in lakes (Bennike et al. 2011).
One of the first geomorphologic studies on the
interaction between glacier systems and coastal
evolution was carried out in western Greenland
by Nielsen (1992), who described the rapid trans-
formation of a lateral moraine into a barrier spit
after the post-Little Ice Age (LIA) retreat of
Equip Sermia glacier. His work also emphasized
the important role of waves induced by iceberg
roll events in overwashing and reshaping Green-
land coastal barriers and leading to the formation
of characteristic boulder barricades, morainic
deposits that function as barrier spits or islands.
The relationship between decaying glaciers and
the formation of new coastal landforms was
further explored in Sermilik Fjord (SE Greenland),
where Nielsen (1994) studied the post-Little Ice
Age development of a delta system. In the last
century Sermilik Delta experienced a sequence of
changes, including a phase of rapid aggradation
after the retreat of Mitdluagkat glacier and, most
recently, a phase of erosion by waves and currents
under rising sea-level conditions. Kroon et al.
(2011) provided benchmark data on Greenlandic
coastal change with their study of the recent evol-
ution of delta systems in Zackenberg Bay and Ser-
milik Fjord over the 1987 2009 period. Both sites
respond to climate warming and the twentieth-
century glacial retreat (Pedersen et al. 2013).
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Landslide-induced waves in recently deglaciated
fjords and straits of West Greenland have been
recently studied. A combination of tectonic activ-
ity, thawing permafrost, glacier retreat and steep
slopes covered with unlithified sediments contrib-
utes to high landslide risk in the region. Rockfalls,
landslides or rock avalanches that reach the coast
may generate significant waves. The most recent
landslide-triggered event in Vaigat (Disko Bay
region, Fig. 13) occurred on 21 November 2000.
Dahl-Jensen et al. (2004) described a landslide at
Paatuut where the escarpment at the head of the
slide reached about 1400 m a.s.l. and delivered
about 30 million m
3
of sediment into the sea. In
the abandoned coal mine town of Qullissat, loca-
ted about 20 km from the landslide, many build-
ings were destroyed by the resulting wave, which
reached up to 30 m in elevation. Analysis of
aerial photographs and geomorphologic mapping
allowed Dahl-Jensen et al. (2004) to infer 17 land-
slide events in the Disko Bay region in the last
3000 years. Their study suggested that at least four
landslides had the potential to generate waves,
with a suggested recurrence interval of 500 1000
years. A second potential source of waves in Green-
land is provided by iceberg roll and large calving
events. For instance, Jakobshavns Glacier (west
Greenland) continuously discharges large volumes
of icebergs that generate waves by iceberg roll,
with amplitudes of around 2 m in deep water
(Amundson et al. 2008). However, while shoaling,
the waves become shorter and their amplitude
increases, causing local inundation of nearshore
areas.
Canadian Arctic Archipelago
A few coastal studies have focused on coastal
dynamics in the central and eastern Canadian Arc-
tic Archipelago (CAA; Fig. 13). General descrip-
tions of the physical environments of the coasts of
the CAA are presented by Shaw et al. (1998) and
Pollard (2010). Sempels (1982) and McLaren &
Barrie (1985) provide inventories and classifications
of coastal landforms of the eastern CAA without
reference to processes. Owens & McCann (1970)
and Taylor & McCann (1983) investigated the
role of ice in coastal environments of the central
and eastern CAA, placing an emphasis on typical
coastal landforms associated with sea ice proces-
ses, such as ridges, mounds and scours. McCann
(1973) and Taylor (1978) described the impacts of
Fig. 13. Map showing the locations of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (CAA) and Greenland sites discussed in
this paper.
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storms on the gravel coasts of the central CAA.
They suggest that morphological changes as a
result of storms are minimal, in both scope and fre-
quency. A study of storm impacts on the mixed sand
and gravel beaches of Bylot Island, eastern CAA
(Fig. 13), shows that both the magnitude of waves
and the character and extent of nearshore ice are
critical factors in the change in coastal morphology
during storms (Taylor 1981). Recent work on
modern coastal processes on Cornwallis Island
shows that gravel beaches of the Resolute area
appear to be quite resilient in the face of storms
recurring at intervals of 110 years (St-Hilaire-
Gravel et al. 2012). The coastal impacts of storms
observed in their study were found to be short-lived
and sometimes different from longer-term trends.
Fig. 14. Cross-shore profiles (left column) representative of the modern and relict raised beaches at (a) Griffith Island,
(b) Lowther Island and (c) Resolute. Note the change in scale between graphs. The approximate location of the profiles
is shown on the respective oblique aerial photograph (right column): SW corner of Griffith Island looking south (top),
east coast of Lowther Island looking north (middle), Sight Point, Resolute area, looking NE (image credits: top and
middle photos, Dominique St-Hilaire-Gravel; bottom photo, Resolute area, 7484037N and 9485605W, Google Earth
imagery, date 3 August 2011 accessed on 7 December 2012).
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However, the limits of stability under changing sea-
levels, increasing open water and potentially more
frequent or severe storms in this high-latitude
setting remain unknown. In modelling the response
of rock coasts to future climate changes Trenhaile
(2011) demonstrated that future higher sea-levels
Fig. 15. Cross-shore profile of seaward-rising beach-ridge crest heights at Cape Charles Yorke (top). The location
of the cross-shore profile is represented by a black line on the 2009 panchromatic satellite image of the foreland
(modified from Digital Globe; multibeam data collected in September 2008 are overlain on the satellite image and
display nearshore topography).
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will increase erosion more effectively than expected
increases in the frequency of storm waves.
Coastal sediment supply is typically limited in
the central and eastern regions of the CAA. In
these regions, beachridge complexes are found
almost exclusively in areas where isostatic uplift
has exceeded the rate of eustatic sea-level rise
during the Holocene. In this context of forced
regression, successive thin beach ridges are
formed by local reworking of emerging nearshore
deposits. Recent work by St-Hilaire-Gravel et al.
(2010) investigates whether raised beach sequences
preserved on emergent coasts of the central CAA
contain a proxy record of past sea-ice conditions
and wave intensity. The study shows that morpho-
logical units within the raised-beach sequences
of Lowther Island (Figs 13 & 14) are consistent
around the island despite significant variations in
underlying slope, orientation and the source
and quantity of sediment supply from one site to
another. The authors conclude that, unless the rate
and direction of the late Holocene RSL changes
have undergone marked fluctuations, sea ice inten-
sity, through its impact on wave climate, has been
the predominant control on beach morphology at
Lowther Island over the last 6500 calendar years.
Modern beaches and barriers at Cornwallis,
Lowther and Griffith islands (Figs 13 & 14) stand
as major coastal features in the landscape, with
characteristic raised beaches developed on the back-
shore slopes. Furthermore, segments of coastline
where the height of the modern barrier is greater
than the height of the first relict ridge are found at
all three locations. The similarity in shape and size
of the modern coastline in this area suggests one
or perhaps several regional control(s) on beach mor-
phology. The compounding impacts of the increased
duration of open water (St-Hilaire-Gravel et al.
2012) and of a shift in rate (and perhaps direction)
of relative sea-level change appear to dominate
coastal morphodynamics in the Resolute area and
on Lowther and Griffith islands. These regional con-
trols can in turn trigger a change in local controls
such as sediment supply and basement topography.
While relative sea-level is believed to be falling
in the central Canadian Arctic (Andrews 1989), past
and ongoing rising relative sea-level are reported
for the eastern CAA by Dyke & Peltier (2000) and
Dyke et al. (2002). In mid-latitude paraglacial envi-
ronments with rising relative sea-level, a common
pattern is that gravel barriers migrate landward
and drown, or stretch between anchor points and
are sometimes breached by seawater (Forbes et al.
1991, 1995a,b; Shaw et al. 2009). Another response
of gravel barriers to rising relative sea-level has
been observed in the western Canadian Arctic
(Forbes et al. 2004) and in the transgressive region
of the eastern CAA (Forbes & Hansom 2011;
St-Hilaire-Gravel 2011), where seaward-rising sets
of beach ridges are observed in areas characterized
by relative sea-level rise during the Holocene.
Cape Charles Yorke, on the open northern coast
of Baffin Island, is a stunning example of a pro-
graded beachridge complex formed under marine
transgression. It is a 5 km-long gravel foreland com-
posed of more than 20 beach ridges and character-
ized by seaward-rising crest elevations (Fig. 15).
The prograded morphology of the Cape Charles
Yorke foreland is a prime example of coastal
response to a combination of rising relative sea-
level and abundant sediment supply. Relict ridges
are truncated by the modern shoreline, suggest-
ing a recent regime shift from continuous deposi-
tion to predominant erosion. The cause and timing
of this shift are unknown but could have resulted
from a dwindling sediment supply, increased
accommodation space, increased wave energy
and/or an accelerated sea-level rise (St-Hilaire-
Gravel 2011). As for most sites around the Arctic,
the trajectory of coastline position change responds
to shifts in drivers acting at different spatial and
temporal scales.
Conclusions
Coastal change in the Arctic is preferentially studied
at locations where the coast is eroding at a high rate
and where coastal dynamics can be expected to react
sensitively to changing environmental conditions.
The sensitivity of arctic coastal dynamics to
environmental changes is primarily dependent on
ice: ground ice beneath the land surface and sea
bed and sea ice. Ground ice distribution, and thus
potential vulnerability, along the arctic coastline is
determined by a combination of factors, including
glacial history and post-glacial thermokarst activity.
Regional histories of glaciation and deglaciation
continue to influence coastal dynamics through
ground ice distribution, the composition of coastal
sediments, the rate of uplift or subsidence and
the exposure of previously glaciated sediment. The
geomorphology of ice-rich coasts is governed
by thermo-erosion processes. Changes in environ-
mental forcing of thermo-erosion processes, such
as the landatmosphere energy balance and storm
frequency and intensity, all point towards a more
dynamic coastal zone, but with large regional and
local-scale spatial variability. The distribution and
seasonal duration of sea ice is currently changing,
and coastal dynamics are expected to change in
response, resulting in enhanced land loss and
increased material fluxes. However, studies of
change rates use various methods and spatial and
temporal scales. The longest records extend less
than 60 years back, with coarse temporal resolution
P. P. OVERDUIN ET AL.
at University of Durham on February 13, 2014http://sp.lyellcollection.org/Downloaded from
that is insufficient to capture trends. Recent changes
since the beginning of the millennium suggest that
rates of erosion at susceptible sites in the Beaufort
and Laptev Seas have increased by up to a factor
of 2, with local rates that exceed 20 m/yr. For para-
glacial coasts, processes operating on the degla-
ciated landscape have intensified, perhaps owing
to changes in the rate of deglaciation, and are chan-
ging sediment fluxes and coastal morphology
through progradation and erosion. Sustained obser-
vations along a set of pan-arctic coastal sections
that reflect the regional variability of both envi-
ronmental drivers and glacial histories that con-
trol coastal response to change would increase our
understanding of arctic coastal dynamics.
This paper owes a great deal to the leadership and science
of the late S. Solomon, whose influence continues to
inspire innovative work on the arctic coast. This work is
a contribution to the National Science Centre in Poland,
research project no. 2011/01/B/ST10/01553. M. Strze-
lecki is supported by Crescendum Est Polonia Foundation
and Yggdrasil Fellowship funded by the Research Coun-
cil of Norway. The German Ministry of Science and Edu-
cation funded this research through the Potsdam Research
Cluster for Georisk Analysis, Environmental Change and
Sustainability (PROGRESS). This work was also made
possible by support from the German Helmholtz Associ-
ation through a Joint Russian– German Research Group
(HGF-JRG 100).
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... Coastal erosion Hg export. Arctic coastal erosion rates are among the highest in the world because of long reaches of unlithified glacial drift in elevated bluffs, rapid sea level changes and exposed ground ice susceptible to the action of wind, water and thermoerosion [174][175][176] . The Hg mass entering the ocean can be estimated from Arctic soil Hg concentrations in permafrost soils including the active layers compiled from the literature 40,129,177,178 (Supplementary Table 4) and eroding soil mass based on soil volumes from the Arctic Coastal Dynamics Database 179 (Supplementary Table 8). ...
... Coastal erosion is increasing in many Arctic areas and is now higher than at any time since observations began 50-60 years ago because of interacting climatic, oceano graphic and geomorphological factors 176,180 . A projected future increase in rates of coastline erosion 176,179 will contribute more Hg to the ocean. ...
... Coastal erosion is increasing in many Arctic areas and is now higher than at any time since observations began 50-60 years ago because of interacting climatic, oceano graphic and geomorphological factors 176,180 . A projected future increase in rates of coastline erosion 176,179 will contribute more Hg to the ocean. ...
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Anthropogenic mercury (Hg) emissions have driven marked increases in Arctic Hg levels, which are now being impacted by regional warming, with uncertain ecological consequences. This Review presents a comprehensive assessment of the present-day total Hg mass balance in the Arctic. Over 98% of atmospheric Hg is emitted outside the region and is transported to the Arctic via long-range air and ocean transport. Around two thirds of this Hg is deposited in terrestrial ecosystems, where it predominantly accumulates in soils via vegetation uptake. Rivers and coastal erosion transfer about 80 Mg year−1 of terrestrial Hg to the Arctic Ocean, in approximate balance with modelled net terrestrial Hg deposition in the region. The revised Arctic Ocean Hg mass balance suggests net atmospheric Hg deposition to the ocean and that Hg burial in inner-shelf sediments is underestimated (up to >100%), needing seasonal observations of sediment-ocean Hg exchange. Terrestrial Hg mobilization pathways from soils and the cryosphere (permafrost, ice, snow and glaciers) remain uncertain. Improved soil, snowpack and glacial Hg inventories, transfer mechanisms of riverine Hg releases under accelerated glacier and soil thaw, coupled atmosphere–terrestrial modelling and monitoring of Hg in sensitive ecosystems such as fjords can help to anticipate impacts on downstream Arctic ecosystems. Mercury is emitted by anthropogenic activities and accumulates in the Arctic. This Review presents a mercury budget for the Arctic, describing fluxes and cycling. Arctic terrestrial mercury (Hg) emissions from anthropogenic activities (14 Mg year−1), wildfires (8.8 ± 6.4 Mg year−1) and soil and vegetation re-volatilization (24 (7–59) Mg year−1) are low compared with deposition (118 ± 20 Mg year−1). Estimates suggest that atmospheric Hg input on land is balanced by riverine and erosional exports.Large pools of Hg (~597,000 Mg, 0–3 m depth) have accumulated in permafrost soils. Permafrost thaw is ubiquitous, but impacts Hg mobilization variably across the Arctic, and its future impact is presently uncertain.Melt releases ~0.4 Mg year−1 of deposited Hg stored in Arctic glaciers (2,415 Mg), which is dwarfed by ~40 Mg year−1 of geogenic particulate Hg exported by glacial rivers into adjacent seas. Coastal erosion mobilizes an estimated 39 (18–52) Mg year−1 of soil-bound Hg into the Arctic Ocean.Pan-Arctic rivers export 41 ± 4 Mg year−1 of dissolved and particulate Hg (~50% each) to the Arctic Ocean, predominantly during the spring freshet, likely derived from seasonal snowpacks (≤50%) and active-layer surface soils (≥50%) of the watershed portion north of 60°N.Arctic Ocean Hg deposition (65 ± 20 Mg year−1) exceeds evasion (32 (23–45) Mg year−1). The revised Arctic Ocean Hg budget (~1,870 Mg) is lower than previous estimates (2,847–7,920 Mg) and implies higher sensitivity to changes in climate and emissions.Shelf-region particulate Hg settling (122 ± 55 Mg year−1) from surface waters is the largest Hg removal mechanism in the ocean. The revised Arctic Ocean Hg mass balance suggests that Hg burial in shelf sediments (42 ± 31 Mg year−1) is underestimated by up to 52.2 ± 43.5 Mg year−1. Arctic terrestrial mercury (Hg) emissions from anthropogenic activities (14 Mg year−1), wildfires (8.8 ± 6.4 Mg year−1) and soil and vegetation re-volatilization (24 (7–59) Mg year−1) are low compared with deposition (118 ± 20 Mg year−1). Estimates suggest that atmospheric Hg input on land is balanced by riverine and erosional exports. Large pools of Hg (~597,000 Mg, 0–3 m depth) have accumulated in permafrost soils. Permafrost thaw is ubiquitous, but impacts Hg mobilization variably across the Arctic, and its future impact is presently uncertain. Melt releases ~0.4 Mg year−1 of deposited Hg stored in Arctic glaciers (2,415 Mg), which is dwarfed by ~40 Mg year−1 of geogenic particulate Hg exported by glacial rivers into adjacent seas. Coastal erosion mobilizes an estimated 39 (18–52) Mg year−1 of soil-bound Hg into the Arctic Ocean. Pan-Arctic rivers export 41 ± 4 Mg year−1 of dissolved and particulate Hg (~50% each) to the Arctic Ocean, predominantly during the spring freshet, likely derived from seasonal snowpacks (≤50%) and active-layer surface soils (≥50%) of the watershed portion north of 60°N. Arctic Ocean Hg deposition (65 ± 20 Mg year−1) exceeds evasion (32 (23–45) Mg year−1). The revised Arctic Ocean Hg budget (~1,870 Mg) is lower than previous estimates (2,847–7,920 Mg) and implies higher sensitivity to changes in climate and emissions. Shelf-region particulate Hg settling (122 ± 55 Mg year−1) from surface waters is the largest Hg removal mechanism in the ocean. The revised Arctic Ocean Hg mass balance suggests that Hg burial in shelf sediments (42 ± 31 Mg year−1) is underestimated by up to 52.2 ± 43.5 Mg year−1.
... Arctic coastline erosion is caused by large-scale local and regional changes. The average rate of coastal erosion in the Arctic is 0.2 m/yr, but it has accelerated during the past decade [7][8][9][10][11][12]. Over the period 1950 to 2000, the mean Arctic coastal erosion rate was 0.5 m/yr, with substantial variability among different regions. ...
... Sites that were historically at or below the mean Arctic-wide coastal permafrost change rate were the Russian (0.3 m/yr) and US (0.5 m/yr) Chukchi Seas, Barents Sea (0.4 m/yr), and Svalbard (0.02 m/yr) [10]. Many studies have used aerial photography, remote sensing images, and topographic maps to monitor long-term changes of the Russian and Canadian Arctic coastlines [11,[13][14][15], by combining ice, wind, wave, storm, and sediment data to analyze coastal erosion. Previous studies have focused on the Arctic coast of Svalbard [15][16][17], the Canadian Arctic Archipelago [18,19], the coast of Greenland [20][21][22], and the Arctic coast of Alaska [8], but fewer studies have examined the changes along the Siberian Arctic coastlines. ...
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In this study, remote sensing analysis of coastal erosion is conducted for three typical regions of Alaska and Eastern Siberia based on remote sensing data collected between 1974 and 2017. The comparative studies were made on the difference in coastal erosion at different latitudes and the difference and influencing factors in coastal erosion at similar latitudes. The coastline retreatment is used to indicate coastal erosion. It is found that the most extensive erosion occurred along Alaska’s coast, followed by that of the Eastern Siberian coasts. Based on the analysis of the historical time series of snow and ice as well as climate data, it is found that at similar latitudes, the erosion of the Arctic coasts is closely related to the trend and fluctuations of the sea surface temperature (SST). Specifically, it is found that in Alaska, coastal erosion is closely related to the fluctuation of the SST, while in Eastern Siberia, it is related to the increasing or decreasing trend of the SST. A decreasing trend is associated with low coastal erosion, whereas an increasing trend is associated with accelerated coastal erosion. In the Arctic, the strong fluctuations of the SST, the continuous decline of the sea ice cover, and the consequent increase of the significant wave height are the critical factors that cause changes in coastal permafrost and coastal erosion.
... Whilst static environmental controls affect the spatial distribution of landfast ice, they do not impact the temporal interannual variation in MLIE, unlike dynamic controls [8,21,22]. The majority of dynamic controls on landfast ice variability, such as storm duration, mean air temperature (MAT), and freezing and thawing degree day occurrence (FDD and TDD), are directly related to climatic changes and influence economic, ecological, social, and environmental impacts across the Northwest Canadian Arctic [10,[23][24][25][26][27]. ...
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Landfast ice is a defining feature among Arctic coasts, providing a critical transport route for communities and exerting control over the exposure of Arctic coasts to marine erosion processes. Despite its significance, there remains a paucity of data on the spatial variability of landfast ice and limited understanding of the environmental processes’ controls since the beginning of the 21st century. We present a new high spatiotemporal record (2000–2019) across the Northwest Canadian Arctic, using MODIS Terra satellite imagery to determine maximum landfast ice extent (MLIE) at the start of each melt season. Average MLIE across the Northwest Canadian Arctic declined by 73% in a direct comparison between the first and last year of the study period, but this was highly variable across regional to community scales, ranging from 14% around North Banks Island to 81% in the Amundsen Gulf. The variability was largely a reflection of 5–8-year cycles between landfast ice rich and poor periods with no discernible trend in MLIE. Interannual variability over the 20-year record of MLIE extent was more constrained across open, relatively uniform, and shallower sloping coastlines such as West Banks Island, in contrast with a more varied pattern across the numerous bays, headlands, and straits enclosed within the deep Amundsen Gulf. Static physiographic controls (namely, topography and bathymetry) were found to influence MLIE change across regional sites, but no association was found with dynamic environmental controls (storm duration, mean air temperature, and freezing and thawing degree day occurrence). For example, despite an exponential increase in storm duration from 2014 to 2019 (from 30 h to 140 h or a 350% increase) across the Mackenzie Delta, MLIE extents remained relatively consistent. Mean air temperatures and freezing and thawing degree day occurrences (over 1, 3, and 12-month periods) also reflected progressive northwards warming influences over the last two decades, but none showed a statistically significant relationship with MLIE interannual variability. These results indicate inferences of landfast ice variations commonly taken from wider sea ice trends may misrepresent more complex and variable sensitivity to process controls. The influences of different physiographic coastal settings need to be considered at process level scales to adequately account for community impacts and decision making or coastal erosion exposure.
... Steady-state conditions were established for three unfrozen intrinsic permeability scenarios (k = 1 × 10 −13 m 2 , 1 × 10 −14 m 2 , 1 × 10 −15 m 2 ) and two surface temperature scenarios (initial temperature = − 4 • C, −2 • C). Permeability scenarios represent fine-grained unconsolidated and siliciclastic sedimentary deposits (Gleeson et al 2011), characteristic of a majority of Arctic coastlines (Lantuit et al 2012, Overduin et al 2014. From steady state, simulations were run for 120 years under five sea-level change and six warming scenarios (table 1). ...
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Groundwater discharge is an important mechanism through which fresh water and associated solutes are delivered to the ocean. Permafrost environments have traditionally been considered hydrogeologically inactive, yet with accelerated climate change and permafrost thaw, groundwater flow paths are activating and opening subsurface connections to the coastal zone. While warming has the potential to increase land-sea connectivity, sea-level change has the potential to alter land-sea hydraulic gradients and enhance coastal permafrost thaw, resulting in a complex interplay that will govern future groundwater discharge dynamics along Arctic coastlines. Here, we use a recently developed permafrost hydrological model that simulates variable-density groundwater flow and salinity-dependent freeze-thaw to investigate the impacts of sea-level change and land and ocean warming on the magnitude, spatial distribution, and salinity of coastal groundwater discharge. Results project both an increase and decrease in discharge with climate change depending on the rate of warming and sea-level change. Under high warming and low sea-level rise scenarios, results show up to a 58% increase in coastal groundwater discharge by 2100 due to the formation of a supra-permafrost aquifer that enhances freshwater delivery to the coastal zone. With higher rates of sea-level rise, the increase in discharge due to warming is reduced to 21% as sea-level rise decreased land-sea hydraulic gradients. Under lower warming scenarios for which supra-permafrost groundwater flow was not established, discharge decreased by up to 26% between 1980 and 2100 for high sea-level rise scenarios and increased only 8% under low sea-level rise scenarios. Thus, regions with higher warming rates and lower rates of sea-level change (e.g., northern Nunavut, Canada) will experience a greater increase in discharge than regions with lower warming rates and higher rates of sea-level change. The magnitude, location and salinity of discharge have important implications for ecosystem function, water quality, and carbon dynamics in coastal zones.
... Ground ice typically occupies 60-90% of the volume of near-surface deposits [16,32], and it is a major factor contributing to the high coastal erosion rates [33]. Retreat rates appear to be largely dependent on ice content, the frequency and intensity of storms, runup elevation, and seawater and air temperatures [34][35][36]. The pattern of change is predominantly landward retreat of the top of the bluffs, removal of the debris apron and subsequent niching at the base of the bluffs, followed by continued erosion of the bluff face and deposition of debris at the base of the bluff [29]. ...
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Observational data of coastal change over much of the Arctic are limited largely due to its immensity, remoteness, harsh environment, and restricted periods of sunlight and ice-free conditions. Barter Island, Alaska, is one of the few locations where an extensive, observational dataset exists, which enables a detailed assessment of the trends and patterns of coastal change over decadal to annual time scales. Coastal bluff and shoreline positions were delineated from maps, aerial photographs, and satellite imagery acquired between 1947 and 2020, and at a nearly annual rate since 2004. Rates and patterns of shoreline and bluff change varied widely over the observational period. Shorelines showed a consistent trend of southerly erosion and westerly extension of the western termini of Barter Island and Bernard Spit, which has accelerated since at least 2000. The 3.2 km long stretch of ocean-exposed coastal permafrost bluffs retreated on average 114 m and at a maximum of 163 m at an average long-term rate (70 year) of 1.6 ± 0.1 m/yr. The long-term retreat rate was punctuated by individual years with retreat rates up to four times higher (6.6 ± 1.9 m/yr; 2012–2013) and both long-term (multidecadal) and short-term (annual to semiannual) rates showed a steady increase in retreat rates through time, with consistently high rates since 2015. A best-fit polynomial trend indicated acceleration in retreat rates that was independent of the large spatial and temporal variations observed on an annual basis. Rates and patterns of bluff retreat were correlated to incident wave energy and air and water temperatures. Wave energy was found to be the dominant driver of bluff retreat, followed by sea surface temperatures and warming air temperatures that are considered proxies for evaluating thermo-erosion and denudation. Normalized anomalies of cumulative wave energy, duration of open water, and air and sea temperature showed at least three distinct phases since 1979: a negative phase prior to 1987, a mixed phase between 1987 and the early to late 2000s, followed by a positive phase extending to 2020. The duration of the open-water season has tripled since 1979, increasing from approximately 40 to 140 days. Acceleration in retreat rates at Barter Island may be related to increases in both thermodenudation, associated with increasing air temperature, and the number of niche-forming and block-collapsing episodes associated with higher air and water temperature, more frequent storms, and longer ice-free conditions in the Beaufort Sea.
... In the context of current climate change, sea ice becomes more seasonal, and coasts have enhanced permafrost. Consequently, unlithified ice-bonded coasts in the West area and high cliffs in the East promote conditions for coastal erosion [Overduin et al., 2014]. For instance, the prograded beach morphology on Cape Charles Yorke (Baffin Bay) is an excellent case that shows a recent shift in sedimentary processes from deposition to erosion, resulting from a lower sediment supply, increased wave energy and sea level rise [St-Hilaire-Gravel, 2011]. ...
Article
Recent global warming triggered pronounced geomorphic changes such as coastal retreat and delta progradation along the coastlines of the Arctic regions. Coastal morphodynamics and associated sediment transport at the Arctic fjord head remain relatively unexplored due to the logistically limited accessibility to the field area, especially at short-term temporal scales. A repeat survey using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-assisted photogrammetry was conducted to quantify the annual morphodynamics of gravel spit complexes developed on the tidal delta plain of the deglaciated Dicksonfjorden, Svalbard of Arctic. Results show that the spit morphodynamics varies in time and space with an overall downfjord increase in the growth and migration rate of the spits. The youngest spits elongated 22 m yr⁻¹ and migrated landward 4.3 m yr⁻¹ between 2015 and 2019, marking the most pronounced spit morphodynamics documented to date in the Svalbard fjord systems. The spit morphodynamics is driven primarily by longshore drift and to a lesser degree by overwash processes. Gravels constituting the spits originate from the unconsolidated debris-flow deposits of old alluvial fans, which locally retreat 0.5 m yr⁻¹. The growth of the spit complexes is also fed by snow meltwater discharge on the alluvial fans, accounting for a downfjord imbrication of angular gravel layers that are intercalated with interlaminated sands and muds on the landward sides of the spits. The breached spits at the most upfjord location have remained stationary during the study period and presumably since the 1930s. Rapid delta progradation combined with an isostatic rebound after the Little Ice Age (LIA) has decreased spit morphodynamics on the tidal delta plain upfjord in Dicksonfjorden with infrequent and insignificant wave influence. Sparse distribution of the isolated spits signifies the intermittent spit development, which is constrained by the proximity to the protruded alluvial fans. The spit complexes in Dicksonfjorden highlight that climate change accelerates coastal geomorphic changes at the fjord head by enhancing wave intensity and regulating episodic sediment delivery that led to the downfjord shift in the locus of wave shoaling.
Article
Recent permafrost degradation across the high northern latitude regions has impacted the performance of the civil infrastructure. This study summarizes the current state of physical processes of permafrost degradation in a geotechnical context and the properties of permafrost-affected soils critical for evaluating the performance of infrastructures commonly built in the high northern latitude regions. We collected a total of 96 datasets with 3162 data points from 38 journal and conference publications and analyzed the variations of geomechanical and geophysical properties under the effects of permafrost degradation. The datasets represent a range of geomechanical and geophysical properties of permafrost-affected soils with different compositions under different testing conditions. While the data collected are highly scattered, regression analysis shows that most geomechanical and geophysical properties have strong associations with temperature. These associations highlight that ongoing warming can greatly affect the performance of civil infrastructures at high northern latitudes. These properties include elastic moduli, strength parameters, thermal conductivity, heat capacity, unfrozen water content, and hydraulic conductivity. This paper also discusses other factors, such as soil type, soil composition, and confining pressure, which may further complicate the relationships between temperature and the geomechanical and geophysical properties. Through this review, we identify key knowledge gaps and highlight the complex interplay of permafrost degradation, temperature, soil heterogeneity, and soil geomechanical and geophysical properties. Given the scarcity of certain permafrost properties in addition to the complex processes of permafrost degradation in the geotechnical context, there is a need to establish a comprehensive and curated database of permafrost properties. Hence, we encourage broader collaboration and participation by the engineering and scientific communities in this effort.
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Dramatic environmental shifts are occuring throughout the Arctic from climate change, with consequences for the cycling of mercury (Hg). This review summarizes the latest science on how climate change is influencing Hg transport and biogeochemical cycling in Arctic terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems. As environmental changes in the Arctic continue to accelerate, a clearer picture is emerging of the profound shifts in the climate and cryosphere, and their connections to Hg cycling. Modeling results suggest climate influences seasonal and interannual variability of atmospheric Hg deposition. The clearest evidence of current climate change effects is for Hg transport from terrestrial catchments, where widespread permafrost thaw, glacier melt and coastal erosion are increasing the export of Hg to downstream environments. Recent estimates suggest Arctic permafrost is a large global reservoir of Hg, which is vulnerable to degradation with climate warming, although the fate of permafrost soil Hg is unclear. The increasing development of thermokarst features, the formation and expansion of thaw lakes, and increased soil erosion in terrestrial landscapes are increasing river transport of particulate-bound Hg and altering conditions for aquatic Hg transformations. Greater organic matter transport may also be influencing the downstream transport and fate of Hg. More severe and frequent wildfires within the Arctic and across boreal regions may be contributing to the atmospheric pool of Hg. Climate change influences on Hg biogeochemical cycling remain poorly understood. Seasonal evasion and retention of inorganic Hg may be altered by reduced sea-ice cover and higher chloride content in snow. Experimental evidence indicates warmer temperatures enhance methylmercury production in ocean and lake sediments as well as in tundra soils. Improved geographic coverage of measurements and modeling approaches are needed to better evaluate net effects of climate change and long-term implications for Hg contamination in the Arctic.
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The Arctic faces multiple pressures including climate change, shifting demographics, human health risks, social justice imbalances, governance issues, and expanding resource extraction. A convergence of academic disciplines—such as natural and social sciences, engineering and technology, health and medicine—and international perspectives is required to meaningfully contribute to solving the challenges of Arctic peoples and ecosystems. However, successfully carrying out convergent, international research and education remains a challenge. Here, lessons from the planning phase of a convergence research project concerned with the health of Arctic waters developed by the Arctic Science IntegrAtion Quest (ASIAQ) are discussed. We discuss our perspective on the challenges, as well as strategies for success, in convergence research as gained from the ASIAQ project which assembled an international consortium of researchers from disparate disciplines representing six universities from four countries (Sweden, Japan, Russia, and the United States) during 2018–2020.
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