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ProjectNews Archive

Establishing a Distributed Permafrost Observatory in Western Alaska

The area of Western Alaska including the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge (SNWR) is generally underrepresented in terms of permafrost thermal monitoring. The main objective of this study was to establish a permafrost monitoring network in Western Alaska in order to understand the variability in permafrost thermal regime in the area and to have a baseline in order to detect future change. 

Over the summers of 2011 and 2012 a total of 26 automated monitoring stations were established to collect temperature data from the active layer and permafrost. The sites were selected based upon an ecotype map that had been created for the area in 2009, with the idea that ecotypes (basic vegetation groups) might be good indicators of the permafrost thermal state within an area experiencing similar climatic drivers. 

SelawikNWR_Perm_MAGT1.0_all_300px.jpgThe results of this study indicate good agreement between ecotype classes and permafrost characteristics such as temperature, active layer thickness, and freeze back duration.  As a result, it is possible to translate the ecotype map into a permafrost map using these measurements. Such a map would be useful in decision making with respect to land use and understanding how the landscape might change under future climate scenarios.​ Explore products from this project here​.

Mapping Coastal Change in Western Alaska

StudyArea300px.pngWestern Alaska has long been home to shifting coastal landforms.  While the nature and extent of coastal change is well documented in certain localized areas, change along the full Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska coast is not well documented.  As part of its 2012-2013 focus on Coastal Storms and their Impacts, the Western Alaska LCC supported an extensive approach to map changes in coastal features from Kotzebue to the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak Archipelago. 

This project successfully mapped the distribution and extent of areas with significant land-water conversion within the coastal zone, using time-series analysis of Landsat imagery from 1972-2013.  Although focused on coastal features, the analysis also included riverine and lowland change where it occurred near the coast.  Change occurred throughout the study period, with the highest erosion rates occurring in the 1973-1978 period and the lowest in the 2006-2011 period.  Aggradation rates varied throughout the study period.  Overall, aggradation was slightly higher than erosion, and change was often characterized by local redistribution of sediment.  However, this landscape-scale summary belies the magnitude of change occurring at a local level.  The analysis, conducted on 60 m pixels, revealed that over 200 square km of the coastal study area transitioned at some point during the study period (from land-to-water or water-to-land).  River and lake transitions occurred in an additional 545 square km. Hotspots of change were identified and can be explored in the interactive pdf found here. 

The numerous summary maps, GIS layers, and other products resulting from this project have broad applicability and are freely available for use.  For instance, they could be used for local and regional vulnerability assessments, in the identification of at-risk natural and cultural resources, or in infrastructure site-selection.  Detailed methods and results, as well as a full list of available data products, are available here.

Climate Change Health Assessments

June 12, 2014

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) Center for Climate and Health has published Climate Change Health Assessments for three Bristol Bay Communities. These reports summarize observed climate-related changes, as well as recommended mitigation and adaptation strategies for Pilot Point (a coastal community), Nondalton (a lake community), and Levelock (a river community).  

ANTHC has completed similar assessments for several communities in the northwestern Alaska. Learn more here.​


Coastal Vulnerability Mapping

April 4, 2014

Sonar_in_Golovin_300px.jpgAs part of our recent focus on Coastal Storms, the LCC funded two small projects to improve baseline data related to coastline vulnerabilities during storm surge events.  The first effort collects nearshore bathymetry data, which is the link between offshore water depths and coastal topography, and is essential for reliable storm surge modeling.  The second effort will result in the occupation of selected tidal benchmarks, allowing tidal datum conversions in more places.  This data will also contribute to improved understanding of relative sea level change in the region, another key component for the development of reliable inundation models.  These two projects, conducted by the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, are coordinated with ongoing work funded by the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (USFWS), the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the Alaska Ocean Observing System.  Collectively, this work is contributing to the development of coastal vulnerability products specific to coastal communities in western Alaska.  A poster detailing these efforts was recently presented at the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting and has garnered attention among interested partners.  

A link to the poster is available here.  ​


Climate Change in Pilot Point, Alaska

February 4, 2014

With support from the Western Alaska LCC, the ANTHC Center for Climate and Health has published the first of three Climate Change Health Assessments for Bristol Bay Communities.  This report summarizes observed climate-related changes and recommended mitigation and adaptation strategies for the coastal community of Pilot Point.  Reports for the lake community of Nondalton and the riverine community of Levelock will be available soon.

Download the Pilot Point report

Seeking Local Ice and Weather Observations

November 18, 2013

Local observations are very helpful to develop and improve models of storms, storm surges and climate change.​  Our collaborators at the UAF Sea Ice Research Group (see Dr. Atkinson's WALCC-funded ice berm project​) are interested in local observations of coastal ice conditions during freeze-up.  Here's what they have to say:

A project at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is studying freeze-up in coastal Alaska and how weather and ice conditions during freeze-up impact coastal communities. Every freeze-up is different and continued observations are valuable to understand variability. In particular during unusual or extreme freeze up situations (such as during a storm), even a single observation can have tremendous value. We are interested in observations of conditions important to the residents of your community such as erosion as a result of ice or lack of ice and ice conditions making travel across the ice more difficult (e.g. rough ice).More information is attached as well as a log sheet that can be used to fill in observations on the computer or be printed out. One suggestion is to print it out and put it somewhere where it is easily accessible to enter new observations. 

We greatly appreciate your help, with best regards,

Oliver Dammann, Hajo Eicken and Mette Kaufman

To learn more about submitting observations, follow the links below:


Submittal Form​

Local observations about ice conditions along the coast (including lakes and rivers) can also be submitted to NOAA.  

The National Weather Service in Alaska is interested in flooding, storm surge, wind damage, or general weather reports.  Submit a report by following the links below:

Real-time conditions in the Bering Sea

August 14, 2013

The Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS), with support from the Western Alaska LCC and the University of Victoria, successfully deployed a wave buoy in the Bering Sea. Real-time data was available Summer through Fall 2013, allowing access to real-time conditions via the AOOS real-time sensor map.​