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As results from Western Alaska LCC funded projects become available, collaborators are sharing their findings via periodic webinars hosted by the LCC.

Upcoming Webinars

Tuesday October 25, 2016, noon - 1 pm
Impact of lengthening open water season on Alaskan coastal communities  
Rebecca Rolph 
UAF, Geophysical Institute

Join us:
In Anchorage: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Regional Office, 1011 E. Tudor Rd, 
                        Office of Subsistence Management Conf Room (2nd floor)
In Fairbanks :  U.S. Federal Building,  Refuges Conf Room (2nd floor)
Join WebEx meeting
Meeting number:
Meeting password:
Call-in toll-free:  1-866-730-5871; access code 111 111 (US) ​

Using sea ice concentration data from the Historical Sea Ice Atlas (HSIA) for selected communities in Alaska, we find a consistent trend toward later freeze-up and earlier break-up, leading to a lengthened open water period. The HSIA provides weekly ice concentration data for the period 1953-2013, allowing us to examine events of interest related to sea ice variability that pre-date the satellite record. The reduction in Arctic sea ice concentration is often considered to bring a variety of "frontline" local impacts to northern coastal communities. For example, a later freeze-up might delay local hunters’ transition from boats to snow-machines, but whether this trend will affect the balance between hunting success and cost is uncertain. However, an expanding open water season throughout the Arctic has global economic implications, which can have indirect effects on local communities and which may outweigh local effects on food security at least in the short term. For example, the lengthened open water season has effectively extended the operational period for U.S. oil exploration activities by 184% since the 1950s. Reduced sea ice extent is also leading to improved navigability for barge traffic, which brings easier access of shipped goods. Thus, while Arctic coastal communities are already experiencing direct impacts of an increased open water season, these impacts may be over-shadowed by the indirect impacts coming from the global economy and its relationship with sea ice. ​

Past Webinars

Listen to past webinars below.  (Note that the volume may be low in some instances.)

Wednesday May 25, 2016, noon - 1pm Link to webinar recording

Hydrologic Alterations from Climate Change Inform Assessment of Ecological Risk to Pacific Salmon in Bristol Bay, Alaska  
Christine Woll 
The Nature Conservancy

We developed an integrated hydrologic model of the upper Nushagak and Kvichak watersheds in the Bristol Bay region of southwestern Alaska, a region under substantial development pressure from large-scale copper mining. We incorporated climate change scenarios into this model to evaluate how hydrologic regimes and stream temperatures might change in a future climate, and to summarize indicators of hydrologic alteration that are relevant to salmon habitat ecology and life history. Model simulations project substantial changes in mean winter flow, peak flow dates, and water temperature by 2100. In particular, we find that annual hydrographs will no longer be dominated by a single spring thaw event, but will instead be characterized by numerous high flow events throughout the winter. Stream temperatures increase in all future scenarios, although these temperature increases are moderated relative to air temperatures by cool baseflow inputs during the summer months. Projected changes to flow and stream temperature could influence salmon through alterations in the suitability of spawning gravels, changes in the duration of incubation, increased growth during juvenile stages, and increased exposure to chronic and acute temperature stress. These climate-modulated changes represent a shifting baseline in salmon habitat quality and quantity in the future, and an important consideration to adequately assess the types and magnitude of risks associated with proposed large-scale mining in the region.

Wednesday May 4, 2016, noon - 1pm Link to webinar recording

Alaska stream temperature community: data storage, harvesting and dissemination
Ryan Toohey 
USGS Alaska Climate Science Center / USGS Alaska Science Center

ABSTRACT In Fall 2015, a workshop was held to understand better how the Alaskan stream temperature community currently manages their data. While some State and Federal agencies have their own data formats and data management guidelines, many smaller data collecting entities do not have compatible protocols or databases.  As a result, State and Federal agencies are unlikely to be able to host and distribute the data of their smaller partners, yet all partner data are important for assessing landscape or regional level change occuring throughout Alaska. The workshop addressed five questions: 1) What are the essential metadata and formatting requirements for non-agency data to be aggregated with agency data?, 2) How can we utilize existing resources and platforms to harvest/access and store environmental data from a wide variety of stakeholders for multi-scale analyeses?, 3) What lessons, barriers and sollutions can we learn from recent statewide and national efforts?, 4) What are the data provider requirements for dissemination and usage of this data?, 5) How can we increase reliability and sustainability (both financially and in terms of partner buy-in) of such data systems? The presentation will focus on the workshop participants' answers to these questions.

Wednesday April 27, 2016, noon - 1pm Link to webinar recording (57 minutes)

Landsat-based lake distribution and changes in western Alaska between 1972 and 2014 
Prajna Regmi Lindgren 
Geophyscial Institute
University of Alaska, Fairbanks

ABSTRACT A warming climate and thawing permafrost will increase 'drainage events' of lakes in the permafrost zones of western Alaska.  In 2011 the LCC funded a rpoejct to assess the impact of these changes in major lake districts of western Alaska - 'Broad-scale lake and permafrost dynamics in the Western Alaska LCC region​'.  The project has documented how the magnitude of change in lake surface area and size distribution varies across the lake districts and the degree to which these changes appear to be influenced by permafrost ice content, surficial geology, and other landscape characteristics.  

Wednesday April 20, 2016, noon - 1pm Link to webinar recording (43 minutes)
Diagnosing the drivers of rain on snow events in Alaska using dynamical downscaling 
Peter Bieniek 
International Arctic Research Center
University of Alaska, Fairbanks

ABSTRACT Rain on snow (ROS) events are fairly rare in Alaska but have broad impacts ranging from economic losses to hazardous driving conditions to difficult caribou foraging due to ice formation on the snow.  While rare, these events have recently increased in frequency in Alaska and may continue to increase under the projected warming climate. Dynamically downscaled data are now available for Alaska based on historical reanalysis for 1979-2013, while CMIP5 historical and future scenario downscaling are in progress. These new data offer a detailed, gridded product of rain and snowfall not previously possible in the spatially and temporally coarser reanalysis and GCM output currently available. Preliminary analysis shows that the dynamical downscaled data can identify extreme ROS events in Interior Alaska. The ROS events in the dynamically downscaled data are analyzed against observations and the ERA-Interim reanalysis data used to force the historical downscaling simulations. Additionally, the synoptic atmospheric circulations conditions that correspond to major ROS events in various regions of Alaska are analyzed. Such analysis is beneficial for operational forecasters with the National Weather Service and for diagnosing the mechanisms of change in future climate projections.

Wednesday Feb 17, 2016, noon - 1pm Link to webinar recording (56 mins)

A powerful example of local adaptation in salmonid fishes results from the relationship between spawn timing and the temperature regime experienced by incubating embryos, wherein populations generally spawn earlier in colder systems in part because duration of development is largely driven by temperature. As incubation temperature regimes are expected to change in the future, the ability to predict changes in early life history development will be an important tool for understanding the potential for adaptation under a warming climate. Temperature is the primary factor driving development in juvenile salmonids, and experienced temperature has been incorporated into statistical models to predict hatch and emergence timing with a high degree of certainty.  However, existing models have traditionally been based on constant (i.e., average) temperatures in the laboratory and thus may not be representative of the variable temperature regimes actually experienced by incubating embryos under natural conditions.  Because temperature regimes are relatively easy to measure in the field and hatch timing is an important life history component often unknown for wild populations, there is a need for precise predictions of hatch timing under observed temperature regimes and altered regimes owing to climate effects. Here we present work that extends an existing model to incorporate more realistic daily average temperature in place of average temperature ​over the course of incubation.  We apply the extended model to 18 Bristol Bay sockeye salmon populations spawning in different habitat types (e.g. beaches, lake outlets, ponds, streams) to estimate hatch timing for early, peak, and late spawning portions of the populations.  Additionally, we investigated hatch timing as it relates to changing climate conditions for a beach spawning population in Iliamna Lake based on predicted and observed past and future lake temperatures. Furthermore, we are conducting an experiment in which embryos from two Iliamna Lake sockeye salmon populations are reared in a suite of variable and constant temperature scenarios (representing experienced and predicted thermal regimes) in order to measure local adaptation and potential adaptive capacity to temperature changes.  The populations spawn at the same time (mid-August) but in habitats that are representative of ends of the thermal continuum of Iliamna Lake, one being the warm and variable shores of an island and the other, cool and non-variable spring-fed ponds.  Early results from this experiment suggest that population-level responses in hatch timing may be similar, but family-level differences in timing are likely sources for selection and therefore adaptive capacity.  The culmination of this research will provide a multi-scale look into the adaptive capacity and potential resilience of Bristol Bay sockeye salmon to the changing environment.

Wednesday Feb 10, 2016, noon - 1pm Link to webinar recording (1 hr 10 minutes)

Networked monitoring of salmon habitat temperature: two case studies from southwestern Alaska
Bill Pyle (Kodiak NWR) & Sue Mauger (Cook Inletkeeper)

In recognition of the importance of salmon to the economy and ecosystems of southwestern Alaska and the pervasive influence of water temperature on salmon, voluntary network-based water temperature monitoring programs were established in the Bristol Bay region and the Kodiak Archipelago in 2015.  These collaborative networks among federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations and Native Tribes aim to provide reliable time-series stream and lake temperature data to support development of proactive approaches to management of salmon in response to climate warming.  Collaborators are tackling the challenges of year-round field deployment, data management, data storage and sharing, and long-term funding.  Examples from Bristol Bay and Kodiak will be highlighted to identify successes and lessons learned to assist in the development of other regional networks across Alaska.

Wednesday Feb 3, 2016, noon - 1pm Link to webinar recording (58 min)
Effects of winter climate and watershed features on summer stream temperatures in Bristol Bay, Alaska

Daniel Schindler 
School of Aquatic & Fisheries Sciences
University of Washington, Seattle

Across river basins, there often exists substantial variation in thermal conditions of similarly-sized tributaries.  This thermal variation is produced from local interactions between geomorphic conditions and hydrology which control stream thermal responses to meteorological forcing.  Watershed attributes such as slope affect the residence time of water in a catchment and the degree of mixing with groundwater sources.  Watershed elevation has important effects on stream temperatures because of the effects on snow accumulation durng winter that provides water to stream flows the following summer. We have found that streams draining steep watersheds are substantially colder during summer than those in flat watersheds, and that much fo this variation is correlated with the contributions of snowmelt to summer stream flows.  Climate projections for western Alaska predict warmer temperatures and increased precipitation in all seasons, likely resulting in lower snowpack at low to intermediate elevations. How stream thermal regimes during the summer will respond to changes in snow accumulation are not understood. We will present data from intensive monitoring of summer water temperatures in >25 2nd-4th order streams in the Wood River basin over 5 years that exhibited informative differences in winter snowpack and summer meteorological conditions. Sensitivity of stream temperatures to meteorology was quantified with multivariate time-series models. The key result emerging from these efforts is that streams draining flat watersheds are most sensitive to short-term variation in meteorology (i.e., air temperature and irradiance) but that stream thermal regimes in steep, high elevation watersheds are likely to change the most in response to future climate warming if there are substantial reductions in winter snow accumulation. We will speculate about the consequences of these changes for fish and wildlife.

Wednesday Dec 9, 2015, noon - 1pm Link to webinar recording (59 min)
Introduction to ​Alaska's Shorelines and Understanding Shoreline Change

Jacquelyn Overbeck 
Div. of Geological & Geophysical Surveys 
Dept. of Natural Resources, State of AK

Coastal vulnerability is often described by the rate of shoreline change along a section of coast.  These rates range from long-term change (e.g., 1 foot per year of retreat) to erosion from a single storm event (e.g. 100 linear feet of erosion).  Rates of shoreline change, however, are highly dependent on the type of shoreline being measured, the calculations being used to determine the rate of change, and the data available to define shoreline positions.  The Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys' Coastal Hazards Program has created an online tooll with a written guide to provide background on how shoreline positions are defined and how rates of shoreline change are determined.  This talk will introduce the shoreline and shoreline change to the general user with examples from the Alaska Shoreline Change Tool that show some of the uses and limitations of shoreline change rates and projections of shoreline positions. 

Wednesday Nov 18, 2015, noon - 1pm Play recording (1:09)
Storm surge impacts on biological resources of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta

Tom Ravens and Jon Allen 
Dept. of Engineering, UAA

The Yukon-Kuskokwim (YK) Delta hosts a wide-range of nesting birds, including the endangered Spectacled Eider.  The delta plain, with an elation of about 2 m (m.s.l.) - and an average tidal range of 2.7 m - is subject to frequent inundation by storm surges.  We will discuss the findings and implications of investigating the potential impacts of storm surges modeled under a variety of scenarios of relative sea level rise, focusing on both inundation frequency and intensity and their relation to ecological parameters such as vegetation type.

Wednesday Nov 4, 2015, noon - 1pm Play recording (57 min)​
Mapping Alaska's Waters​

Kacy Krieger 
Alaska Natural Heritage Program, UAA

The National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) represents the mapped surface waters of the United States. In Alaska the NHD is outdated (originally mapped from 1940's era imagery), contains a variety of errors and needs to be updated to meet modern management needs. An ambitous collaborative effort led by federal, state and local entities is addressing this need and updating surface water mapping throughout Alaska.  This discussion will explore the work being done across the state. 

Wednesday Oct. 14, 2015, noon - 1pm - Recording​
The Influence of Fall Storms on Nest Densities of Geese and Eiders on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta
Sarah Saalfeld US Fish & Wildlife Service, Migratory Bird Management

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta of Alaska is a globally important region for numerous avian species including millions of migrating and nesting waterbirds.  Climate change effects such as sea level rise and increased storm frequency and intensity have the potential to impact waterbird populations and breeding habitat.  In order to determine the potential impacts of these climate-mediated changes, we investigated both short-term and long-term impacts of storm surges to geese and eider species that commonly breed on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. 

To do this, we used 29 years of ground-based surveys conducted as part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s long-term waterbird monitoring program along with flood indices modeled for 10 of the largest storms since the 1990s.  We will discuss the results of this project, as well as potential limitations and suggested paths forward.

Wednesday June 10, 2015, noon - 1pm
Current Coastal Change Projects and Priority Information Needs in Western Alaska​
Casey L. Brown, Corrie Knapp and Sarah F. Trainor
Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, UAF

Research and management studies on coastal change in Western Alaska has increased rapidly in recent years, making it challenging to track existing projects, understand their cumulative insights, gauge remaining information gaps, and prioritize future projects. The goal of this effort is to identify current coastal research and management projects that are taking place in Western Alaska and to synthesize information into a report that documents the ‘project landscape’ for communities facing change, decision-makers navigating change, researchers pursuing projects, as well as funding agencies trying to prioritize where to allocate resources. To identify coastal change projects, we first conducted an extensive Internet search utilizing existing databases and online resources. We than contacted 130 stakeholders from a diverse range of university, state, federal, native and local institutions to review and comment on additional projects. We summarized the list of projects into key disciplines and topic areas. We than compared our list of current coastal projects to a list of key recommended needs identified from the 2012 Coastal Hazards Workshop. We found that the majority (38%) of current coastal change projects in Western Alaska is focused on biological system projects (e.g. fish, bird, habitat and marine mammal species). Human system projects (subsistence, local knowledge and coastal change adaptation) comprised 26% of the total number of projects occurring in the region. Landscape/Geophysical system projects (e.g. research that is related to geophysical processes along the coastline or nearshore stretches of land) represented 20% of the total number of current efforts. And oceanographic system projects (projects related to ocean currents, waves, biochemical fluxes) had the fewest number of current projects (16%). Of the total number of projects, only 32% were categorized as a “recommended need” based on knowledge gaps identified in a 2012 Coastal Hazards Workshop. Our final report provides a synthesis of current project efforts in Western Alaska that may help to (1) to foster better coordination about coastal studies in Western Alaska, (2) help practitioners and scholars learn from one another, and (3) identify information gaps that need to be addressed.​

Wednesday May 13, 2015, noon - 1pm
Assessing Climate Change and Health Effects in the Bering Strait Region
Michael Brubaker
Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium

An assessment of climate change impacts on communities in the Bering Strait Region was conducted by three tribal organizations, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, the Norton Sound Health Corporation, and Kawerak Inc. The purpose was to evaluate the broad range of climate change impacts observed by community members, to identify potential health effects, and to raise awareness and provide guidance that community leadership and the tribal health system could use to help guide planning and intervention activities. This presentation will explore the process and review findings from the project as well as providing an overview of some of the recommendations.
1 hour 2 minutes

Wednesday May 6, 2015, noon - 1pm
Broad-scale Lake and Permafrost Dynamics in the Western Alaska LCC region​
Guido Grosse1, Prajna R. Lindgren2, Vladimir Romanovsky2

1 - Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research
2 - UAF Geophysical Institute

Western Alaska contains several major Alaskan lake districts, areas where lakes are widespread land surface features and provide important ecosystem services as habitats, hydrological features, biogeochemical hotspots, as well as influence surface energy budgets. A large portion of the WALCC region is also characterized by permafrost along a gradient of spatial continuity from sporadic to continuous permafrost zones, which affects lakes and their dynamics on various temporal and spatial scales. A major portion of the lakes in permafrost regions are thermokarst lakes.

We (i) assessed lake changes in major lake districts of the WALCC for the period ca. 1975 to ca. 2013 using Landsat remote sensing data time series; (2) investigated lake drainage characteristics using historical map and image data that extended back to 1950 for some regions; and (3) instrumented five new sites with ground temperature monitoring equipment along a South to North transect on the Seward Peninsula​ to understand current and future permafrost dynamics along the critical gradient from continuous to discontinuous permafrost

Modeling results suggests that the ground has warmed substantially and will result in thaw in areas at the southern fringe of continuous permafrost on the Seward Peninsula. The presence of ice-cored frost mounds (pingos), ice-rich permafrost, lakes, and deep drained lake basins in this area implies potential for substantial changes in landscape characteristics and hydrology over the coming century, likely also resulting in further loss of lake cover.

Observed lake area loss in the majority of the WALCC domain is likely to have profound impacts on landscape and ecosystem characteristics. Permafrost thaw in the generally warm permafrost regions on the Seward Peninsula, and elsewhere in the WALCC region, will substantially affect future lake distribution, in particular the increasing loss of large lakes and a trend towards dominance of smaller lakes. Net loss in lake cover may potentially negatively impact fish and bird species depending on their aquatic habitat requirements.​ 
1 hour 18 minutes

Thursday April 30, 2015, 3 - 4 pm
The Integrated Ecosystem Model (IEM) for Alaska and Northwest Canada: current status and applications in natural resource management and policy. 

David McGuire & The IEM Team
UAF Institute of Arctic Biology

An overview and update on development of the Integrated Ecosystem Model (IEM) will be followed by an introduction to some new efforts that are using IEM products to improve insight into future changes in, and their management implications for, wildland fires, carbon sequestration, ungulate habitat and shorebird habitats.

The presentation was followed (4 - 5 pm) by a companion discussion among land and resource managers in Alaska and Northwest Canada regarding potential priority issues that could be addressed using products from the IEM project.    

Note: there were problems with the recording; a pdf of the slides will be forthcoming.

Thursday April 9, 2015

Where we are and where we need to be to understand regional water temperature trends: establishing minimum data collection standards for stream temperature monitoring in Alaska​ 

Marcus Geist1, Sue Mauger2, Becky Shaftel1

1-UAA Alaska Natural Heritage Program
2 - Cook InletKeeper

As Alaskans continue to feel the impacts of a changing climate, the need for resource managers to understand how these changes will alter aquatic systems and fisheries resources grows. Water temperature data collection has increased in recent years to begin to fill our gaps in knowledge about current thermal profiles. Many entities are collecting temperature data for a variety of purposes to meet project or agency specific goals. AKOATS, the Alaska Online Aquatic Temperature Site, is a comprehensive statewide inventory of current (n=413) and historic (n=398) continuous monitoring locations for stream and lake temperature using a common set of attributes. Data were gathered from fish biologists, hydrologists, water resource managers, ecologists, and engineers. The inventory is fully accessible via an online, interactive map or it can be viewed directly within commercial GIS software. Statewide interest in thermal patterns and increasing data collection efforts provides Alaska’s scientific and resource managing community an opportunity to meet broader regionalscale data needs. A basic set of stream temperature monitoring standards are needed for Alaskans to begin building robust datasets suitable for regional analyses. By identifying minimum data standards, our objective is to encourage rapid, but structured, growth in comparable stream temperature monitoring efforts in Alaska that will be used to understand current and future trends in thermal regimes. These trends will inform efforts to develop strategies for maintaining ecosystem resilience.  

1 hour 3 mins

March 11, 2015

Storm-generated water levels at three coastal sites in Western and Eastern Arctic Alaska: historical trends and 21st century changes in the Arctic​

Li Erikson

USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Sciences Center

Coastal regions of Alaska are regularly affected by intense storms of ocean origin, the frequency and intensity of which are expected to increase as a result of global climate change. Since at least the 1970s, minimum annual total sea-ice cover has declined and freeze-up of landfast ice has been occurring later in the year. These changes allow for greater regions of wind-sea surface drag and greater chance of late summer/early fall storms to occur before pack ice refreezes and protects the shore, potentially increasing the frequency and magnitude of storm impacts on the coast. Coastal storms have already led to severe erosion, flooding, and destruction of salt-intolerant vegetation, but to date, little quantitative information on storm-generated total water levels at the coast is available. Furthermore, because historical quantitative data is limited, estimates of future changes are difficult to evaluate without a robust understanding of past events.  

This presentation provides a summary of two recent studies that partially fulfill this information gap. A suite of numerical models (Delft3D, SWAN, and XBEACH) were used in combination with reanalysis wind and sea level pressure fields to quantify historical storm surge levels, wave growth, and wave runup at two villages in the Bering Sea (Gambell and Unalakleet) and in the vicinity of a coastal lagoon in eastern Arctic Alaska (Arey Lagoon, west of Barter Island). Additionally, projections of wave conditions and storm surge levels under the influence of the ‘stabilizing’ radiative forcing scenario RCP 4.5 were estimated for the 21st century (up to the year 2100). The presentation will summarize historical trends and relative contributions of storm surge, wave runup, and astronomic tides on storm-induced water levels at the coast, as well as projected flood frequencies and extents along the margins of Arey Lagoon.​

1 hour 14 mins

February 25, 2015

Mapping Alaska’s Water​

Kacy Krieger

University of Alaska Anchorage

 Accurately mapped streams, rivers and lakes (hydrography data) are essential for countless applications ranging from solving public and private property issues, to managing natural resources, to effective fish habitat management and conservation in Alaska. However, throughout Alaska, many agencies and organizations use an outdated dataset created from1950s-era USGS Historical Topographic Maps. The dataset contains many errors including streams outside their channels, misrepresentations of flowlines, disconnected streams and omission of existing streams, rivers and lakes. There is a pressing need to correct these issues and improve hydrography to meet the needs of federal, state, and local agencies, NGOs and larger organizations such as National Fish Habitat Partnerships and Landscape Conservation Cooperatives. Many of these agencies, have recognized the need for a common and accurate hydrography dataset, and come together to coordinate and update Alaska’s hydrography by forming the Alaska Hydrography Technical Working Group. This committee adopted the Alaska Hydrography Database, a collaborative data model, as the stewardship model best suited to address local needs and update the National Hydrography Database.  Numerous partners throughout Alaska have participated in this effort. The improved data will increase efficiencies, foster collaboration and reduce costs. Modern hydrographic mapping gives scientists, regulators, resource managers and the public an accurate core dataset on which fish habitat mapping, environmental, conservation and natural resource management decisions can be founded.​

1 hour 9 mins

February 18, 2015, Noon

Relative Sea Level Change in Western Alaska as  constructed with Satellite Altimetry and Repeat GPS Measurement​

Kimber DeGrandpre

University of Alaska Fairbanks

​​Western Alaska is a remote region with many small, isolated communities situated in low-lying coastal environments that are sensitive to variations in local relative sea level (RSL). Quantification of RSL variation requires measured vertical velocities for both tectonic motion (onshore component) and the ocean surface (offshore component). During the summers of 2013 and 2014, campaign GPS surveys of geodetic benchmarks were undertaken to produce statistically significant velocity measurements of the tectonic component of sea level change for the region. Occupations of tidal benchmarks were also conducted to compare historic tidal records from the mid-1900s to more recent data. Preliminary results from the GPS survey suggest regional subsidence of approximately 1-2 mm/yr on the Seward Peninsula, which supports one of the current glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) models available for western Alaska. We present a model of vertical crustal motion for the Seward Peninsula and Yukon-Kuskokwim delta as well as information regarding regional tide gauge and satellite altimetry available. This velocity model will be used to aid local communities in the development of adaptation strategies for changing coastal environments.

1 hour 11 mins

January 28, 2015

Categorization of slush-ice berm formation on the west coast of Alaska​

Laura Eerkes-Medrano & Colleagues

University of Victoria

​​This project engaged several Western Alaska coastal communities to describe types and formation processes associated with near-shore sea-ice phenomena during the fall freeze-up season, in particular as relevant to coastal erosion, flooding, and shoreline protection. Commentary and indigenous and local observations were drawn from and analyzed through existing community observing programs (SIZONet and ANTHC-LEO) as well as from new interviews and meetings conducted for this project. Extensive work was performed to summarize, assess, and synthesize written and recorded observations and commentary. A primary result was identification of a range of slush-ice berm events that could be broadly categorized as “advective” or “in-situ”. The subsequent form and durability of a slush ice berm deposited on the beach is a function of beach and coastline form, on-shore winds, water level (positive or negative surge), water temperature, air temperature, and the occurrence of snow. Berms exceeding 3 m in height were noted by some community members (Shaktoolik). Large, strong berms can aid a community by blocking erosive wave action and storm surge inundation. However, berms can also impede access to the ocean, restricting hunting activities. Large unfrozen berms present a hazard to cross by residents needing to gain access to the sea. For specific dates of berm occurrences available from interviews, synoptic weather analyses were undertaken to identify associated large-scale patterns of temperature and winds. Other near-shore ice occurrences include wind-driven piling of sea-ice against the shore. This can also prevent marine access; such an event, lasting several weeks during prime hunting season, occurred in May 2013 (Gambell). For purposes of translating this work into an operational setting, discussions with NOAA were initiated. This work should form a starting point to improve forecasting of near-shore ice phenomena by providing forecasters with rules of thumb for slush ice and berm formation. Near-shore ice features vary at the local scale, potentially hampering work to improve forecasts. More work is required to track relevant aspects of ice freeze-up, clarify formation processes and provide better quantitative constraints on air temperature, storm surge, and wind-speed ranges necessary to result in the formation of these features. The observing protocol and framework developed to guide opportunistic observations in coastal communities proved to be of considerable value for tracking hazardous freeze-up/storm events. In terms of methodological insights gained, a key factor when working with communities is a willingness to take the time necessary to build relationships. Without that it can be harder to secure accurate or useful information. ​

1 hour 13 mins

December 3, 2013

Establishing a Distributed Permafrost Observation Network in Western Alaska​

​Vladimir Romanovsky

University of Alaska Fairbanks, Geophysical Institute

The area of Western Alaska including the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge (SNWR) is generally underrepresented in terms of permafrost thermal monitoring. Thus, 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. While most of these stations were basic and only measured the temperature down to 150 cm at 4 depths, three of the stations had higher vertical temperature resolution down to 3 m. 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. We found the Upland Dwarf Birch-Tussock Shrub ecotype to be the coldest with a mean annual ground temperature at 1 meter (MAGT1.0) of -3.9 °C during the August 1st, 2012 to July 31st, 2013 measurement period. This ecotype is also the most widely spread in the SNWR, covering approximately 28.4% by area. The next most abundant ecotype in the SNWR is the Lowland and Upland Birch-Ericaceous Low Shrub with an area coverage of approximately 10.5%. This ecotype had warmer permafrost than the Upland Dwarf Birch-Tussock Shrub ecotype with an average MAGT1.0 of -2.4 °C during the same measurement period. We also found that within some ecotypes (White Spruce and Alder-Willow Shrub) the presence or absence of moss on the surface had a large effect on the permafrost thermal regime. In fact the absence of moss in both these ecotypes seems to indicate the absence of near surface permafrost. In general, we found good agreement between ecotype classes and permafrost characteristics such as temperature, active layer thickness, and freeze back duration. Thus, we believe it might be possible to translate the ecotype map into a permafrost map using our 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.​​

1 hour 12 mins

September 30, 2014

Part I:  ​Extensive mappi​ng of coastal change in Alaska by Landsat time-series analysis, 1972–2013​

Part II:  Exten​sive mapping of coastal change in Alaska by Landsat time-series analysis, 1972–2013​

​Matt Macander

ABR, Inc.

​The landscape-scale effects of coastal storms on Alaska’s Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska coasts includes coastal erosion, migration of spits and barrier islands, breaching of coastal lakes and lagoons, and inundation and salt-kill of vegetation. In areas experiencing moderate to large effects, changes can be mapped by analyzing trends in time series of Landsat imagery. ABR, Inc.—Environmental Research & Services and the Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative (WALCC) performed a time-series trend analysis for over 22,000 kilometers of coastline along the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska over the time period 1972–2013. 

An annual time-series of suitable Landsat imagery was compiled and analyzed for changes in near-infrared reflectance to identify areas that transitioned from land to water, or vice-versa. Thousands of coastal changes over the 42-year study period exceeded the 60-m pixel resolution of the Multispectral Scanner (MSS) data, including coastal erosion and aggradation, estuarine and delta channel dynamics, coastal lake drainage and expansion, and migrations of coastal spits.  Coastal erosion was mapped for approximately 100 km² and coastal aggradation was mapped for approximately 113 km². Although an accuracy assessment based on review of patches >5 ha in size suggested that aggradation was slightly overmapped in tidal flat areas, coastal erosion and aggradation overall were close to balanced. Locally, many areas with changes appeared to have steady state coastal dynamics, with eroding sediment aggrading nearby. Many local examples of directional change (e.g., substantial and sustained coastal erosion) were also observed.  An in-progress analysis of changes in temporal trends in the rate of erosion / aggradation events will be summarized. The data products of the study will be summarized, including: raster maps of change by type, physiography class, and year; point and polygon maps of change patches; and annual Landsat mosaics for the entire WALCC coastline. ​

Part 1:  50 mins

Part 2:  38 mins

Cindy McKay 

Horizon Systems Corp.​

​​This presentation will introduce the audience to NHDPlus focusing on the capabilities of this powerful dataset.  NHDPlus applications will be highlighted.  The presentation will close with information about the source data and processes necessary to build NHDPlus in Alaska.​  Click here to download Cindy's slides​.

1 hour 20 mins

May 14, 2014

Nicole Kinsman 

Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys​

The Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys’ Coastal Program will provide an update on a 2012 WALCC project designed to collect bathymetric data in shallow, coastal communities in western Alaska.  In this talk we will discuss the benefits and challenges associated with collecting these measurements in rural areas, our methods and field areas, how the data will be distributed and what opportunities this work has paved the way for. 

Nicole Kinsman manages the Coastal Program at the Alaska Department of Natural Resources in Fairbanks, Alaska where her team is focused on the production of coastal vulnerability maps at the community level.  She leads field investigations of erosion, ice push and storm surge hazards throughout the state and is also an affiliated faculty member at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.​

Slides only; no audio available.

Robert Grumbine

NOAA/NWS National Centers for Environmental Prediction​

The western coastline of Alaska is highly susceptible to coastal storms, which can cause coastal erosion, flooding, and have other pernicious effects to the environment and commercial efforts. The reduction in ice coverage due to climate change could potentially increase the frequency and degree of coastal flooding and erosion. Further, estuaries and delta systems act as conduits for storm surges, so when there is less nearshore ice coverage, these systems could introduce storm surge into terrestrial environments unaccustomed to saline intrusion, flooding, or other alien biogeochemical factors. 

This presentation provides an update on a project that is quantifying the effect of reduced nearshore ice coverage on coastal flooding. The project is developing a large domain wave and storm surge model (SWAN/WWIII + ADCIRC) with high resolution along the Western Alaska coast . This approach captures the complex multi-scale and interactive physics of the deep water, shelf, nearshore, coast, estuaries, and rivers, and is more robust operationally. The model is being assessed using historical wind/pressure fields and station observation data. The impacts of receding ice cover will be studied by including historical seasonal ice coverage, and its effects on the atmospheric and hydrodynamic processes.​

1 hour 23 mins

Bill Pyle

​USFWS, Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge

This project is acquiring long-term data series on temperature of selected lakes to support management of nursery habitat of lake-rearing juvenile sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) in relation to climate change. Supported by a grant from the Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative, we adopted protocol developed by the National Park Service to establish and maintain moored all-season vertical temperature monitoring arrays in eight lakes of Kodiak, Togiak, and Alaska Peninsula/Becharof National Wildlife Refuges during 2011-2013. We will present an overview of the monitoring protocol, initial results, and recommendations.​

53 mins

February 26, 2014

Ben Jones1 & Chris Arp2

1USGS​ & 2University of Alaska Fairbanks

In the Western Alaska LCC region, lakes make up approximately 8% of the surface area and nearly half of the lakes in Alaska are located here.  As sentinels, integrators, and regulators of climate change, a better understanding of the past, present, and future state of lake thermal regimes is warranted.  As part of a region-wide collaborative project, we initiated a landscape-scale lake monitoring program using water surface temperature data loggers deployed between between 2009 and 2013.  These datasets were compared to nearby meteorological data to develop empirical models of lake surface temperature to facilitate hindcasts and forecasts over longer periods. Satellite image observations of water surface temperature were used to validate the hindcast model results.  The forecast models were driven by down-scaled projections of air temperature to 2100 to project future lake surface temperatures for the 26 lakes with in situ observations in order to provide estimates of potential responses to projected climate warming.

1 hour 36 mins


​​Sarah Saalfeld

Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences & USFWS

​​​​​The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta of Alaska is a globally important region for numerous avian species including millions of migrating and nesting waterbirds.  Climate change effects such as sea level rise and increased storm frequency and intensity have the potential to impact waterbird populations and breeding habitat in the near future.  In order to determine the potential impacts of these climate-mediated changes, it is important to monitor the current spatial distribution of important nesting areas and understand the importance of environmental variables in the selection of nest locations.  To do this, we modeled nest density for 15 species or composite species of waterbirds that commonly breed on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, including Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii minima), Emperor Goose (Chen canagica), Black Brant (Branta bernicla nigricans), Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons frontalis), Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus), Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis), Spectacled Eider (Somateria fischeri), Common Eider (S. mollissima), Northern Pintail (Anas acuta), Greater Scaup (Aythya marila), Pacific (Gavia pacifica) and Red-throated Loon (G. stellata; composited into one classification due to inability to distinguish nests), Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus), Mew Gull (L. canus), Sabine’s Gull (Xema sabini), and Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea).  The data used were from single-visit nest searches on 2,338 plots sampled during 29 years, 1985–2013.  Nest density was modeled for each species using negative binomial regression and landscape environmental variables.  For most species, nest density was greatest near the coast and within lower coastal salt marsh and upper coastal brackish meadow habitats.  When compared to a withheld portion of the data, predicted nest densities were highly correlated (i.e., Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient, rs = 0.52–0.77) for 6 of the 15 species, but less correlated (rs = 0.24–0.49) for the remaining 9 species.  Predicted nest densities mapped across the coastal zone of Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta for each species revealed areas of high and low densities that can be used to inform management and conservation decisions.

1 hour 5 mins

November 20, 2013

Vladimir Romanovsky 

University of Alaska Fairbanks, Geophysical Institute

​1 hour 15 mins

November 6, 2013

Lakes and permafrost in the Western Alaska LCC region - first results​

Guido Grosse

Alfred Wegener Institute

1 hour 12 mins

Andrew Robertson

St. Mary's University of Minnesota

​​1 hour 13 mins

​Don Spalinger & Nathan Wolf 

University of Alaska Anchorage 

This seminar focuses on our concepts of regulation of nutrient flows through tundra ecosystems and the effect that climate (or weather) has on these processes.  Nutrient flow and climate, in turn, should regulate plant phenology and production, and thus caribou behavior and nutrition.  We will present some ideas for assessing the landscape patterns of these processes and monitoring their impacts.  Finally, we will provide examples of such assessment and monitoring processes from our work in Western Alaska over the past two years.​

1 hour 26 mins

Peter Lisi & Daniel Schindler 

University of Washington Seattle​, School of Aquatic & Fisheries Sciences 

A central challenge for river ecologists is to understand how thermal regimes of streams are controlled by interactions between regional climatic conditions and geomorphic features of the landscapes they drain. Regionally, Alaskan streams express significant variation in thermal response to air temperature, yet the mechanisms that produce this variation are poorly quantified. Efforts to forecast river thermal characteristics under new climate regimes or land-use conditions require improvements in models that quantify relationships between climate regimes and hydro/geomorphic features of rivers. We measured water temperatures among 50 streams ranging in size from 1st order tributaries to 5th order rivers draining large lakes across the Wood River basin in southwest Alaska.  We hypothesized that thermal variation among smaller streams would be controlled by the dominant sources of water in the watersheds they drain, while large rivers would be influenced by the circulation, stratification, and mixing characteristics of upstream lakes. We used hydrogen and oxygen isotopes of water to estimate the relative contribution of rain and snow to summer stream flows.  Second, we monitored the circulation conditions in lakes with thermal arrays paired with meteorological conditions on land. Our results highlight the importance of water source and geomorphic features, such as watershed elevation and slopes, and size of lakes in the landscape, for controlling thermal regimes across river basins.  Last, we will present recent research on how thermal variation among streams is associated with the spawn-timing phenology in sockeye salmon populations with important consequences for species that depend on the seasonal availability of salmon resources.

1 hour 6 mins 

December 11, 2012

Ryan Wilson

The Wilderness Society 

​​1 hour 12 mins