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Archive for November, 2007

Satellite Images Monitor 50 Year Coastal Erosion in Alaska

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Satellite images from high resolution satellite sensors and moderate resolution sensors can provide researchers and scientists with data for assessment and analysis of water temperature, salinity, shoreline changes, bathymetry and potential threats to our coasts. Assessments and predictive capabilities through satellite imagery from satellite sensors incorporated with GIS mapping are needed to predict onset of events that may significantly affect human health, critical wetlands and ecosystems and economic development.

USGS scientists recently completed a quantitative analysis which was published in July 2007 issue of Geology, documenting effects of accelerated and thermokarst lake expansion and drainage along a section of the Alaska North Slope coastline.

Landsat 7 – Alaska North Slope


View Slide Show of Erosion

View Permafrost Photos by National Geographic

The remote sensing analysis focused on the Beaufort Sea coast, located north of Teshekpuk Lake in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. The data used in the analysis was taken in a time frame from 1955-2005. USGS scientists found that the rate of land loss attributed to coastal erosion more than doubled, from 0.48 km2 yr1 during 1955-1985 to 1.08 km2 yr1 during 1985-2005.

Importance for Natural Resources Issues—

The low-lying Arctic coastal plain north of Teshekpuk Lake hosts endangered and threatened species of waterfowl, is the calving grounds for large herds of caribou, and contains potentially significant petroleum resources.

Given competing natural resource demands in this sensitive area, land and resource managers are faced with the need to consider both the natural effects from a 30 yr warming trend that has resulted in ice-pack shrinkage and deterioration of permafrost, as well as the potential impacts of proposed human activity.

QuickBird – Alaska North Slope


The results from this quantitative analysis contribute to an enhanced understanding of the dynamic and interactive processes that shape this landscape, and provide information that is critically needed in sound land-management and policy decision making for sensitive Arctic areas.

Many coastal managers are changing the way they manage coastal problems. Instead of only undertaking corrective measures, officials are moving toward prevention. Using potential models with remote sensing and land cover data through GIS, managers can create scenarios for future development, as well as permitting and land use scenarios to estimate the impacts on sensitive coastal regions.