Conservation & Research Environmental Monitoring LANDSAT QuickBird Remote Sensing

Satellite Images Monitor 50 Year Coastal Erosion in Alaska

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


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.

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