Portions of Arctic Coastline Eroding, No End in Sight, Says New CU-Boulder Study

University of Colorado Boulder – The northern coastline of Alaska midway between Point Barrow and Prudhoe Bay is eroding by up to one-third the length of a football field annually because of a “triple whammy” of declining sea ice, warming seawater and increased wave activity, according to new study led by the University of Colorado at Boulder. The conditions have led to the steady retreat of 30 to 45 feet a year of the 12-foot-high bluffs — frozen blocks of silt and peat containing 50 to 80 percent ice — which are toppled into the Beaufort Sea during the summer months by a combination of large waves pounding the shoreline and warm seawater melting the base of the bluffs, said CU-Boulder Associate Professor Robert Anderson, a co-author on the study. Once the blocks have fallen, the coastal seawater melts them in a matter of days, sweeping the silty material out to sea.

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