Climate Change

Arctic coastline receded six times more in 2017: Study

The warming climate is increasing the summer seasons and causing storms that are washing away the coastal permafrost 

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 10 June 2019
Arctic coastline receded by 14.5 meters in 2017: Study. Photo: Getty Images

Owing to the rapidly warming global climate, the Arctic coastlines retreated by 14.5 meters in the summer of 2017 — a rate which is over six times seen until 2011, according to scientists.

The warming climate is increasing the summer seasons and causing storms that are washing away the coastal permafrost — frozen ground which is exposed when sea ice melts during the summer, according to the University of Edinburgh.

“Sea ice melts earlier and reforms later in the year than before, exposing the coastline and presenting more opportunities for storms to cause damage,” explained the researchers.

Using drone-mounted cameras, an international team of researchers surveyed a section of permafrost coastline on Herschel Island, also known as Qikiqtaruk, off the Yukon coast in the Canadian Arctic.

They mapped the area seven times over 40 days in the summer of 2017 and found the coast had retreated by 14.5 metres during the period, sometimes more than a metre a day.

In just four days during one storm event, a total of 30 per cent retreat (4.1 metre) occurred, revealed the study published in The Cryosphere.

Comparing with surveys from 1952 until 2011, the rate of erosion in 2017 was over six times the long-term average for the area, the researchers said.

“Big chunks of soil and ground break off the coastline every day, then fall into the waves and get eaten away,” Isla Myers-Smith from the School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh, said in a statement.

Since the Arctic continues to warm faster than the rest of the planet, there is an urgent need to learn more the changing landscapes and drones could help, suggests Andrew Cunliffe​​​, from the Geography department at the University of Exeter.

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