Variability of coastal change along the western Yukon Coast

anna.konopczak [ at ]


Because the Yukon coast along the Beaufort Sea has the highest ground ice contents in the Canadian Arctic and, in addition, faces the direction of most effective storms, this section of coast is considered to be highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In order to gain insight into the regional coastal dynamics, a quantification of coastal change was undertaken that allowed the determination of spatial and temporal variability of coastal change along a 35 km long section of coast, stretching from Komakuk to the international border. Shorelines from several years between 1951 and 2009 were digitized from georeferenced aerial photographs and an ortho-rectified SPOT image. Shoreline change statistics were subsequently calculated using the Digital Shoreline Analysis System (DSAS) extension for Esri ArcGIS. Theodolite and real-time kinematic GPS data that was collected during several surveys between 1991 and 2012 at two Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) monitoring sites (Border site and Komakuk site) were analysed to provide higher temporal resolution of coastal change for the last two decades. Additionally, the field survey data enabled an assessment to be made of the contribution of geomorphic variables (i.e. beach slope, beach width, cliff slope, absolute cliff height, relative cliff height) towards explaining changes of coastal erosion. According to the findings, the mean annual erosion along the western Yukon coast has been -1.2 ± 0.4 m/a over the entire period of study, with the rates decreasing through time from -1.4 ± 0.6 m/a between 1951 and 1972, to -1.2 ± 0.5 m/a between 1972 and 2009. However, site specific investigations show that there are differences in the mean erosion rates and in temporal trends. To the west at the Border site, the mean annual erosion rate is -1.3 ± 0.3 m/a, and the rates have recently accelerated, while at Komakuk in the east of the study area, the mean annual erosion rate is -0.9 ± 0.2 m/a, with the rates decelerating over time. A comparison of these findings to erosion rates from the Alaskan Beaufort Sea coast indicates that there is a general spatial pattern of decreasing erosion rates from the west to the east. The quantified erosion rates also enabled the calculation of mean annual land loss between 1951 and 2009, which amounted to 4.5 ha/a. An analysis of the influence of shore profile parameters on mean annual erosion rates showed a statistically significant correlation between beach widths and erosion rates (r=0.84) at the Border site. There is also a strong but insignificant correlation between absolute cliff heights and erosion rates at the Border, but no correlations of shore profile parameters with erosion could be distinguished for the Komakuk site.

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DOI 10.4095/293788

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Konopczak, A. M. , Manson, G. K. and Couture, N. J. , Chrisitan-Albrechts Unniversität zu Kiel, Geological Survey of Canada - Atlantic, University of Guelph (2014): Variability of coastal change along the western Yukon Coast , Geological Survey of Canada Open File Report, (Open F) . doi: 10.4095/293788

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