Coastal Hazard Vulnerability Assessment: A Case Study of Erosion and Flooding on Herschel Island, Yukon Territory, Canada

Boris.Radosavljevic [ at ]


Coastal infrastructure, cultural, and archeological sites are increasingly vulnerable to erosion and flooding along permafrost coasts. Amplified warming of the Arctic, sea level rise, lengthening of the open water period, and a predicted increase in frequency of major storms compound these threats. Mitigation necessitates decision-making tools at an appropriate scale. We present a study of coastal erosion combining it with a flooding risk assessment for the culturally important historic settlement on Herschel Island, a UNESCO World Heritage candidate site. The resulting map may help local stakeholders devise management strategies to cope with rapidly changing environmental conditions. We analyzed shoreline movement using the Digital Shoreline Analysis System (DSAS) after digitizing shorelines from 1952, 1970, and 2011. Using these data, forecasts of shoreline positions were made for 20 and 50 years into the future. Flooding risk was assessed using a cost-distance map based on a high-resolution Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) dataset and current Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sea level estimates. Widespread erosion characterizes the study area. The rate of shoreline movement for different periods of the study ranges from -5.5 to 2.7 m·a-1 (mean -0.6 m·a-1). Mean coastal retreat decreased from -0.6 m·a-1 to -0.5 m·a-1, for 1952-1970 and 1970-2000, respectively, and increased to -1.3 m·a-1 in the period 2000-2011. Ice-rich coastal sections, and coastal sections most exposed to wave attack exhibited the highest rates of coastal retreat. The geohazard map resulting from shoreline projections and flood risk analysis indicates that most of the area occupied by the historic settlement is at extreme or very high risk of flooding, and some buildings are vulnerable to coastal erosion. The results of this study indicate a greater threat by coastal flooding than erosion. Our assessment may be applied in other locations where limited data are available.

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Conference (Invited talk)
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Not peer-reviewed
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AGU Fall Meeting, 14 Dec 2015 - 18 Dec 2015, San Francisco, California, USA.
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Radosavljevic, B. , Lantuit, H. , Pollard, W. , Overduin, P. , Couture, N. J. , Sachs, T. , Helm, V. and Fritz, M. (2015): Coastal Hazard Vulnerability Assessment: A Case Study of Erosion and Flooding on Herschel Island, Yukon Territory, Canada , AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, California, USA, 14 December 2015 - 18 December 2015 .


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