Blog, Kaktovik, North Slope, Outreach, Science camp, Teaching, Uncategorized

Science Camp snapshot: erosion survey

The Arctic is rapidly experiencing the effects climate change, and Kaktovik is no exception. Like all small villages on the North Slope, Kaktovik is seeing massive coastal erosion that may soon threaten local infrastructure.

Erosion along the coast of the Beaufort Sea. Image via Coastal Frontiers
Erosion along the coast of the Beaufort Sea. Image via Coastal Frontiers

To investigate the extent of erosion occurring in their own backyard, we equipped the students with GPS units and took a walk down to the beach cliffs on the west side of town. The students stood at the base of the cliffs and took waypoints as we walked west.

Students and Cliff take a waypoint at the base of the cliffs.
Students and Cliff take a waypoint at the base of the cliffs.

Two years ago, the last time that Cliff Strain was the Science Camp teacher, he had the students do the same activity. We found that since then, at some places, the cliffs had eroded as much as 60 feet. This rapid erosion is due to the dramatic increases in temperature seen throughout the Arctic in the past few decades.

 See more of how Kaktovik and other Inupiat communities are being affected by climate change in this video.

A small cave carved out by erosion. Note the permafrost visable to the right of the backpack.
A small cave carved out by erosion. Note the rectangle of permafrost visible to the right of the backpack.

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To an outsider like me, this outing also had several reminders of the realities of bears in North Slope communities.

"Papa", a Kaktovik elder, keeps a lookout from his Honda, letting us know as we move down the beach that there are "No nanook!"
“Papa”, a Kaktovik elder, keeps a lookout from his Honda, letting us know as we move down the beach that there are “No nanook!”
Bear prints on the beach more than a few days old.
Bear prints on the beach more than a few days old.
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