Assessing the Timing and Extent of Coastal Change in Western Alaska

Tribal Profiles
U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit

Alaska’s western coast has seen substantial changes in recent years. During 2013, the Village of Shishmaref saw 60 feet of shoreline vanish in a single storm. Over a five-year period, storms also removed 30 feet of shoreline at an ancient Yup’ik village near Quinhagak, increasing the urgency of archaeologists and the community to protect this historic site. And recently, storm surges have flooded portions of the town of Golovin so frequently that residents made a decision to relocate some of their essential infrastructure to higher ground. These events illustrate the vulnerability of western Alaska’s coastal communities and cultural resources to rising seas and eroding coastlines. As the region warms—and sea ice and land-fast ice that once protected coastlines during extreme storms disappears—the impacts of coastal erosion will only increase. Issues of coastal change in the region fall within the purview of the Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC). The LCC is one of 22 regional efforts across the United States launched to better integrate science and management in addressing climate change and other landscape-scale issues. The Western Alaska LCC is governed by a partnership of 14 state, federal, and tribal organizations with input from academia, agencies, non-profit organizations, consulting firms, and traditional knowledge experts. In 2012, the Western Alaska LCC co-hosted a coastal hazards workshop with the Alaska Ocean Observing System and the Alaska Climate Science Center. At the workshop, a broad group of stakeholders identified their needs for information and tools that would help them understand and forecast how the coast is changing. To date, the LCC has sponsored or co-sponsored 17 projects to address recommendations offered by workshop participants.