Coastal Hazards

Alaska's extensive shorelines are incompletely mapped and under-instrumented for the evaluation of coastal dynamics. The Coastal Hazards Program at DGGS is engaged in ongoing investigations that will expand our understanding of how the coastline has evolved and how it will respond to hazardous events and long-term changes. This program is dedicated to fostering scientific partnerships that will improve the quality and quantity of the critical baseline data that are necessary to fuel informed decision-making throughout the state.

We routinely respond to information requests by agencies and the general public. If we can assist you in any way please contact our program directly

Follow DGGS on Twitter @akdggs


Name Title
Jacquelyn Overbeck Program Manager
| Geologist |
| |

Research Interns

Name Title
| |
| |


Topics of Investigation

Geohazard Evaluation and Geologic Mapping for Coastal Communities

Coastal Topography

Water Level Investigations

  • + Overview

    Alaska's coastline is under-instrumented to record water level variations such as storm surges and long-term sea level trends; there are fewer than 30 continuously active tide gauges. Accurate water level records, which are appropriately linked to geodetic datums, are necessary to define storm surge recurrence intervals, validate modeled water level predictions, and establish boundaries of land ownership in the coastal zone.

  • + Featured Projects

    Documentation of Extreme Water Levels

    As part of baseline coastal mapping efforts, DGGS field scientists measure the elevations of high water strandlines, wrack lines, storm debris, and overwash deposits. In the wake of significant storm events, a field team is dispatched to affected areas to measure peak water levels, and to document flood inundation extents and areas of erosion or overtopping.

    Tide Stations and Water Level Sensors

    In partnership with the Alaska Ocean Observing System, NOAA's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS), and NWS Alaska Region, DGGS is seeking progressive ways to fill gaps in Alaska's water level network through a combination of traditional, innovative, and opportunistic water level stations. DGGS is also working with the Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative and researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to publish accurate positional information for tidal benchmarks.

    Modeled Water Levels

    DGGS staff assist modelers by ensuring that the best available data and most appropriate assumptions are incorporated into model products for Alaska coastal regions. The Coastal Hazards Program is currently working with partners at the U.S. Geological Survey to facilitate an assessment of storm-induced water levels for St. Lawrence Island and the greater Bering Straits region.

  • + Publications and Data Products


    A guide to gaps in water level priorities for the state of Alaska

    A summary of short-term and real-time water level sensor deployments for Unalakleet, Tununak, Platinum, Wales, and Kotzebue


    Alaska tidal datum portal

    November 2011 Bering Sea storm, Norton Sound, Alaska

    Real-time water level sensors in western Alaska

  • + Partners and External Resources

    Funding to support field reconnaissance measurements and storm-induced water level modeling is provided by the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP), administered by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. To learn more, visit the State of Alaska CIAP.

    Additional water level and tidal benchmark investigations at DGGS have been funded by the Alaska Ocean Observing System and the Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative.

    Cooperative DGGS-USGS storm-induced water level modeling is currently led by Li Erickson at the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program.

    Extratropical water level guidance (an experimental, model-based product) for the Alaska region is available from the National Weather Service's Meteorological Development Laboratory.

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration water level and meteorological station data are available from the Observational Data Interactive Navigation (ODIN) map.

    Alaska tidal benchmark positions are most readily available from the NOAA National Geodetic Survey's Online Positioning User Service (OPUS).

Nearshore Bathymetry

Coastal Preparedness

Community-Based Monitoring

  • + Overview

    Community decision-making relies on the access and reliability of local data and planning tools. DGGS helps to facilitate local efforts to collect reliable data through the development of community-based monitoring methods for erosion and flooding. DGGS is able to store data in long-term databases, translate information into useable products, and provide data to the public in online formats.

  • + Featured Projects

    Bristol Bay Residents Taking a Stake in Shoreline Erosion Monitoring

    This pilot project has been established using funds from the Alaska Sea Grant to construct a system and database for community- based erosion observing in Bristol Bay. Project investigators are facilitating community observations of erosion by conducting an informative regional workshop on the topic, measuring baseline coastal topography, providing supplies and equipment for continued monitoring, and processing time-lapse photography and Emery Rod coastal profiles into mapped shoreline change products. Resulting data will be added to the Alaska Shoreline Change Tool and the Alaska Coastal Profile Tool.

    2016 sites: Port Heiden, Levelock, Togiak, and Dillingham

    2017 sites: Aleknagik, Naknek, Chignik Lagoon, Chignik Lake, Ekuk, and New Stuyahok

    Collaborating with the Alaska Institute for Justice to Monitor Erosion

    DGGS recently visited 3 sites on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta--Chevak, Kotlik, and Kwigillingok-- with the Alaska Institute for Justice. Erosion monitoring time-lapse cameras were installed and a baseline riverbank survey conducted.

    Site Installations at St. Paul Island

    DGGS staff recently worked with the St. Paul Island Ecosystem Conservation Office (ECO) to install sites around the island for continued observations. DGGS collected baseline information at each of the sites and installed stakes for ECO staff to continue making shoreline measurements from. The ECO staff identified areas around the island subject to changes during storm events and areas where subsitence hunting land may be at risk from changes in the coastline.

    Documenting Storm Surge Inundation

    Although DGGS is continually working to increase the number of real-time water level monitoring stations around Alaska, there are still many gaps in this network. Water level monitoring stations help to record the maximum elevations of storm surges and document when they occur. The same information can be collected by local residents using photographs and GPS as well as tide staffs that have been surveyed of maximum flood waters.

    See the link below to a protocol for documenting this information.

  • + Publications and Data Products

    Available upon request: Community-Based Methods for Monitoring Coastal Erosion: A step-by-step guide for documenting shoreline change in your community

    Available upon request: Data sheets for monitoring coastal erosion and flooding

    Available: Documenting Storm Surge with Photographs

    Protocol for Documenting Storm Surge using the LEO Phone Application

    Alaska Sea Grant Project Description and Contacts

  • + Partners and External Resources

    University of Alaska Fairbanks

    Bristol Bay Native Association

    St. Paul Island Ecosystem Conservation Office

Tsunami Research and Inundation Mapping for Alaska Communities

These efforts are led by DGGS geologist Barrett Salisbury.

To ensure timely delivery of project information and preliminary products, the content of this program webpage has not been peer-reviewed. Any views and/or opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and shall not be deemed to express those of the Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys, the State of Alaska, or any affiliated funding agency.