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
|Jacquelyn Overbeck||Program Manager|
|| Geologist ||
- Online data distribution, educational outreach, and innovative observation strategies for severe storms will remain a focus in 2015-2016
- Coming soon: Alaska Sea Grant project to establish community-based sites for erosion monitoring in Bristol Bay
- New release of aerial photos and elevation models over west coast communities
- Updates to the Alaska Coastal Profile Tool including data in Norton Sound and St. Lawrence Island
- The Alaska Tidal Datum Portal has been updated with [new content for 2016]
- 2015 Release of the Alaska Shoreline Change Tool
- December 2015 WALCC webinar on the Alaska Shoreline Change Tool
Topics of Investigation
Geohazard Evaluation and Geologic Mapping for Coastal Communities
Many of Alaska's coastal communities are involved in mitigation or adaptation efforts in response to natural hazards. To provide these communities with the tools that are necessary to support local decision-making, DGGS has undertaken focused field studies at the local and regional scales. This project, funded by the federal Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP), is in effect from 2010-2016 and will result in a series of coastal flood/erosion vulnerability products for at least nine coastal communities.
Focus communities have been selected in consultation with external agencies, including the Alaska Division of Community and Regional Affairs, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and affected coastal populations.
2011: Unalakleet and Shaktoolik
2012: Golovin, Wales, and Shishmaref
2013: Gambell, Savoonga, Port Heiden, and Hooper Bay
2016: St. Paul
Surficial-geologic map of Shaktoolik, Norton Bay quadrangle, Alaska.
Spatially Referenced Oblique Aerial Photography:
For additional statewide imagery, please visit our partners at the Alaska ShoreZone Coastal Mapping and Imagery Project
The Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. To learn more, visit the State of Alaska CIAP.
To promote collaborative efforts, our annual field investigation areas are posted on the Alaska Ocean Observing System's Research Assets Map.
Statewide orthoimagery may be obtained from our partners at the Geographic Information Network of Alaska (GINA)
Residents who have observed gradual or sudden changes to the coastal environment are strongly encouraged to contact our staff directly and/or submit their observations to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium's Local Environmental Observer (LEO) Network.
Accurate coastal elevation data is critical for quantifying erosion/deposition, subsidence/uplift, and for classifying landforms that reveal mechanisms of coastal modification. High-resolution topographic surfaces are also a required component in the production of flood inundation maps for coastal communities.
Coastal Elevation Profiles - Alaska Coastal Profile Tool (ACPT)
These 'snapshots' of the shape of the beach provide reference points for change detection on the coast. In addition to profile sites established and revisited by this program, DGGS is designing a database and online data visualization tool to facilitate access to measurements from outside contributors as well.
Digital Elevation Models (DEMs)
DGGS is releasing open-access digital elevation models data from new and pre-existing lidar and photogrammetry work. A large scale collection was contracted for 2015-2016. Data directly around the communities of western Alaska have been released.
Photogrammetric digital surface models and orthoimagery for the coast of western Alaska Wales to Platinum
Funding for current efforts to provide open-access DEM data for the Alaska coast 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 funding to support the development of a statewide digital repository for Alaska coastal elevation profile measurements is provided by the Alaska Ocean Observing System.
Asbury H. Sallenger, Jr.'s, unpublished 1970s field observations are being archived and has been added to the Alaska Geologic Data Index in collaboration with partners at the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program.
Water Level Investigations
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.
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.
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
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.
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 complements coastal topography by serving as a vital link that joins offshore and onshore elevation data. Seamless elevation surfaces in the coastal zone are critical for reliable storm surge models, enable the calculation of sediment budgets, and are necessary for a range of coastal development decisions.
Shallow-water bathymetry from WorldView-2 imagery (pilot project)
DGGS acquired a portable, single-beam sonar system under a cooperative agreement with the Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative to expand the Coastal Hazards Program's ability to collect shallow water measurements in rural parts of our State.
Informed coastal planning that will protect life, infrastructure, and the environment is fueled by access to reliable decision-making tools. DGGS projects that seek to close communication gaps, convert available data into a useful format, and educate the public about coastal processes are designed to facilitate decision-making and minimize losses due to new or exacerbated hazards in the coastal environment.
Color-Indexed Community Elevation Maps
A pilot project in conjunction with the National Weather Service (NWS), the Alaska Division of Community and Rural Affairs, and Alaska Ocean Observing System to streamline rapid communication about forecasted storm surges, local elevations, and potentially impacted infrastructure during storm events that have the potential to cause coastal flooding.
Education and Outreach
DGGS staff routinely host workshops and give presentations to community residents, and emergency responders to raise awareness about coastal geohazards and data resources in Alaska.
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.
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.
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 photo and/or GPS documentation of maximum flood waters. See the link below to a protocol for documenting this information.
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Tsunami Research and Inundation Mapping for Alaska Communities
These efforts are led by DGGS geologist De Anne Stevens.
DGGS contributes to the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program under a cooperative project with the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Alaska Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Management. In conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey, DGGS also participates in collaborative research along the Aleutian subduction zone aimed at understanding recurrence and size of large paleoearthquakes and tsunamis.
Aleutian Islands Paleotsunami Reconnaissance with the U.S. Geological Survey Field investigations at Driftwood Bay on Umnak Island (2013) and Stardust Bay on Sedanka Island (2012) support the characterization of tephra and tsunami sand deposits to evaluate recurrence of tsunamis in this region. Geomorphic mapping and marsh stratigraphic studies were undertaken on Simeanof Island (2011) to evaluate the history of faulting on the Aleutian megathrust.
Tsunami inundation map - Chenega Bay, North Sawmill Bay
Tatitlek and Cordova (in review); Tsunami inundation map - Dutch Harbor and Cold Bay (in preparation)
Available Tsunami Inundation Maps:
Alaska Earthquake Information Center - numerical modeling
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.