Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2014AK124B

Accounting for Thermal Processes in Alaska Coastal Erosion

Institute: Alaska
Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-03-01 End Date: 2015-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $10,935 Total Non-Federal Funds: $21,877

Principal Investigators: Tom Ravens

Abstract: UAA (PI, Ravens) is currently assisting AKDOT with a coastal erosion project at Ninilchik on Cook Inlet. Ninilchik is suffering from chronic coastal erosion. The situation is getting worse due to climate change. In the past, the erosional impact of winter storms was limited because beach sediments were frozen at the time of storm attack or because waves were dissipated due to the presence of sea ice. In our warming climate, the full erosion potential of winter storms is beginning to be realized. AKDOT is considering different strategies for controlling the erosion which threatens to undermine a near-shore road. UAA is assisting AKDOT by running a coastal erosion model (XBeach) to evaluate alternative solutions to the coastal erosion problem. The XBeach model determines the geomorphic change of the coastal zone due to the wave and current environment. For the NIWR project, we propose to expand on the existing Ninilchik project and to begin to address the role of climate change and changed thermal processes in the coastal erosion at Ninilchik and elsewhere in Alaska. Specifically, we will obtain the source code of the XBeach model and modify it so that it can account for thermal processes. In particular, we will modify it so that it can account for freezing and thawing, and we will modify it to limit the transport of frozen sediments. Running the modified XBeach model for past, present, and future climates will allow us to better understand and prepare for coastal erosion processes at Ninilchik. Further, the modified XBeach will be available for application in other settings where accounting for both thermal and mechanical processes contributing to coastal erosion is essential. We are in discussions with the Arctic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (Philip Martin) about possibly applying the modified Xbeach model to understand and project coastal erosion on the North Slope between Drew Point and Cape Halkett.