The Changing Climate and the Arctic Coastal Settlements

The Changing Climate and the Arctic Coastal Settlements

Ove T. Gudmestad

Department of Mechanical and Civil Engineering and Materials Science, University of Stavanger, Stavanger, Norway

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The changing climate has led to increased summer temperatures in the Arctic, later sea ice formation in the fall season and less ice during the winter. Parts of the icecap are thinning and during summer, the area covered by ice has been shrinking. This situation has led to open seas and longer wind fetch, so larger waves build up during the late summer and fall seasons. This situation is then associated with larger waves hitting the Arctic coastline. The larger waves are influencing the shores where melting of permafrost occurs to a larger extent than previously and the consequences are large erosion and retracting of the coastline.

Furthermore, as the open sea and the shallow waters in the near coast areas over most of the Arctic cause large storm surge effects, the associated flooding is more pronounced than before, associated with damages far inland. Adding a general slow water level increase, the Arctic coastal shoreline is under pressure. The situation for Alaskan as well as Russian settlements is being discussed. The consequences of the situation are a need for local strengthening of the coastline artificially and subsequent relocation of Arctic coastal settlements.


Arctic settlements, erosion of shoreline, ice limit, permafrost-melting, waves


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