Human and Economic Indicators - Shishmaref
Village of Shishmaref, North Alaska
The village of Shishmaref in N. Alaska, inhabited for 400 years, is facing evacuation due to rising temperatures, which are causing a reduction in sea ice, thawing of permafrost along the coast. The reduced sea ice allows higher storm surges to reach shore and thawing permafrost makes the shoreline more vulnerable to erosion. The town's homes, water system and infrastructure are being undermined.
Sarichef Island (on which Shishmaref is located) is part of a dynamic, 100km-long barrier island chain that records human and environmental history spanning the past 2000 years - the oldest subaerial evidence for the formation of this system is about 1700 14c yr bp (see References, below). Erosion at Shishmaref is somewhat unique along the islands because of its fetch exposure and high tidal prism, relatively intense infrastructure development during the 20th century, and because of multiple shoreline defense structures emplaced since the 1970s.
Erosion rates along the island front exceed (and are not comparable with)
those along adjacent sectors. Erosion is occurring along the entire island
chain, but it is exacerbated at Sarichef Island in part because of the
hydrographic impacts of hard armoring of a sandy shoreface and permafrost degradation that is accelerated by infrastructure. Residents are experiencing the effects of coastal retreat on residential and commercial
properties and there is a need to develop solutions, potentially including the difficult choice to abandon the island.
Sachs Harbour, Canadian North West Territories
"Dramatic changes being witnessed by the people of Sachs Harbour [Canada North West Territories]: exotic insects and animals have arrived on their island; the sea ice is thinner and further from the community, carrying with it the seals and polar bears upon which the people depend for food; and permafrost melting has caused an inland lake to drain into the ocean and foundations of the community’s buildings to shift and crumble. Life for the people of Sachs Harbour has become increasingly difficult and unpredictable." Community Adaptation and Sustainable Livelihoods
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