SEDIMENT TRANSPORT PROCESSES AND COASTAL VARIABILITY ON THE ALASKAN NORTH SLOPE

E.H. Owens, J.R. Harper, D. Nummedal

Abstract


Shoreline development and shore-zone sediment transport on the Alaskan North Slope are dependent upon levels of wave energy, sea ice conditions, and the ice-sediment characteristics of eroding tundra cliffs. Considerable variation exists between the coastal processes and the shore-zone morphology of the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea beaches, (respectively west and east of Point Barrow). The supply of coarse sediments (sands or gravels) and the volumes of material eroded from tundra cliffs are a function of the initial character of the cliff sediments and of the ice content of the exposed cliffs. As cliff heights decrease, the ice content of the cliff increases, erosion rates increase but the sediment supply rates decrease. Wave-energy levels are relatively high and maintain a constant level on the Chukchi coast. The transport system on this coast is continuous and is augmented by storm events. On the Beaufort coast, energy levels are much lower, transport processes discontinuous, and storm events are therefore more significant. Sediments supplied to the coastal zone on the Chukchi coast are derived largely from the erosion of tundra cliffs and the barriers are continuous, linear, and stable. Rivers are the primary source of coastal sediments on the Beaufort coast and the more variable energy levels produce unstable barriers that are subject to aperiodic transport processes.

Keywords


sediment transport; transport processes; coastal variability; Alaskan North Slope

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