http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/environment/canadian-arctic-island-coast-collapsing-up-to-a-meter-a-day/article/551857

Canadian Arctic island coast collapsing up to a meter a day

Posted Jun 12, 2019 by Karen Graham
The frozen coastline of a Canadian Arctic island is eroding at up to a meter a day — a rate of collapse that is six times faster than the average for the previous 65 years, according to a new study.
Scientists led by the University of Edinburgh used drone-mounted cameras to study erosion of permafr...
Scientists led by the University of Edinburgh used drone-mounted cameras to study erosion of permafrost coastline on Qikiqtaruk - Herschel Island, Yukon Territory, in the Canadian Arctic.
Jeffrey Kerby
Herschel Island, also called by its Inuit name, Qikiqtaruk, is an island in the Beaufort Sea - part of the Arctic Ocean - about 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) off the coast of Yukon in Canada. It is Yukon's only offshore island.
Herschel Island has an area of about 45 square miles (116 square kilometers). The island's elevation ranges from sea level to 596 feet (182 meters) in height and is primarily rolling tundra. The island has no bedrock core. This makes the island subject to very high rates of coastal erosion due to the ice-rich nature of the underlying permafrost.
In a new study published in the journal The Cryosphere, an international team of researchers led by the University of Edinburgh flew drone-mounted cameras over a section of the permafrost coastline on Herschel Island.
NASA Landsat pseudocolour photo of Herschel Island.
NASA Landsat pseudocolour photo of Herschel Island.
NASA
Using drone platforms, satellite images, and historic aerial photographs, the researchers observed the rapid retreat of a permafrost coastline on Qikiqtaruk. This particular coastline is adjacent to a gravel spit where several culturally significant sites are located and is the logistical base for the Qikiqtaruk – Herschel Island Territorial Park operations.
The research team, that included scientists from the University of Exeter, Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany, the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Dartmouth College say the rate of collapse they found is six times faster than the average for the previous 65 years.
“Big chunks of land were breaking away and waves were eating them away,” said the study’s co-author Isla Myers-Smith, a geoscientist at the University of Edinburgh, reports CTV News. “They were often gone by the next day.”
Shoreline positions between 2016 and 2017 overlaid on three orthomosaics for part of the study reach...
Shoreline positions between 2016 and 2017 overlaid on three orthomosaics for part of the study reach.
Andrew M. Cunliffe et al.
Dr. Andrew Cunliffe, currently of the University of Exeter's Geography department, said: "As the Arctic continues to warm faster than the rest of our planet, we need to learn more about how these landscapes are changing. Using drones could help researchers and local communities improve the monitoring and prediction of future changes in the region."
The study provides further evidence of the ongoing change in the region, as a warming climate leads to longer summer seasons. Sea ice melts earlier and reforms later in the year than before, exposing the coastline and presenting more opportunities for storms to cause damage.
The research team mapped the area seven times over 40 days in the summer of 2017. The results were astounding. Using image-based computer models, they showed that the coast had retreated by 14.5 meters during the period, sometimes more than a meter a day.
Massive blue ground ice exposure on the north shore of Herschel Island  Yukon  Canada. (Image dated ...
Massive blue ground ice exposure on the north shore of Herschel Island, Yukon, Canada. (Image dated July 5, 2010).
Dave Fox
Comparing the new data with previous surveys dating from 1952 until 2011 revealed that the rate of erosion in 2017 was six times faster than the long-term average for the region.
Myers-Smith is a Vancouver native and has been traveling to Herschel Island-Qikiqtaruk to study plants since 2008 and has spent every summer there since 2013. The research team was studying changes in vegetation in 2017 when it witnessed big shifts in the coastline that it hadn’t seen in previous years, she told CTV News Canada.
The World Monuments Fund has placed Herschel Island on its 100 Most Endangered Sites, 2008 watch list, citing "rising sea levels, eroding coastline and melting permafrost" as imminent threats. Besides the increased pace of erosion, there are several active thaw slumps of considerable size along the south-eastern shore of the island and they have increased in abundance and size over the last fifty years