A portion of Alaska’s coastline is melting at twice the rate of previous years, according to National Geographic News. The article warns that this rapid increase could seriously threaten local wildlife such as caribou and endanger local landmarks that document human settlements.
Researchers cite warmer temperatures and the melting of permafrost as contributing to the declining coastline. According to National Geographic:
“Warming air and sea temperatures are melting the ice in the region's permafrost, or perpetually frozen earth. The meltwater then streams over the land and melts more permafrost, carrying sediment into the sea as it goes.”
The article goes on to explain that melting ice caused the coastline to disappear at a rate of about 45 feet per year between 2002 and 2007, up from 30 feet between 1979 and 2002, and 20 feet between 1955 and 1979. The lead researcher of this study, Benjamin Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey, warned of “a shift in the forces driving erosion” in a statement to National Geographic.
"Erosion is a natural process, and it is likely that this coastline has experienced erosion for quite some time," Jones said. The speed of this erosion, however, has researchers growing increasingly concerned.
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