Recent years of increasing air temperature in the Arctic have led to a significant increase in the rate of retreat of permafrost coast, which has threatened livelihoods and infrastructure in these areas. The Kara Sea hosts more than 25% of the total Arctic coastline. However, little is known about how coastal erosion in the Kara Sea may have changed through time, and the climatic and environmental drivers remain unclear. Here we study coastal dynamics along a 4-km stretch of permafrost and sea-ice-affected coastline in south-west Baydaratskaya Bay of the Kara Sea, western Siberia, between 2005 and 2016, by using handheld differential GPS mapping and satellite imagery. We identified temporal and spatial variations in the retreat rates, ranging between 1.0 (+0.1/−0.6) and 1.9 (+0.7/−1.3) m/yr over the studied coastline during 2005–2016. We also made ground temperature measurements, subsurface resistivity measurements and estimates of wave energy flux of wind-driven ocean waves, to investigate the dominant climatic factors influencing the observed retreat rates through time. We found that wind-driven wave activity during sea-ice-free days influences the magnitude of coastal retreat in the study area, while recent temperature rise has contributed less to enhancing coastal retreat during the study period. This suggests that the amount of eroded sediment and the associated release of nutrient to the nearshore zone are controlled by the magnitude of wave activity, which may influence infrastructure along the permafrost coast and marine ecosystems in the proximal ocean.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Earth-Surface Processes