Permafrost researchers analyse the drivers of rapidly changing Arctic coasts and the implications for humans and environment
Arctic coasts are characterized by sea ice, permafrost and ground ice. This makes them particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which is already accelerating rapid coastal erosion. The increasing warming is affecting coast stability, sediments, carbon storage, and nutrient mobilization.
Understanding the correlation of these changes is essential to improve forecasts and adaptation strategies for Arctic coasts. In a special issue of the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute describe the sensitivity of Arctic coasts to climate change and the challenges for humans and nature.
“The pace of changes in the Arctic is increasing, leading to accelerated coastal retreat,” says Dr Anna Irrgang of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). “This affects both the natural and human environment, for example, by releasing carbon from the soil into the sea and atmosphere, or losing the land that supports communities and infrastructure.” Exactly how and how much coasts are changing depends on the interplay of the local coastal settings, like the presence of permafrost, and environmental factors such as air and water temperature.
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