Using Video Imagery to Study Coastal Change: Barter Island, Alaska

Science Center Objects

For a short study period, two video cameras overlooked the coast from atop the coastal bluff of Barter Island in northern Alaska. The purpose was to observe and quantify coastal processes such as wave run-up, development of rip channels, bluff erosion, and movement of sandbars and ice floes.

Read more about our Arctic research projects:

Climate impacts to Arctic coasts
Remote sensing coastal change

Read USGS Sound Waves newsletter articles about this research:

Measuring Waves and Permafrost to Better Understand Erosion on Alaska’s Arctic Coast
Eyes on the Coast—Video Cameras Help Forecast Coastal Change

USGS Arctic researchers aimed a cellular-connected camera, used for tracking game, on another camera system as a means to keep an eye on the integrity of those video cameras “across the way.” What's funny is that the game cam went offline over the cold winter, and the scientists thought they'd lost it. Then suddenly, on April 15th, the game cam emailed an image! The one shown here is a bit more colorful and from a few days later, on April 19th. Now they know that #1 this game cam is still working (but just got a little frozen!) and #2 that their tower for mounting video cameras (used to observe and quantify coastal processes) is still standing and ready for summer installation.

Read more about our ongoing research about climate impacts to Arctic coasts, and how we use video imagery to study coastal change in Barter Island, Alaska.

A ground-level view filled mostly with snow, with an arctic bluff in the background that has a pole mounted on it.

First good image of the Arctic bluff in spring, taken April 15th, 2019 and sent from a self-resurrected, cellular-connected game cam mounted on the coastal permafrost bluff near the village of Kaktovik on Barter Island, northeast Alaska. The tower in the background is for mounting additional cameras to document coastal and sea-ice change over a summer season.

A ground-level view filled mostly with snow, with an arctic bluff in the background that has a pole mounted on it.

Stunning image from the game cam, taken April 19th, 2019. 

 

A man stands smiling on a high coastal bluff near solar panels and a pole supported by guy wires, with a camera mounted on top.

USGS oceanographer Shawn Harrison stands near the USGS video camera installation atop the coastal bluff of Barter Island in northern Alaska.

A coastal cliff is covered in grasses and some snow, and chunks of the cliff are beginning to crack and fall into the ocean.

Camera set-up on the Barter Island coast in summer of 2018.

View of muddy, eroding coastal bluffs with a visible permafrost layer and tumbling tundra on top.

Photograph of the highly erosive coastal permafrost bluff of Barter Island.

Two people stand atop a coastal cliff where the grassy edges are beginning to fall off onto the beach below.

USGS scientists Cordell Johnson, left, and Li Erikson stand atop the coastal bluff of Barter Island.