Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Assessment of barrier island morphological change in northern Alaska

August 24, 2021

Arctic barriers islands are highly dynamic features influenced by a variety of oceanographic, geologic, and environmental factors. Many Alaskan barrier islands and spits serve as habitat and protection for native species, as well as shelter the coast from waves and storms that cause flooding and degradation of coastal villages. This study summarizes changes to barrier morphology in time and space along the North Slope coast of Alaska between the United States-Canadian border and Cape Beaufort from 1947 to 2020. Changes considered in this study include number of barriers, area and perimeter, shoreline length, barrier sinuosity and width, presence and number of relict terminus features, presence and coverage of tundra vegetation, barrier orientation, and elevation metrics. Wave conditions are also summarized and related to changes in barrier morphology. The results in this report help to better predict future barrier evolution and prevalence along Alaska’s coast by increasing our understanding of Arctic barrier development, migration and degradation.