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Hindcast storm events in the Bering Sea for the St. Lawrence Island and Unalakleet Regions, Alaska

October 14, 2015

This study provides viable estimates of historical storm-induced water levels in the coastal communities of Gambell and Savoonga situated on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea, as well as Unalakleet located at the head of Norton Sound on the western coast of Alaska. Gambell, Savoonga, and Unalakleet are small Native Villages that are regularly impacted by coastal storms but where little quantitative information about these storms exists. The closest continuous water-level gauge is at Nome, located more than 200 kilometers from both St. Lawrence Island and Unalakleet. In this study, storms are identified and quantified using historical atmospheric and sea-ice data and then used as boundary conditions for a suite of numerical models. The work includes storm-surge (temporary rise in water levels due to persistent strong winds and low atmospheric pressures) modeling in the Bering Strait region, as well as modeling of wave runup along specified sections of the coast in Gambell and Unalakleet. Modeled historical water levels are used to develop return periods of storm surge and storm surge plus wave runup at key locations in each community. It is anticipated that the results will fill some of the data void regarding coastal flood data in western Alaska and be used for production of coastal vulnerability maps and community planning efforts.