Erosion near the Pauline Cove settlement on Herschel Island.. Wave action eats away at the permafrost causing the land above to collapse; a process known as slumping.

Erosion near the Pauline Cove settlement on Herschel Island.. Wave action eats away at the permafrost causing the land above to collapse; a process known as slumping or *block failure*.
Photo Credit: Submitted by Isla Myers-Smith/Team Shrub

Erosion alarm for Herschel Island in the High Arctic

Many stories in recent years have told how climate change is thawing permafrost in the Arctic. Stories also mention how a shorter ice season and stronger storms are also causing shore erosion throughout the Arctic.

This year scientists on Herschel Island just off the Yukon coast in the Beaufort Sea recently expressed concern about unusual and extensive erosion there.

Wayne Pollard is a professor at McGill University, Montreal, in the Department of Geography, and Director of McGill Arctic Research Stations. He says there should however be some context  given to this recent concern expressed about the state of erosion on Herschel Island.

Listen
Wayne Pollard (PhD) Director Mcgill University Arctic Research Stations
Wayne Pollard (PhD) Director Mcgill University Arctic Research Stations © supplied

Herschel Island has an important history and heritage as it was once a major centre of the whaling fleets. Indeed several historic buildings from the 1800’s remain, but have had to be moved back from the eroding shore around Pauline Cove to protect them.

Unlike most other islands, Herschel is not a truly solid structure supported by a rocky base. Rather is a giant sediment deposit pushed up from the ocean floor by an ancient glacier much like a bulldozer would push a mound of dirt in front of it.

Herschel Island, approx 107 sq km. lies only 5 km off the Yukon Coast.
Herschel Island, approx 107 sq km. lies only 5 km off the Yukon Coast. © Google maps

The island consists now largely of this icy permafrost sediment with a relatively thin layer of soil on top of what is a relatively low-lying island. It’s highest point is only 181 metres above sea-level.

Hersschel Island- the Pauling Cove area is on the top right *peninsula*
Hersschel Island- the Pauling Cove area is on the top right *peninsula* © Google earth
Area of high erosion expressed by scientists this year near Pauline Cove. Professor Pollard says the rest of island is not experiencing that same high level of erosion.
Area of high erosion expressed by scientists this year near Pauline Cove. Professor Pollard says the rest of island is not experiencing that same high level of erosion. © google earth

Professor Pollard notes that the ice content of the permafrost compared on the island in some places can be as much as 80-90 percent with only 10-20 per cent as soil/sediment.

Retrogressive thaw slump.High ground is permafrost and soil, slump is the soil only -whatls left without ice (water) content and support
2015: Retrogressive thaw slump.High ground is permafrost and soil, slump is the soil only -whatls left without ice (water) content and support. Pollard says there are between 90-110 active retrogressive thaw slumps in any given year © W H Pollard

Although the scientific group expressed concern over the rapid erosion this year, Professor Pollard notes that’s occurring only in one small and low-lying part of the island which is prone to erosion , while elsewhere erosion is occurring at a modest pace of around a half a metre per year.

Aerial view of ground ice thaw on Herschel Island. the island has a high percentage of ice supporting a lesser level of soil. When it thaws the water drains away leaving a a relatively small amount of soil.
Aerial view of ground ice thaw (thermokarst) retrogressive slump on Herschel Island. The island has a high percentage of ice supporting a lesser level of soil. When it thaws the water drains away leaving a a relatively small amount of soil. © W Pollard

Still, he estimates the island has lost approximately ten per cent of it’s size since the turn of the last century and that climate change is hastening changes to the Arctic.

He says Herschel Island is the “poster child” for the changes that are occurring in the Arctic hastened by climate change.

Additional information

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Science and Technology

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1. RCInet.ca’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. RCInet.ca reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3. RCInet.ca’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

*

One comment on “Erosion alarm for Herschel Island in the High Arctic
  1. Peter Ashcroft says:

    The need to monitor the northern shores of the Arctic Ocean because of the climatic changes to permafrost and problems.