Submitted as: development and technical paper 29 Mar 2021

Submitted as: development and technical paper | 29 Mar 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal GMD.

ArcticBeach v1.0: A physics-based parameterization of pan-Arctic coastline erosion

Rebecca Rolph1,2, Pier Paul Overduin1, Thomas Ravens3, Hugues Lantuit1,4, and Moritz Langer1,2 Rebecca Rolph et al.
  • 1Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Telegrafenberg A45, 14473, Potsdam, Germany
  • 2Geography Department, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10099, Berlin, Germany
  • 3University of Alaska Anchorage, 3211 Providence Dr., Anchorage, AK 99508, United States
  • 4University of Potsdam, Am Neuen Palais 10, 14469, Potsdam, Germany

Abstract. In the Arctic, air temperatures are warming and sea ice is declining, resulting in larger waves and a longer open water season, all of which intensify the thaw and erosion of ice-rich coasts. This change in climate has been shown to increase the rate of Arctic coastal erosion, causing problems for industrial, military, and civil infrastructure as well as changes in nearshore biogeochemistry. Numerical models that reproduce historical and project future Arctic erosion rates are necessary to understand how further climate change will affect these problems, and no such model yet exists to simulate the physics of erosion on a pan-Arctic scale. We have coupled a bathystrophic storm surge model to a simplified physical erosion model of a partially frozen cliff and beach. This Arctic erosion model, called ArcticBeach v1.0, is a first step toward a parameterization of Arctic shoreline erosion for larger-scale models, which are not able to resolve the fine spatial scale (up to about 40 m) needed to capture shoreline erosion rates from years to decades. It is forced by wind speeds and directions, wave period and height, sea surface temperature, all of which are masked during times of sea ice cover near the coastline. Model tuning requires observed historical retreat rates (at least one value), as well as rough nearshore bathymetry. These parameters are already available on a pan-Arctic scale. The model is validated at two study sites at Drew Point (DP), Alaska, and Mamontovy Khayata (MK), Siberia, which are respectively located in the Beaufort and Laptev Seas, on different sides of the Arctic Ocean. Simulated cumulative retreat rates for DP and MK respectively (169 and 170 m) over the time periods studied at each site (2007–2016, and 1995–2018) are found to be within the same order of magnitude as observed cumulative retreat rates (172 and 120 m). Given the large differences in geomorphology and weather systems between the two study sites, this study provides a proof-of-concept that ArcticBeach v1.0 can be applied on very different partially frozen coastlines. ArcticBeach v1.0 provides a promising starting point to project the retreat of Arctic shorelines, or to evaluate historical retreat in places that have had few observations. Further, this model can provide estimates of the flux of sediment from land to sea for Arctic nearshore biogeochemical studies, while leaving an opportunity for further development of modelling the physics of a partially frozen shoreline.

Rebecca Rolph et al.

Status: open (until 24 May 2021)

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Rebecca Rolph et al.

Model code and software

ArcticBeach v1.0 Rolph, Rebecca

Rebecca Rolph et al.


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Short summary
Declining sea ice, larger waves, and increasing air temperatures are contributing to a rapidly eroding Arctic coastline. We simulate water levels using wind speed and direction, which are used with wave height, wave period, and sea surface temperature to drive an erosion model of a partially frozen cliff and beach. This provides a first step to include Arctic erosion in larger-scale earth system models. Simulated cumulative retreat rates agree within the same order of magnitude as observations.