From the Land to the Sea
The coastal permafrost Rapid Response Assessment (RRA) will consider the unique processes and interconnections across the permafrost environments on land, at the coast, and offshore.
Rapid Response Assessments (RRAs)
Rapid Response Assessments (RRAs) are carried out by the United Nations Environment Programme and GRID-Arendal to provide critical information on topical environmental issues in a timely manner. To date, 18 RRAs have been conducted tackling a variety of topics throughout the world.
The coastal permafrost RRA will comprise a 60-80 page report and an interactive web site with illustrative graphics, maps and multimedia elements. In consultation with northerners and indigenous groups, we will assess the state of knowledge on coastal permafrost, identify research needs, and recommend a path forward for the global community to address critical issues
Core Author Team and Participating Agencies
The RRA will include contributions from discipline experts, northerners and Indigenous Peoples.
GRID-Arendal will lead the RRA effort, drawing upon experiences from other RRAs conducted over the past decade. Tiina Kurvits, as the project lead, will coordinate the RRA and liaise with UN Environment and technical experts contributing to the program.
It is intended that the final report for the RRA will include a number of contributing authors. The core team formulating the scientific content for the RRA includes: Scott Dallimore (Geological Survey of Canada), Christopher Burn (Carleton University) and Young Keun Jin (Korea Polar Research Institute).
We are striving for a strong northern voice in the RRA as we recognise that the issues we will to address may have far-reaching impacts on Indigenous Peoples living in the north, contribute to achieving sustainable and secure northern communities and affect future economic prosperity. The core engagement team includes Pippa Seccombe-Hett (Aurora Research Institute), Michelle Côté (Geological Survey of Canada) and John Crump (GRID-Arendal).
In keeping with the targeted nature of a RRA, we intend to focus on the western Arctic of North America where the sea level is rising and sensitive coastal areas are underlain by unconsolidated, ice-rich sediments with extensive occurrences of offshore permafrost. The similarity of the geology in this area to that in northern Siberia and elsewhere will allow extension of the findings to other parts of the Arctic.
The RRA will focus on that part of the Arctic experiencing rapid coastal erosion and where the soils are dominated by unconsolidated sediments containing ground ice.
Coastal areas of the Arctic are mainly underlain by permafrost which is continuous beneath the landscape. Because of sea level changes in the past 2 million years, extensive offshore permafrost is found beneath the Beaufort Sea and areas offshore of northern Eurasia.
Terrestrial areas of the Arctic coastal plain are experiencing enhanced climate change, through atmospheric warming and changes in precipitation patterns, with their associated feedbacks affecting vegetation or surface hydrology. The RRA is focussing on unconsolidated ice-rich permafrost sediments which have potential to respond with significant impact, including:
Terrestrial Processes - Societal Implications
Terrestrial Processes - RRA Considerations
We recognize that terrestrial areas of the Arctic coastal plain are already experiencing the effects of rapid climate change and that permafrost occurrence profoundly influences many active geologic processes. The RRA aims to address the following key questions:
Coastal areas of the Arctic Ocean which are experiencing marine transgression (sea level rise) are largely made up of unconsolidated, ice-rich permafrost. While in many areas the coastline has been retreating for thousands of years, there is concern that changes in sea ice regime and atmospheric warming are increasing the rate of coastal retreat.
Coastal Processes – Societal Implications
Coastal Processes – RRA Considerations
Extensive shallow water shelf areas of the Arctic Ocean are underlain by permafrost that has warmed over the past 12,000 years as a result of sea level rise.
Offshore Permafrost – Societal Implications
Oil and Gas Development:
Offshore Permafrost – RRA Considerations
Knowledge about seabed morphology and active geologic processes affecting Arctic shelf areas is limited as, until recently, these areas have been ice infested, limiting vessel access. While seabed mapping techniques have evolved significantly in recent years, there is also a significant challenge presented when investigating the Arctic shelf, as water depths are shallow and not suited to conventional ice breaker operations. The RRA aims to address the following key questions:
Feedback on topics and considerations for RRA are welcome. Please feel free to submit confidential comments or suggestions.
We welcome contributions of stories and photos from northerners for possible inclusion in our RRA report or posting on our website.