| ANCHORAGE, Alaska
ANCHORAGE, Alaska A swath of marshy,
wildlife-rich coastal land in Arctic Alaska being eyed for oil
drilling is eroding rapidly probably because of the
disappearance of sea ice that used to protect it from the ocean
waves, according to a study released on Monday.
Using satellite data and maps compiled from aerial
photographs, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, or
USGS, found that land lost to erosion north of Teshekpuk Lake,
Arctic Alaska's largest lake, was twice as fast in 1985 to 2005
period than in the previous 30 years.
The sea has pushed in half a mile in some places over past
decades, the study said.
"Since beaches are absent or poorly developed along most of
the studied coast, there is little, if any, protection against
this increased wave energy. As a result, the waves undercut the
mud-rich permafrost land, causing it to collapse into the sea,"
said USGS scientist John Mars in a statement released by the
In addition, salty sea water has contaminated formerly
freshwater lakes, migratory birds, caribou and other wildlife
populations has lost habitat and the sparse human
infrastructure along the coastline has been damaged, the study
The study is in the current issue of Geology, a periodical
of the Geological Society of America.
Global warming has been pronounced in Alaska and other
parts of the Arctic, with average winter temperatures rising as
much as 5.4 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees or 4 degrees
Celsius) over the last six decades, according to the
international Arctic Climate Impact Assessment.
"The area (Teshekpuk Lake) is one of the most important
areas in the entire Arctic, and I don't just mean in Arctic
Alaska," said Stan Senner, executive director of Audubon
Alaska. "It is simply the most important goose-molting area in
It is also believed to hold vast amounts of untapped oil.
In recent years, the Bush administration lifted a decades-long
ban on oil development and has tried to sell oil and gas
exploration rights there.
Environmentalists and the region's Inupiat Eskimos have
cited global warming impacts as a reason to oppose drilling in
land near Teshekpuk Lake.