ACEP Researchers are Filling Data Gaps on Coastal Erosion

ACEP Researchers are Filling Data Gaps on Coastal Erosion

ACEP researchers are working to fill critical coastal data gaps needed to assess Alaska’s coastal erosion and flooding hazard risk. Nearshore bathymetry data — also called underwater topography — is key to improving the accuracy of coastal hazard predictions, yet is severely lacking or outdated for much of Alaska’s Arctic coast (I.e., it was collected before the 1940s. See 

To help map the gaps, ACEP researchers Stephanie Jump and Noelle Helder spent two weeks aboard the research vessel Annika Marie in the Beaufort Sea conducting hydrographic surveys. 

To capture depth changes along remote Arctic coastlines, researchers used a variety of technologies, including single-beam sonar, side-scan sonar, acoustic Doppler current profiler and profiling conductivity-temperature-depth systems. They were also testing an evolving technology to improve coastal mapping efforts called a Hydroball system. The Hydroball combines a global navigation satellite system receiver, a miniature inertial motion sensor and a single-beam echosounder into one compact, autonomous mapping buoy system. This combination of sensors allows it to accurately collect real-time position information, correct the buoy’s motion as it moves through the water and take depth measurements even in turbulent Arctic waters with high precision and accuracy.

In addition to improving coastal hazard predictions, bathymetric data is key for marine spatial planning, energy development and coastal defense. High-resolution seafloor maps are increasingly important as we continue to learn more about the effects of climate change on marine environments.

This work is funded by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center under the Secure and Resilient Power Generation in Cold Region Environments grant and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Coastal Mapping Program. 


ACEP's Stephanie Fisher and Noelle Helder deploying the Hydroball off the R/V Annika Marie, into the Beaufort Sea. Photo by Arthur Schwartz.