JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — More resources are needed to monitor sea level rise and erosion rates that could threaten coastal Alaska communities, officials said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hydrographic Services Review Panel is meeting in Juneau this week to discuss the issue with state and federal agencies, the Juneau Empire reported Tuesday.
The hotbed of coastal erosion is in northern and western Alaska — areas that are sparsely sampled, resulting in a lack of data, said Molly McCammon, executive director of the Alaska Ocean Observing Network.
"Our models and forecasting are always wrong — it's just how wrong are they," McCammon said.
NOAA produces real-time sea level data through monitoring stations operated by the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services. The state Department of Natural Resources and other agencies also operate stations for shorter-term monitoring.
Two NOAA stations in Alaska have been able to establish rising trends, which take about 30 years of data collection to accomplish. The other stations don't have the breadth of data, and the current stations cover limited areas of the state. The agencies are working to plug the coverage gaps to map and monitor sea level rise.
The state Department of Natural Resources is working to help install instruments needed to track sea level rise and mitigate coastal hazards. Jacqueline Overbeck, manager of the department's Coastal Hazards Program, said she is working with about 60 coastal communities to put up monitoring instruments, but more resources are needed.
According to the National Weather Service, 31 coastal Alaska communities are at risk for flooding and erosion.
"What's lacking is just the resources to get it all done," said Don Moore of the National Weather Service. "I think the state and federal agencies do a reasonably good job of trying to work together in what they're trying to do."