Assessment of Barrier Island Morphological Change in Northern Alaska

Open-File Report 2021-1074
By: , and 


  • Document: Report (11 MB pdf)
  • Data Release: Data Release - Historical shorelines and morphological metrics for barrier islands and spits along the north coast of Alaska between Cape Beaufort and the U.S.-Canadian border, 1947 to 2019
  • Download citation as: RIS | Dublin Core


Arctic barriers islands are highly dynamic features influenced by a variety of oceanographic, geologic, and environmental factors. Many Alaskan barrier islands and spits serve as habitat and protection for native species, as well as shelter the coast from waves and storms that cause flooding and degradation of coastal villages. This study summarizes changes to barrier morphology in time and space along the North Slope coast of Alaska between the United States-Canadian border and Cape Beaufort from 1947 to 2020. Changes considered in this study include number of barriers, area and perimeter, shoreline length, barrier sinuosity and width, presence and number of relict terminus features, presence and coverage of tundra vegetation, barrier orientation, and elevation metrics. Wave conditions are also summarized and related to changes in barrier morphology. The results in this report help to better predict future barrier evolution and prevalence along Alaska’s coast by increasing our understanding of Arctic barrier development, migration and degradation.

Suggested Citation

Hamilton, A.I., Gibbs, A.E., Erikson, L.H., and Engelstad, A.C., 2021, Assessment of barrier island morphological change in northern Alaska: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2021–1074, 28 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments  
  • Abstract  
  • Introduction  
  • Methods  
  • Results  
  • Summary  
  • References Cited  
  • Appendix 1. Feature Type and Name or Geographical Area of Barrier Island Chains  
  • Appendix 2. Total Barrier Chain Area  
  • Appendix 3. Wave Roses for Each Era at Different Locations along Alaska's North Slope
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Assessment of barrier island morphological change in northern Alaska
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2021-1074
DOI 10.3133/ofr20211074
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description Report: vi , 28 p.; Data Release
Country United States
State Alaska
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details