NOAA Helps Alaskans Plan for Imminent Threats and Future Resilience

The Takeaway: A project to collect critical water-level information in remote communities is backed by NOAA’s geospatial services contract, technical assistance, and oceanographic data program.

Alaska’s massive coastline is dotted by remote, low-lying communities that face serious threats from storm surge, sea level rise, land subsidence, and shoreline erosion. One project is helping communities prepare for fast-moving hazards and improve their ability to respond and recover from hazardous events. Alaska Water Level Watch coordinated the installation of temporary stations that collect standardized tidal datums, which are water-elevation measurements that document a certain phase of the tide. The new tidal datums will improve coastal flood mapping, flood forecasting, and tide prediction accuracy. Assistance is provided by the NOAA Office for Coastal Management’s Digital Coast and its Coastal Geospatial Services Contract funds.

The temporary stations provide critical coverage without the steep price tag of permanent stations. NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services is performing datum quality analysis and quality control. The collection also makes possible more synchronized land- and tide-based information, which will enable NOAA's National Weather Service to better inform Alaskans of storm inundation forecasts. The Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys is using this information to improve flood impact maps.

  • Contract funding of $496,576 provided tidal datum collections for the communities of Chefornak, Kipnuk, Tuntutuliak, Newtok/Mertarvik, and Scammon Bay (Southwest Alaska); Homer (along the Gulf of Alaska); Gambell (on St. Lawrence Island); and Kwigillingok (Southwest Alaska).
  • Funds of $157,988.43 provided by Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources will ensure collection of tidal datums for the communities of Wainwright and Point Lay (on the North Slope).

In addition, the Homer tidal datums will enable the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys to develop a coastal bluff stability analysis for the City of Homer, in a project funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (2020)

More Information: Information about Alaska’s tidal datum gaps and priorities is available via Alaska Water Level Watch. Coastal flood impact maps will be made available on this site.

Partners: Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys, Alaska Water Level Watch, Alaska Ocean Observing System, NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services and Office for Coastal Management