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The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and GRID-Arendal are releasing a new report, “Coastal and Offshore Permafrost in a Changing Arctic”, that will raise awareness about the challenges posed by thawing and warming coastal permafrost and the urgent need for more research in this area. Changes in Arctic systems have increased the vulnerability of permafrost coastal regions to rapid environmental changes. These changes affect coastline features, terrestrial and offshore ecosystems, biogeochemical cycling, community and industrial infrastructure, heritage sites, and human subsistence lifestyles.


This report, part of UNEP’s Rapid Response Assessment (RRA) series, focuses primarily on areas of western North America where accelerated rates of coastal change are observed and there is extensive offshore permafrost. However, the findings extend to other parts of the Arctic, especially northern Siberia. Along with an extensive science review of coastal and offshore permafrost, the report also considers the perspectives and concerns of Arctic peoples and how changes in coastal permafrost affect their daily lives. Residents from affected communities in the western Canadian Arctic were influential in focusing the scope of the assessment – a first for a report in the RRA series.


The report is also the first RRA produced using ArcGIS StoryMap technology, which enables a rich online viewing experience with interactive maps, innovative graphics, and video. In addition to the two parts of the main report and an executive summary, we have also released a crowdsource StoryMap where people can share their own observations and experiences related to coastal permafrost, hosted by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.


More than 80 people contributed to this assessment from the science community, indigenous organizations, and affected communities. Funding support was provided by the Geological Survey of Canada, Aurora Research Institute, and the Korea Polar Research Institute. 


For more information, contact: 

Tiina Kurvits, Project Manager, tiina.kurvits@grida.no

Scott Dallimore, Science Content, scott.dallimore@canada.ca

Release date: 02 Oct 2020

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