14 High-Latitude Coasts

Aart Kroon

Center for Permafrost (CENPERM), Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

14.1 Introduction to high-latitude coasts

This chapter deals with the description of processes and morphologies of coastal environments in a specific area – the high latitudes. High-latitude coasts are all located in polar zones: northward of the Polar or Arctic Circle or southward of the Antarctic Circle. The Arctic coastlines represent approximately one-third of the world’s coastlines (Lantuit et al., 2011) and cover a broad spectrum of geological and oceanographic settings, resulting in a wide variety of coastal geomorphologies (Nikiforov et al., 2005; Lantuit et al., 2011). It includes the northern shores of Norway and Svalbard, Russia and Siberia, Alaska, northern Canada and Greenland (Fig. 14.1). The Antarctic coastlines are very often covered by ice and snow; only 2% of the Antarctic continent is not permanently covered in ice and snow (Anisimov et al., 2007). The distinctive high-latitude coastal conditions, processes and landforms are caused by common factors such as strong seasonality, cold temperatures, (dis)continuous permafrost, and the presence of seasonal or perennial sea-ice cover (Forbes, 2011). Thus, the freezing temperatures and the impact of ice and snow make the polar coastal environments unique and different from the coastal environments in temperate zones and in the tropics.

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