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Unalakleet Climate (Summer 2023)

Team: Ian Lee (Project Lead), Clara Maxwell, Daniel J. Marsden, M. Jaweed Nazary 

Summary: The coastal community of Unalakleet is currently the 8th most at-risk community in Alaska to the adverse effects of climate change that include permafrost degradation, severe coastal erosion, and sea-level rise-induced flood inundation caused by increasingly frequent storm surges. In response, the community has started a managed relocation with support from the Native Village of Unalakleet (NVU) and the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL)’s Alaska campus in Fairbanks. The Unalakleet Climate NASA DEVELOP team partnered with NREL to provide remote sensing support and analysis for resilience planning in Unalakleet, supporting their ongoing relocation efforts and guiding future area expansion. The team utilized Sentinel-1 C-Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), WorldView-2, and WorldView-3 datasets from 2017 – 2023 to analyze subsidence and utilized a 2014 Ancillary USGS 5 m Alaska DEM to conduct drainage network analyses that included watershed delineation and Height Above Nearest Drainage (HAND) analysis. The team also used high-resolution WorldView images to locate stable reference points that served as quality control for the team’s analyses. The team’s end products included maps containing subsidence and drainage zones information at and surrounding the relocation site. The team’s products provide NREL with valuable data that enables them to better assist Unalakleet’s managed relocation and assists Unalakleet with adapting to the catastrophic effects of climate change and build resilience in a community on the front lines of climate change.