Alaska Coastlines

2021-05-19 07:31:49
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Oceans are always in constant motion that is caused by forces within and outside the waters. These forces influence the formation of currents, waves, and tides. Ocean currents are formed by a continuously directed flow of water in the ocean. The currents can travel over large distances within the ocean. Ocean currents move as either surface or Submarine currents. Waves, on the other hand, are the up and down movement of the ocean surface that occurs when the wind blows over the surface of the ocean. Waves are also caused by disturbances like landslides and earthquakes that displace large volumes of water. An example of such waves is a tsunami that is as a result of displacement of large volumes of water. Tsunamis have been associated with major destructions of the coastal line and region as a whole. Small waves occur as ripples that travel over short distances. The size of a wave relies on the wind intensity.

As for tides, these are the predictable rising and falling of the ocean surface (Waves and Tides, 2012). Tides are commonly caused by differences in gravitational forces coming from the sun and the moon. Tidal strength decreases with the increase in the distance from the Moon or the Sun. Tides are classified as either neap tides (small tides) or spring tides (larger than normal). The paper discusses the influence of ocean currents, waves and tides on the Alaska coastline (Dutch et al., 2015).

Alaska is characterized with an extensive coastline is the longest coastline one in the United States. The Alaska coastline is largely uninhabited, remote and like any other coastline its formation and shape is influenced by many factors among which are the waves, currents, and tides. These processes also have an effect on the climate of the coastal region. For instance, ocean currents have been associated with heat distribution around the world. They carry along precipitation and warm water from the tropic to the cold regions and equally carry cold water from the cold regions to the equator (Lerner, 2008). In this case, McClure Island along the Alaska coastline been seen to contain logs of ice deposited by waves and tides. As the currents move over the ice logs, they carry the coldness exhibited by the ice over the island and the shores of Tracy Arm.

Oscillation of waves impacts the Alaska shoreline by continuous deposition and removal of rock particles along the shore. The waves carry volumes of water which moves to and from the shore side. When the water hits the coastal line, it breaks soft rocks and carries substituent rock particles back to the ocean. In the Beaufort Sea, Mary Sachs Entrance islands are as result of sedimentation that accumulates when waves deposit large volumes at the place (Kaushik, 2015). Large waves also carry sand particles from the deep sea and deposit it on the shoreline altering its features and characteristics. Materials carried by the waves are characterized as bed, suspended and dissolved loads (National Museum of Natural History). The washing and drifting destroy the structure of the Alaska coastline. Villages along the Alaska coastline like the Kivalina have been at the risk of being influenced by these waves, therefore, prompting them to build permanent infrastructure. It has been recorded that the village is being eroded on both the leeward and windward sides. The wave action along the Alaska coastline can be seen in the Oruktalik Entrance where finger tips have formed on the barrier island in the Beaufort Sea.

Tides are mostly considered as large waves that are influenced by gravitational forces. These processes influence the rock and mineral properties of the coastal region of Alaska, as well as, its topography. Its effect can be described in three ways. The continuous change in the level of water exposes various parts of the shore to wave energy. The tides also make the shore move laterally between low and high water. The movement has an ecological effect on the tidal flats. The tides also affect these regions through deposition and erosion. The tides can also erode and carry the sediments from place to place. Tidal currents are strong around the coastlines and have a vital role in local circulation. Due to the rotation of the tides, flood currents and ebbs take different paths. The residual motion is thus, effective in the transport of materials and sedimentation. The asymmetric flood and ebb patterns can enhance movement of sediment and water in estuaries and inlets. Tides also fill and drain tidal bays. They are common in low-tide coasts like Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. The coastline region also experience erosion therefore, determining the rock and mineral properties of regions like Cape Magdalena and Mills Bay. As the tides move they exchange water in out of the bays thus, sustaining the life of the marine species trapped in the tidal bays (Kaushik, 2015).

Photography of the Alaska coastline shows a well defined vertical zonation that results from tidal influence. The coastline cliff is divided into three zones depending on the strength of the tides and waves. The high zone is made of a brown rock weed, the mid zone shows a set of barnacle and the low zone is dominated by adult barnacles. These regions show the erosive effects of the tides and waves as they hit the coastline. The small low zone is impacted by ocean currents that move with waterlines to create small effects on the shoreline. The ocean currents and waves also weather the wreckage loads that fall in the ocean floor due to broken rock particles that have tumbled into the ocean. Ocean waves have created shore platforms along the Kamishak Bay due to the erosion of the coastal rocks. The ocean currents, in turn, carry winter ice floes that rub out the marine plants and algae that grow on these platforms. New plants and algae then grow out of these platforms and the cycle continues (Kaushik, 2015).

Ocean waves, currents, and tides have a great impact on the features of the coastline. The results are often associated with the strength of these processes and which in turn sustain the coastal life. Ocean currents for instance, have an undeniable importance in regulating the world climate. Without these processes then life on earth would be unbearable. Waves and tides are also important in the movement of aquatic organisms and materials.


20/Tides, Waves, and currents. (n.d). Web. 9 August. 2016.

Currents, Waves, and Tides: The Ocean in Motion. National Museum of Natural History. Retrieved August 9, 2016, from

Dutch, S. I., Elliott, D. K., Spradley, J. L., Boorstein, M., & Renneboog, R. (n.d.). Earth Science.

Kaushik. (2015). Alaska's Magnificent Coastline. Web. 09 August, 2016., B. W., & Lerner, K. L. (2008). Climate change in context. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, Cengage Learning.

Waves and Tides. (2012). A Physical Introduction: The Atmosphere and Ocean, 219-251. doi:10.1002/9781119994589.ch8

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