European Commission logo
Energy, Climate change, Environment


The Coast Challenge aimed to produce spatial data layers and time plots for parameters, namely sea level rise and sediment balance per stretch of coast for the Arctic study area.

Sea level rise is influenced by changes in atmospheric pressure, melting of sea ice and the polar ice caps and water temperature. A dramatic sea level rise acceleration in the Arctic Ocean was reported in the 1980s. The changes in the patterns of wind-driven and thermohaline circulation may account for most increase of sea level in the Arctic Ocean and their accumulative action can explain more than 80% of the sea level variability during 1950-1990. In light of global change, this sea level rise could be a manifest of warming in the Arctic coupled with a decrease of sea ice extent, warming of the Atlantic waters, changes in the Arctic Ocean circulation, and an increase in coastal erosion and thawing of permafrost. More information on data availability for sea level rise can be found below:

Sea level in the Arctic

This also affects the sediment balance, which is defined as the amount of each type of sediment present along the Arctic coast. Thousands of kilometers of Arctic sea coast retreat 2-6 m/year under that action of shore erosion. This means that tens of square kilometers of Arctic land are consumed by the sea every year. This shore erosion is a source of sediment coming into the sea from the land. Therefore, it plays a part in formation of the Arctic sea sediment balance. Sediment discharge from rivers is a second important input into the sediment balance.

In this challenge we assessed whether the availability, consistency and resolution of existing data in these aspects is sufficient and if this is the case to calculate the average annual sea level rise and sediment balance per stretch of coast.

figure sea level rise
Picture from IPCC Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis
Arctic landscape
Photo: Martine van den Heuvel-Greve