Near Miss at Barrow Due to Beach Erosion

Published: 8 October 2012
With a little help from his friends, Walter Brower (hidden by the ECOR) moves the system away from the ocean’s edge as an early September storm pounds away at the beach.

On a stormy Friday evening in early September, Walter Brower received an urgent message:

“Beach erosion very close to ECOR Point.”

Brower is the local facility manager for ARM’s North Slope of Alaska site in Barrow. His duties extend to Point Barrow at the coastline of the Arctic Ocean, where ARM operates an eddy correlation flux measurement system, or ECOR. Every thirty minutes, this system obtains measurements of wind, heat, and carbon dioxide.

Hoping for the best but expecting the worst, Brower immediately called for backup and trekked out to the site. There, he found the instrument’s sand bag anchors about two feet from the bank. When help arrived a few minutes later, they immediately rigged up and pulled the entire ECOR tower and battery/solar panel away from the water, relocating the complete system about 35 feet from the edge. Jeff Zirzow, Barrow site technical operations manager from Sandia National Laboratories, estimates beach erosion at Barrow Point this year at about 70 feet, plus or minus 10 feet.

Typically, fall storms in the Barrow area occur later in September and into October, and are not so severe that beach erosion is an immediate threat. Thanks to quick action of Brower and his team, the ECOR was safely resituated to take advantage of the remaining few weeks of residual solar power. The instrument will stay in storage during the dark Arctic winter.