Portions of the Arctic coast are eroding by more than 26 feet per year, a problem that is likely to worsen as climate change intensifies, according to a new study.

The problem is most severe along the shores of the Laptev, East Siberian and Beaufort seas, concludes the "State of the Arctic Coast 2010" report, compiled by more than 30 researchers in 10 countries.

The analysis, which examined roughly a quarter of the Arctic's coastline, found the region's shores are eroding by an average of about 1.5 feet per year.

Driving the erosion is a potent cocktail of receding and thinning sea ice, warming seawater and stronger waves.

As the extent of Arctic sea ice declines, it leaves more -- and warmer -- open water. Wind combines with that water to generate waves that batter the region's coasts.

Without the icy barrier that has traditionally protected the Arctic's vulnerable permafrost, huge chunks of the coastline can disappear during a severe storm.

A 2009 analysis by University of Colorado scientist Robert Anderson found that between Point Barrow and Prudhoe Bay, Alaska's northern coast is eroding by up to 100 feet per year.

Several native settlements along Alaska's coast have made plans to move their communities inland to escape the erosion threat, despite steep costs.

The new study notes that the erosion problem will intensify as climate change becomes more severe.

The report was sponsored by the International Arctic Science Committee, the Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone project, the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme and the International Permafrost Association.

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500