Department of Ecology News Release – January 5, 2011
Public invited to share photos of extreme high tides in Washington during January, February 2011
OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) is inviting the public to share photos of upcoming extreme high tide events in January and February 2011.
Extreme high tides occur naturally when the sun’s and moon’s gravitational pulls reinforce one another. These high tides are called “king tides” by some West Coast states, British Columbia and other countries such as Australia.
In Washington’s coastal areas, the high winter tides occur naturally from late December through February. They offer a compelling glimpse of how sea level rise from global climate change could affect the state’s coastal areas.
Scientists at the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group project that sea level will rise in the Puget Sound region as a result of climate change. Among of the various possible scenarios, the mid-range estimate is a sea level rise of approximately 6 inches by 2050.
Ecology’s “Washington King Tide Photo Initiative” gives Washington residents an opportunity to help Ecology collect photos of coastal flooding along Puget Sound and the state’s outer coast. To participate, follow these simple steps:
A 6-inch sea level rise would likely:
- Intensify flooding in coastal areas, especially during high tides and major storms.
- Shift coastal beaches inland.
- Threaten structures, roads and utilities, and other near-shore land uses.
- Increase coastal bluff erosion, endangering houses and other structures built near the bluff edges.
- Threaten coastal freshwater aquifers (underground water supplies) by increased salt water intrusion.
Preparing Washington communities for sea level rise and other effects of climate change is a priority for Ecology and other state agencies.
“Understanding what climate change will mean to our environment is a key to making Washington climate-smart, and these very high tides are like a window into the future,” said Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant. “As sea level rises in the years to come, many of our shorelines – including those in our most populated areas – are very likely to be affected. By inviting the public to help us document the effects of higher water levels during king tides, we are laying the groundwork to help communities identify those areas most vulnerable to coastal flooding.
He said, “This work will help us anticipate what Washington communities can expect along much of our state’s thousands of miles of tidal coastline.”
Why climate change matters
A 2009 report by the University of Oregon states that, without additional actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the severity and duration of impacts from climate change will be profound and will negatively affect nearly every part of Washington’s economy. It could cost each household in Washington an average of $1,250 each year by 2020. See the economic impacts report
A 2008 Washington state law calls for our state to reduce climate-altering greenhouse gas (sometimes referred to simply as “carbon”) emissions according to this timeline:
- Achieve 1990 emission levels by 2020.
- Bring emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2035.
- Bring them to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
State agencies have already taken several actions to:
- Reduce their own energy use and related carbon emissions.
- Work with businesses and others on carbon reduction strategies.
- Develop a program to report greenhouse gas emissions.
- Implement the federal program to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the U.S. Clean Air Act.
- Prepare Washington for environmental changes that will affect infrastructure and communities, human health and security, and natural resources.
However, more will be needed to achieve the greenhouse gas emission goals in the state law.