Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Upcoming Winter High Tides: A Preview of Future Sea Level Rise

By Spencer Reeder
Seasonal high tides occurring throughout the region over the next week and again in early February will provide a preview of what the state might expect to see on a more regular basis as a result of rising sea levels.

Members of the public who happen to photograph these high tide events are invited to submit their images to the Washington State Department of Ecology. The agency is interested in using these images to help document the coastal impacts our state is likely to face with increasing frequency as sea levels continue to rise.

Images can be submitted to sea level rise, along with the date, time, and detailed location information. Please provide contact information if you'd like us to send you a release form for future publication of your photos.

For those in the Olympia area, there will be a gathering at the Percival Landing waterfront on Monday, January 4th at 8:15 a.m. to observe a potentially 17 foot high tide. For more information, see the Tacoma News Tribune story.

High-tide events will vary by location around the state. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) provides detailed information on tide heights and timing, although these can vary significantly depending on weather conditions. See NOAA tide prediction information for complete information on upcoming high-tide events around the state. The National Weather Service provides specific coastal weather conditions.

Increases in global sea levels have been recorded by NOAA tide gauges for many years, and more recent observations have been collected by NASA satellites. The steady rise has been attributed to both a warming of the oceans and contributions from melting glaciers and land-based ice sheets. Climate modeling combined with these direct observations suggest sea level rise will continue well into the future with significant implications for Washington’s more than 3000 miles of marine coastline.

Analysis conducted by the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group and the Washington State Department of Ecology show that increases in sea level in Puget Sound could be as high as 22 inches by mid-century, with upper estimates of more than four feet of rise by 2100.

Understanding the future impacts from sea level rise and creating tools and information to assist local governments and the citizens of the state is a priority for Governor Gregoire and the Department of Ecology. A recent executive order signed by the Governor in May 2009 directed the agency to “evaluate the potential impacts of sea level rise on the state’s shoreline areas.”

For additional information on climate change impacts, preparation, and adaptation please see

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