Thursday’s ‘King Tide’ gives glimpse of warmer, wetter future

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Chelsea Kahn, Washington Sea Grant Research and Education Specialist, wades in today's King Tide waters as they lap against the Brackett's Landing seawall.  "Today this is a very high tide, but by mid-century it will be the normal sea level," she explained
Chelsea Kahn, Washington Sea Grant Research and Education Specialist, wades in Thursday’s King Tide waters as they lap against the Brackett’s Landing seawall. “Today this is a very high tide, but by mid-century it will be the normal sea level,” she explained

A group of more than 25 interested citizens gathered at Brackett’s Landing early Thursday for a King Tide viewing party sponsored by Washington Sea Grant and the State Department of Ecology.

But they weren’t there just to see the high water.

“King Tide events give us a great chance for a ‘sneak peek’ into our future,” explained Washington Sea Grant’s Michael Levkowitz. “With average sea levels expected to rise 4.5 feet this century, what we see today will be the new normal if we remain unable to slow or stop the current rate of global warming.”

Michael Levkowitz of Washington Sea Grant fields questions from the audience.
Michael Levkowitz of Washington Sea Grant fields questions from the audience.

Based at the University of Washington, Washington Sea Grant supports marine research and education and works with communities, managers, businesses, academic institutions, and the public to strengthen understanding and sustainable use of ocean and coastal resources.  It’s part of a national network of 33 Sea Grant programs that is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and funded through federal-university partnerships.

Following a short presentation, the experts fielded questions from the audience running the gamut from loss of coastal properties to effects on wildlife.

Audience member John Osterhaug is president of the Edmonds Senior Center Board and involved with the upcoming Senior Center rebuild. He commented on how the threat of higher sea levels are being taken into account as plans move ahead for the new center.

“We’ve been told by the Army Corps of Engineers that we should raise the planned floor level of the new center by two feet to accommodate projected rises in sea level,” he remarked. “Right now we’re looking into going up an additional foot above that just to be on the safe side.”

King Tide waters break against the Edmonds Senior Center seawall.  Planners for the new senior center are taking rising water levels into account and raising the planned floor level between two and three feet, according to Senior Center Board President John Osterhaug.
King Tide waters break against the Edmonds Senior Center seawall. Planners for the new senior center are taking rising water levels into account and raising the planned floor level between two and three feet, according to Senior Center Board President John Osterhaug.

King Tides aren’t an effect of climate change, but rather are a natural part of tidal cycles, occurring at specific times of year when the earth, sun and moon align and the moon is closest to the earth.

But as sea levels rise, King Tides threaten to flood areas that are currently high and dry.

“A King Tide in 2050 could flood the parking lot, the railroad tracks and sections of lower Main Street,” observed Bridget Trosin, Washington Sea Grant Coastal Policy Specialist. “We really need to be thinking now about how we’re going to deal with this.”

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

9 COMMENTS

  1. There seems to be a contradiction in comments in this article regarding climate change. At first, Michael Levkowitz says, ” what we see today will be the new normal if we remain unable to stop the current rate of global warming”. The it the article states that “King Tides aren’t an effect of climate change, but rather a natural part of tidal cycles…”. So which is it? And if it is part of the effects of global warming, then will building a higher wall really slow it down? I applaud Edmonds for looking at ways to prevent the flooding, but please don’t confuse us with these contradictions.

  2. I don’t see a contradiction. While a king tide is not caused by global warming, the high water level of a king tide may become the new “norm” if the worst predictions of global warming and a resulting rise in sea levels hold true.

    If the water level shown in the photo becomes the new low or medium tide level, then the water level of a king tide would more than likely rise above the current sea wall.

  3. We were fortunate that there were no high winds during the recent king tide.

    I sent Teresa photos I took on 11-20-2010 and 11-29-2014 of big waves created by a king tide + high winds. I hope she can incorporate these photos into this or future articles.

    Looking at my old photos, I can only imagine the size of waves that would be generated by a king tide + high winds if the “new normal” sea level of a medium or low tide is significantly raised by global warming.

    I know there are many who dispute global warming or human-enhanced climate change. Even if the most dire predictions of global warming prove to be wrong, what have we lost by adopting policies designed to decrease air & water pollution and our reliance on finite fossil fuels?

  4. The Army Corps of Engineers has defined the required minimum ground floor height for the new Edmonds Senior Center as 14 feet referenced to NAVD88, which is the vertical survey datum for mapping surveys in the US. Tide levels in Edmonds are referenced to to the local tidal datum, which is based on the long term average of the lower low tide of the day as measured at Edmonds. This is the basis for tide tables and for depths indicated on nautical charts, and is called MEAN LOWER LOW WATER (MLLW). The zero reference level for MLLW is 1.64 feet lower than the zero reference level for NAVD88. Consequently the 14 foot ground floor height required for the new Senior Center is equivalent to a 15.64 foot tide.

    To allow for rising sea levels, the required14 foot minimum level (per NAVD88) for the new Senior Center is two feet higher than the ground floor level of the existing Senior Center building.

  5. Hi Pat, You are correct that King Tides occur naturally in our area during the winter months. King Tides are not a result of climate change. The King Tides Initiative uses these naturally occurring “higher than average high tides” as a way to communicate what sea level rise might look like in the future. Thank you for your comments and don’t forget to submit your photos of king tides to http://www.washington.kingtides.net

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