Happening nearby: 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

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