Grab your camera this weekend and head out to the seashore. The next round of naturally occurring, higher-than-usual winter tides – called “king tides” – will give us a glimpse about how potential rising sea levels from global climate change could affect Washington’s marine shoreline areas.
In December 2012, winter’s naturally occurring higher-than-usual tides coincided with a winter storm, pushing marine waters into streets, parking lots and even some homes in Washington’s coastal areas.
Why it matters
Documenting how very high tides affect the natural environment and our coastal infrastructure will help us visualize what sea level rise might look like in the future.
As global temperatures rise, the oceans warm slightly and expand, ice caps and glaciers melt, and more precipitation falls as rain instead of snow. This causes sea levels to rise and could affect Washington’s marine areas by:
Intensifying flooding, especially during high tides and major storms.
- Shifting coastal beaches inland.
- Increasing coastal bluff erosion.
- Endangering houses and other structures such as roads, seawalls and utilities that are built near the shore.
- Threatening coastal freshwater and connected underground water supplies.
Some of the highest tides occur naturally during the winter, when gravitational pulls from the sun and moon reinforce one another.
When to participate
- In the Strait of Juan de Fuca, king tides will occur through Jan. 13.
- Along Washington’s outer coast, they occur Jan. 10-12.
- The Puget Sound dates for king tides are Jan. 14-17.
How to participate
It’s easy to participate. Just follow these steps:
Use Ecology’s king tide map and schedule to find when and where the highest tides will occur. Go to http://www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange/ipa_hightide_map.htm.
- Locate a public beach by checking out Ecology’s Coastal Atlas at https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/coastalatlas/.
- Take photos during a king tide, preferably where the high water levels can be gauged against familiar landmarks such as sea walls, jetties, bridge supports or buildings.
- Note the date, time and location of your photo – then upload your images on the Washington King Tide Photo Initiative Flickr Group at http://www.flickr.com/groups/1611274@N22/.
- Play it safe! While the winter king tides occur during daylight hours, don’t venture out during severe weather and keep a close eye on rising water levels.
Ecology has collected nearly 600 king tide photos from the public. To learn more about king tides, visit Ecology’s king tides web page.