Today’s ‘king tide’ not so high – but new city map warns climate change has more in store

January 14, 2013 at 2:21 pm | In Environment, West Seattle news | 10 Comments

Without an accompanying storm, this morning’s “king tide” only rose to the bottom of the beach steps by the Alki Bathhouse – not high enough to swamp the Alki boardwalk the way the December 17th high tide did, four weeks ago:

But right about the same time we took the top photo this morning, the city was going public with a warning that it won’t take a “king tide” to submerge some parts of Seattle’s shoreline in a few decades, thanks to climate change. Part of the warning involves this map:


(Click image for larger view)
That’s the West Seattle section of a map just made public by Seattle Public Utilities, showing areas where they believe the rising sea level will dramatically affect the shoreline by 2050 – less than 40 years. If you look at it full size and zoom in as closely as possible, you’ll see Harbor Island and the Duwamish River shores are potentially hardest hit (dark blue), along with the immediate Alki/Beach Drive/Arroyos/etc. waterfront. Here’s a closeup of the area northeast of Alki Point:

(See the map for the entire city by going here. Once you have it open, you can zoom way in to see areas shaded light blue for possible 6″ higher, dark blue for up to 44″ higher.)

This is all intended to bring attention to the city’s plan to try to lessen this area’s contribution to climate change, and ways in which they’re asking for your opinion on how to proceed:

The city news release says “conservative scientific assumptions” were used to develop the map, adding that “the impact on Seattle shorelines depends on factors such as tides and storms, along with actions the City may take to reduce its own contribution to climate change.”

City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who chairs the Energy & Environment Committee, is quoted in the news release as saying, “We are already seeing impacts in Seattle from extreme events, such as last month’s flooding of some 100 properties along Beach Drive in West Seattle. We need to take bold steps to prepare our city for expected impacts and drastically reduce our contribution to greenhouse gases going forward.”

The Beach Drive flooding on December 17th, you’ll recall, was the result of a 13.1 “king tide” high tide coupled with a storm surge – leading to the highest high-water level ever recorded in Seattle. The tide was just as high today at 7 am, but without a storm surge – as shown at the top of this story – no flooding (that we’ve heard of).

The city points out it’s committed to becoming “carbon neutral by 2050.” To get there, the City Council is asking for your thoughts on a set of recommendations for a new Climate Action Plan, stemming from the Green Ribbon Commission convened recently. Public forums and an online survey are planned – and then, O’Brien says, the council plans “to adopt a bold Climate Action Plan on Earth Day, April 22.”

*The three public forums (all outside West Seattle) are listed here

*Here’s the online survey – asking you to prioritize from a list of possibilities.

*The “executive summary” of the commission’s recommendations can be read here.

In the meantime, the city announcement ends with a suggestion that if you live in a flood-prone area, you “are advised to obtain federal flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program, available through Federal Emergency Management Agency. The average flood insurance policy typically costs around $600 per year.”

10 Comments

  1. Dunno. I’ve lived here most of my life, and haven’t noticed much of a change. We’ve had high tides sloshing over the boardwalk in the past.

    Comment by G — 3:27 pm January 14, 2013 #

  2. At the risk of spooling up a global warming debate here, I will just add that we do have an actual tidal measurement station run by NOAA. It is downtown just to the right of where the WS ferry boat docks. http://www.co-ops.nos.noaa.gov/gmap3/ On this page you can see actual vs. predicted water levels and also a barometric pressure graph. On one or two days of last month the high tides, one could argue, were affected by the weather going on over Puget Sound.

    Comment by neal chism — 4:28 pm January 14, 2013 #

  3. We can still mitigate the effects of climate change with intelligent action: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate1793.html

    Comment by J — 5:40 pm January 14, 2013 #

  4. Wow, South Park and Harbor Island are going to need New Orleans-class levees or a lot of landfill.

    Comment by chas redmond — 10:50 pm January 14, 2013 #

  5. Warmer weather leads to more evaporation and precip, which will fall in higher elevations as snow, and then form ice. All periods of increased glaciation, must be preceded by warmer periods. The pendulum might swing the other way in the long run, who knows.

    Comment by G — 11:41 pm January 14, 2013 #

  6. You’d think there’s be something about planning for how the city would handle higher water. But no, all those recommendations are about how the city can be more “green”, have a lower carbon footprint, by tolling side streets, converting streets to pedestrian plazas, adding insulation to buildings, etc. The map is irrelevant to those potential plans.

    Comment by Lura Ercolano — 11:48 pm January 14, 2013 #

  7. Lura – I know that Seattle Public Utilities *is* working on all that – when we talked with them about the “highest water level ever” day last month, they explained that they were working on a variety of things, including this map. The reason they have been studying all this is because at the very least they have to plan what it means to public facilities like drainage systems. Will ask if that will be the subject of a later briefing or what. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 1:03 am January 15, 2013 #

  8. Climate change is a problem for our infrastructure. It will take money and lots of it to combat climate change related problems. However, the big problem is the effect of pollution on the air we must breath, the water we must drink, and a healthy and abundant food supply from ocean, field and stream. The latter problem should be our driving motivation for reducing our carbon footprint. Every individual can have a positive impact by choosing and demanding choices for the most energy efficient means of transportation, home and business operation.

    Comment by Kathy — 4:47 pm January 15, 2013 #

  9. Hmmm…I’m old enoough to remember the fear of the mid-late 70′s. In fact Newsweek magazine ran a comprehensive article on it.
    It wasn’t the danger of Global Warming, but instead, of Global COOLING.
    The earth has cooled and warmed MANY times over the ages.
    There have been at least four “Ice Ages” followed by “Global Warming.” Some experts say that we are coming out of a “Mini” Ice Age.
    England used to have vineyards, today it is too cold to properly grow grapes. Greenland was named Greenland for a reason.
    When looking at the “Climate” or “Weather” (two TOTALLY different things, looking at the last 50-100 years is like trying to see an elephant through a straw at 2 inches.
    Ole Al Gore has made HUNDREDS of $$$$ MILLION through this farce and through “Carbon Credits.”

    Comment by Ex-Westwood Resident — 8:29 pm January 15, 2013 #

  10. You’re so quick to quote Newsweek. As they said a few months ago in their cover article after Hurricane Sandy: “IT”S GLOBAL WARMING, STUPID.”

    Regardless of whether you are an anti-science climate denier or a climate hawk – or even somewhere in between. We all MUST realize that changes are coming and that we must make adaptations measures now or risk billions of dollars and thousands of lives.

    Additionally, it is also the government’s fiduciary responsibility to take every action they can to mitigate the problem as much as possible. Seems to me that that is what the sea level rise announcement as all about. An explanation of risks – followed by action plans to address that risk. Sounds like responsible government to me.

    The Northwest will be the last place in the United States that will feel the most severe of the impacts of a changing climate. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare and it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a role to play in mitigating disaster.

    To do anything else is to stick your head in the sand.

    Comment by Chris — 7:08 am January 16, 2013 #

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