Hazards, Resilience and Climate Change

Coastal Flood Risk Reduction Course

Nicole Faghin, Coastal Management Specialist

Many major disaster declarations are due in whole or in part to flooding. But communities can adopt various corrective and preventive measures to reduce flood damage. The coastal flood risk reduction course incorporates floodplain management practices, and participants learn about the traditional structural and nonstructural mitigation approaches to reduce risk, increase opportunities for prevention and increase resilience.
The coastal flood risk reduction course is offered through the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center and taught in local communities throughout Washington state. It provides an overview of the flooding risks to coastal built and natural environments, in addition to introducing capabilities (approaches and tools) that can support coastal prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

Coastal Hazards Assessments, Shoreline Assessments, and Climate Change Adaptation facilitation

Nicole Faghin, Coastal Management Specialist, Ian Miller, Coastal Hazards Specialist and Sue Blake, Water Resource Educator

In its partnerships with communities working to prepare for climate change, WSG has found that local-scale assessments result in local action and planning that improves resilience. State climate change projections suggest that Washington’s coastal communities will bear the physical and ecological brunt of rising ocean temperatures and sea level, more frequent storms, hydrologic changes to freshwater systems and other impacts.
WSG staff actively work with coastal communities to assess their vulnerabilities to climate change and develop adaptation plans that can reduce their risk over time. WSG offers courses on planning for climate change, facilitates or conducts vulnerability assessments for communities and constituents, and promotes and conducts applied research to identify climate impacts in coastal Washington.

Coastal Hazards Resilience Network

Kevin Decker, Coastal Economist

Western Washington is susceptible to a diverse range of natural hazards ranging from common threats such as coastal erosion and flooding to rare but potentially catastrophic events such as earthquakes and tsunamis. Local, state, federal and tribal governments have invested in hazard-related research and management, but planning and coordination remain limited.
Partnering with the Washington Department of Ecology, WSG has developed a statewide Coastal Hazards Resilience Network, that connects researchers, agency experts, planners and communities. The network transfers research findings to communities, encourages incorporation of lessons learned into community planning, and facilitates more effective mitigation, response planning and community awareness.


King Tides

Bridget Trosin, Coastal Policy Specialist

Ecosystems, infrastructure and people will be impacted by the phenomenon of climate change and rising sea levels. The King Tides Program and community events inform coastal dwellers about twice-yearly extreme tides. Citizens’ photos of king tides are posted on the website.The website helps local communities and decision makers visualize the challenges we will face as the climate changes.

More information:

King Tides Help People Visualize Sea Level Rise Around Coastal Washington

March 26, 2019

Washington Sea Grant held viewing parties in Oak Harbor and Raymond in January to help local residents understand the effects of sea level rise  

Sea level rise has major implications for coastal Washington. The recent projections released by Washington Sea Grant, WA Department of Ecology, UW Climate Impacts Group, The Nature Conservancy, and other partners predict approximately one foot of sea level rise by 2050, and up to two feet by 2100.

Bridget Trosin, Coastal Policy Specialist at WSG, helps people connect sea level rise projections to reality. And in Raymond and Oak Harbor this last January, 70 attendees got a first-hand look at what these projections might mean for their communities. In turn, people could communicate these impacts to decision-makers using the citizen science MyCoast app.

These viewing parties are part of Trosin’s work with the King Tides Program, which monitors the extent of very high tides throughout coastal Washington. “We use king tides to communicate the effects of sea level rise and what it will look like in the future,” she explains. “We invited the public down to the waterfront to talk about what a king tide is, Washington State’s King Tide program, and talk about sea level projections,” she said. The projections that were created for the state take into account the local variability within coastal Washington’s complex landscape. This variability can be due to tectonic plate movement, the shape of the sea floor, tides, weather, and human modifications to the shoreline. So, understanding how these projections will affect local infrastructure and ecosystems is challenging.

The term king tide, Trosin explained, describes the most extreme high tides in any given year. Caused by the alignment of the sun, moon and Earth (called syzygy) or when the sun is closest to the Earth (a point called perihelion), these series of unusual tides occur regularly four to five times a year. While king tides are a natural phenomenon, their unusually high extent help scientists, planners and decision-makers visualize how sea level rise will affect communities. With sea level rise, today’s king tides are likely to become the everyday tides across our region, which means king tides provide a real-time window into the future of Washington shorelines.

As the king tide came rolling into Oak Harbor, Island County planners were present to show how the recent sea level rise projections are used at the county level. In Raymond, sea level rise projections were derived from NOAA’s Sea Level Rise Viewer, giving the public a window into the future of sea level rise.

Tracking the impacts on every shoreline in Washington during a king tide is a tall order. However, the public are encouraged to help in this effort. The MyCoast app enables the public to communicate with decision-makers and help scientists identify effects of sea level rise around coastal Washington. The process is simple: during a king tide (the next tides are set to occur in November), take a photo of a stationary landmark or important location on the water, and upload to the app. Within only a few months of release, there have been 56 reports with over 110 photos from all regions of Washington.

All this data will help scientists, planners and community members understand and communicate the effect of sea level rise in Washington.

Download MyCoast on either Android or iOS.

Captions: Top left: Bridget Trosin (WSG) presents to the public at Oak Harbor. Bottom header: Oak Harbor king tide on January 19.


Sea Level Rise Adaptation Course

Nicole Faghin, Coastal Management Specialist

With climate change comes impacts to our coastlines from storm surges and rising sea levels. Planning for climate change is an important priority for Washington’s coastal communities. For professionals planning ahead to address sea level rise, WSG specialists offer a course through the Coastal Training Program.
Course materials include adaptation tools and methods, flood impact and risk-reduction planning, climate-change and sea-level-rise communication strategies and inundation mapping strategies. Courses are taught in conjunction with NOAA’s Office of Coastal Management.

Sociocultural Dimensions of Climate Change

Melissa Poe, Social Scientist

Pacific Northwest communities face many climate risks to their health and wellbeing. This project assesses vulnerability of coastal and fishing communities experiencing ocean changes such as acidification and shifting species distributions. Outcomes help communities and decision makers prepare for critical challenges, including strategies to strengthen resilience, minimize vulnerability, and protect and restore marine ecosystems.

Key initiatives include surveys, focus groups and participatory risk assessments with several Washington communities whose wellbeing is tied to marine resources. Information about social and cultural variables such as food security, cultural practices, livelihoods and a community’s sense of place help to identify anticipated and cumulative threats.

Tsunami Outreach and Research


Carrie Garrison-Laney, Coastal Hazards Specialist

Ian Miller, Coastal Hazards Specialist

WSG has teamed with state and federal agencies working at the forefront of tsunami research and outreach to help prepare Washington coastal communities for the next tsunami. Washington is vulnerable to tsunamis from both local and distant earthquakes, and there is geologic evidence for past tsunamis in many Washington locations. Because of this, tsunami hazard awareness and planning is a number one priority for community resiliency. WSG’s coastal hazard experts Ian Miller and Carrie Garrison-Laney collaborate with state and county emergency managers and maritime groups around the state and give public presentations focused on education and preparation.

Through research and outreach, such as mapping tsunami deposits and promoting a Western Washington “Tsunami Trail,” WSG builds public awareness and scientific understanding of this paramount coastal hazard. WSG staff link the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory’s tsunami modelers and research to end-users in the community. Users include the U.S. Coast Guard and the Washington Military Department’s Emergency Management Division. WSG supports their efforts to plan effectively for natural hazards. Carrie’s work is partially supported by Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory Liaison funds.