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 Witness King Tides website 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. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or receiving additional information:


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.

Sea-level rise report contains best projections yet for Washington’s coasts

July 30, 2018

A new report led by Washington Sea Grant and the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group provides the clearest picture yet of what to expect in sea-level rise along Washington state coastlines.

The report, entitled Projected Sea Level Rise for Washington State – A 2018 Assessment,  includes projections for more than 150 different sites along the Washington coastline, from all marine shorelines in Washington state. It incorporates the unique geology-driven land motion, with uplift at Neah Bay and sinking in Seattle. And it provides the latest, probabilistic estimates to let planners weigh the risks of different scenarios.

The projections include an embedded Google map where anyone who is involved with planning projects along the coast can download estimates for their location. “One of the things we’ve heard from the planners we have shown it to so far is ‘Hey, for the first time we have something that we feel is actionable,'” said first author Ian Miller, a coastal hazards specialist at Washington Sea Grant. “I hope we’re going to hear that more, and that these projections will find their way into planning processes at the community scale.”

The new report provides probabilistic estimates for 171 coastal sites each decade from now until 2150. The analysis follows two previous assessments of sea-level rise in the state: the 2012 national reportfor sea-level rise in Washington, Oregon and California, and a 2008 reportled by the UW Climate Impacts Group. In addition to updating the science, the new report offers more detail on what to expect at specific locations.

The study follows a 2015 UW reporton how climate change will affect Puget Sound. This new study provides much greater detail about sea-level rise, both in Puget Sound and along the coast.

“Previous assessments were zoomed out, and were not fine-scale enough to capture the variations in land movement along the coastlines,” said second author Harriet Morgan, a research consultant with the UW Climate Impacts Group. “Neah Bay is rising, and south Puget Sound is sinking. That up and down movement has a pretty big influence on how far the ocean will be able to travel inland.”

The numbers also offer the first probabilistic projections for sea-level rise in Washington state. Instead of just giving low, medium and high estimates, the authors applied a recently developed method that calculates the percent chance that a given water level will be exceeded, allowing planners to decide how they want to respond to, for instance, a water level with a 1 percent chance of occurring by a given year.

“There are two factors that determine what steps a community might take to adapt, and both really need to be decided at the local level. First, what is the context — is it a hospital or other piece of critical infrastructure, or is it a park? That’s your risk tolerance. And second, what is your value judgment of the amount of risk that’s acceptable?” said third author Guillaume Mauger, a research scientist at the Climate Impacts Group.

The new report is part of the Washington Coastal Resilience Project, a three-year effort funded in 2016 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The larger project includes collaborations with partners at Island County, which covers Whidbey Island and Camano Island, and the City of Tacoma to incorporate climate change in coastal plans.

The study was funded by the NOAA’s Office for Coastal Managementand NOAA’s Climate Impacts Research Consortium, with additional support from project partners the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Island County, the City of Tacoma, The Nature Conservancy, Washington Department of Ecology, King County and Padilla Bay National Estuary Research Reserve.

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 Coordination

Ian Miller, Coastal Hazards Specialist

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.