WSG News Blog

Director’s Note: The Pull of King Tides

January 16, 2020

Russell Callender, WSG Director

Every winter, the Earth, sun and moon align to create fascinating coastal events: king tides. While ordinary tides are caused by the gravitational forces between Earth and the moon, when that gravitational pull is exacerbated by the sun, the high tides become, well, extremely high.

We experienced king tides this past week. Washington Sea Grant (WSG) invited community members in Westport and Bellingham to join our coastal experts in witnessing these extremely high tides and to learn about what king tides can teach us about the future of Washington State. That is, as the seas continue to rise, today’s king tides may become tomorrow’s everyday ones. By contributing photos and observations of king tides to the MyCoast app, we can all help coastal planners gather valuable data that guide decisions on how to adapt to sea level rise.

Those of you in Washington know that this past week also presented some particular challenges with the weather. Temperatures dropped, snow fell and winds gusted. Many schools decided to delay their start times or called for all-out snow days. In other words, these weren’t exactly the best circumstances for holding two outdoor events!

Despite this, I was so pleased to find out that the pull of king tides was strong enough to rally community members behind these two events, making them a success. In Westport, even though we ended up deciding to change the location due to high waves and local flooding, more than 50 people showed up at the event, representing a variety of ages and interests. Jackson Blalock, WSG outreach specialist who led the event in Westport, found out that the community had taken it upon themselves to spread the word, and had posted our event flyer in local grocery stores, condominium associations and the library. In Bellingham, at least 20 people braved the snowy weather to join Bridget Trosin, WSG coastal policy specialist. The participants included planners and other staff from the City of Bellingham, Whatcom County, Port of Bellingham, Washington State Ferries, and even Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood.

Hopefully, these government officials and community members learned something about what they can expect with sea level rise, and how they can better prepare for it. For example, according to our localized projections, the park that the Bellingham event was held in could one day be underwater.

The good news is that, if we put our minds to it, we know that we in Washington can rally behind local challenges. Let’s hope we can continue that spirit forward as we collectively plan for and adapt to the impending changes coming to our coastlines.

Russell Callender, WSG Director

King tide watchers who braved the snow in Bellingham.