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Environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related.
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Ecology wants help in photographing high tides

December 31st, 2009 by cdunagan

Extreme high tides from now until Wednesday and again in February could give an indication of how this state will contend with rising sea levels over the coming years, according to Spencer Reeder of the Washington Department of Ecology.

<small> Photo courtesy of Washington State Ferries</small>

Photo courtesy of Washington State Ferries

It’s worth mentioning here because Ecology is asking average people to photograph conditions related to the high tide and provide the exact time and location of the picture.

“The agency is interested in using these images to help document the coastal impacts our state is likely to face with increasing frequency as sea levels continue to rise,” Reeder says in a blog entry on EcoConnect.

Precise times for high and low tides vary by location, but one can get a pretty good estimate by going to the tide prediction Web site operated by the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration and drilling down to the closest community listed.

Pictures can be sent by e-mail to Ecology, placing “sea level rise” in the subject line. Folks are encouraged to include contact information, so Ecology can send a release form to allow publication of the photos.

Weather conditions, such as wind and rain, can affect localized flooding and related problems, which is one reason to get as many varied locations as possible.

Reeder’s blog states:

“Increases in global sea levels have been recorded by NOAA tide gauges for many years, and more recent observations have been collected by NASA satellites. The steady rise has been attributed to both a warming of the oceans and contributions from melting glaciers and land-based ice sheets. Climate modeling combined with these direct observations suggest sea level rise will continue well into the future with significant implications for Washington’s more than 3000 miles of marine coastline.

“Analysis conducted by the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group and the Washington State Department of Ecology show that increases in sea level in Puget Sound could be as high as 22 inches by mid-century, with upper estimates of more than four feet of rise by 2100.”

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23 Responses to “Ecology wants help in photographing high tides”

  1. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    ““Analysis conducted by the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group and the Washington State Department of Ecology show that increases in sea level in Puget Sound could be as high as 22 inches by mid-century, with upper estimates of more than four feet of rise by 2100.”…”

    Assuming the estimated increases in sea level are based on a calm sea, are waterfront property owners being warned?
    Many of the waterfront homes on the Hood Canal at Belfair are built with only a short bulkhead keeping the high tide winter storm waves from washing the homes away.

    Even sandbagging the top of the bulkheads allow the storm waters to splash over, flood the lawns with salt water and almost reach the homes.

    The Indianola Spit is a prime example of non-bulkheaded sea level homes at risk.
    What options are available to the homeowner?
    Sharon O’Hara

  2. robert taylor Says:

    Sharon, do not worry, climate change and associated sea level rises are only scientific rhetoric designed to degrade capitalism and undermine the economy while brilliant scientists all over the world amass huge gluttonous fortunes and fame. Just ask Bluelight and a few other uneducated Neanderthals who antagonize this blog.

  3. cdunagan Says:

    You are asking some good questions, Sharon. State law now requires local land-use plans to consider the effects of climate change. This will be a big issue for us in Kitsap County.

    Many people presume that property owners will protect their homes by building higher bulkheads or finding alternatives based on the location of a particular house (its elevation and distance from the rising high-tide mark).

    This tidal shift won’t happen all at once, and there are many factors that could change the predicted rise. I would encourage shoreline property owners to have some understanding about the possible range of change that climate experts are predicting.

    I’m passing along the idea of taking pictures at high tide over the next few days because it just seems like a reasonable idea.

  4. cynic Says:

    “Increases in global sea levels have been recorded by NOAA tide gauges for many years, and more recent observations have been collected by NASA satellites.” Could one of you highly educated thoroughly modern humans please direct this uneducated Neanderthal to a specific report or study from NOAA or NASA that unequivocally shows a sea level increase. Until I see such a report I will continue to suspect that it is all smoke and mirrors.

  5. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    ‘Many people presume that property owners will protect their homes by building higher bulkheads or finding alternatives based on the location of a particular house (its elevation and distance from the rising high-tide mark).”

    As a kid, I watched the storm waters flood over the bulkhead at high tide and a few times the water reached the house in spite of the lumber and sand bag efforts my dad strung out across the top of the bulkhead.

    The homes in that area are a half century old and separately bulkheaded end to end. Unless the neighbors raise their bulkhead too the homes will flood – unless the aware property owner raises the bulkhead around their entire property.

    I hope you’re flooded with high tide photos, Christopher…its a great idea…Happy New Year!
    Sharon O’Hara

  6. Concerned Says:

    Good discussion on the facts of ocean rising due to global warming at:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Current_sea_level_rise

  7. robert taylor Says:

    Cynic,
    No! Mainly because it is apparent that you are incapable of understanding such issues and it would be a great waste of time to do so. I have an idea for you however, go to the bookstore and buy something called a “book”. Its something that educated people R-E-A-D and ponder the thoughts therein.
    Another thing I want you to understand. I will NEVER, and I mean NEVER read, nor respond, to anything that you post on this blog from here on out because you waste my time with the circles that you draw around subjects that are important. You are like a irritating fly that you just can’t smash so I choose to ignore you until you “fade away”.

  8. cdunagan Says:

    Thanks, Concerned. That Wikipedia article contains a lot of good information in an understandable format.

    Studies and descriptions of the various climate models related to sea-level change can be found in a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (PDF 576 kb). See page 30 of the report.

    Far less technical, but useful for most of us, is NASA’s Eyes on the Earth site, with its ongoing tally of sea-level rise.

    Robert Taylor, I’m wondering what has gotten into you. I don’t want to play den mother, but sometimes it is better to count to 10 … or 100. If we allow name-calling on this blog, it will get out of hand. I appreciate your comments most days, but you said it yourself: You simply don’t need to respond to something you don’t like.

  9. robert taylor Says:

    Chris,
    You are absolutely right, and I do apologize to you and others that help this blog be informative and a joy to participate in. I just get tired of defending a position that only wishes the best for everybody.

  10. cdunagan Says:

    Robert,

    I understand. I often find myself biting my tongue, then I take a breath and dive back in. I am not an expert at anything, though I have learned things from a lot of people.

    I believe that if we keep an open mind and continue to muddle through our discussions, we may all get closer to an understanding of the world.

    Happy New Year to you and to all contributors and readers of Water Ways!

  11. cynic Says:

    Robert: I do read books and I have education and analytical abilities that I would gladly compare with yours. Unlike some, I don’t blindly believe everything I read. I read various sources and try to understand the motivation and methods of the authors. cdunagan: Thanks for the references, both are long on theory and models and short on observed data, but they are useful sources

  12. cynic Says:

    Do you remember Y2K? The consensus of the world scientific community was that unless immediate action was taken, the worlds computers would fail, and there would be worldwide economic collapse. Many of us in the computer programming industry told anyone who would listen that there was no crisis. For two years the money flowed freely. Billions of dollars were spent. An analysis of the programming corrections made showed that if no action had been taken the computer failures would have been insignificant and easily repaired. Is it any wonder that I am cautious about this new “consensus of the world scientific community”?

  13. Tom Rosendale Says:

    It will be interesting to see how many people respond. Taking pictures of one’s own beach at an exceptionally high tide and sending it to the WA. State Department of Ecology seems ludicrous. This may be helpful to convince most of their supporters in urban areas of the need to regulate and restrict the property of shoreline owners, but how can this possibly bode well for beach property owners?

    If NASA, NOAA, Department of Health, or a true scientist of the UW requested them, I’d be happy to send those agencies what they would like. The Department of Ecology is known for its efforts to further restrict peoples’ reasonable use of their property even in favor of animals’ and weeds’ theoretical use. The department’s insensitivity to individuals and affected communities(think Seabeck Marina) is notorious among owners of any property fronting what could possible called “water”.

    If I have the time, I’ll take pictures of public or government property at high tide, storm sewers trying to drain into the Sound against the tide, and public road surfaces coated with oil drippings that are being washed clean by the tide. Maybe Ecology will remodel their own stuff before demanding that less offensive others do it first.

  14. cdunagan Says:

    Cynic,

    It is interesting that you bring up Y2K. I covered that story. Exactly 10 years ago this morning, I was checking to find out how many computer problems were created when the year 2000 rolled around. There were a few problems, but they were minimal.

    Was it because there was never a problem to start with? No, it was because people and corporations fixed the problems, mostly before anything could happen.

    For those who don’t recall the issue, some computer software — certainly not all — was written using a two-digit number to represent the date. For those systems, “99″ was the last year possible. For systems dependent on a time sequence, it wasn’t always clear what would happen after Dec. 31, ’99.

    Government officials recognized the problem and launched a massive campaign to call attention to it. Since the glitch did not affect all computer systems, the idea was to check all computer codes, especially those in critical systems like banking. So programmers located and fixed most of the problem codes.

    Did we see too much hype, overreaction and wasted money? Yes, and I reluctantly wrote about people stocking up on supplies in preparation for the end of civilization. But I reminded people constantly that the problem was not Earth-ending; it was a problem with computer codes that could be fixed.

    Where the problems were not fixed ahead of time, they were fixed later with some disruptions in service. John Koskinen, who headed the government’s Y2K program, said in an interview in early 2000 that the advance work helped provide information for those who put off dealing with the problem until later.

    I believe that computer technicians who failed to catch certain problems were not always willing to admit their oversights, which could be one reason that we didn’t hear more about the problems.

    At the Kitsap Sun, most of our computer codes were corrected. But someone forgot to fix the software that maintained our story archives. We found out later that all of our old stories had suddenly taken on a date like Jan. 1, 1939, which must have been the “00” date for that software. Restoring the proper date to hundreds of stories was a chore that probably could have been avoided.

    So my lesson from Y2K is quite different from yours, Cynic. I believe we must calmly and deliberately address the problems we see, not ignore them. If we are skeptical about the facts, then we investigate until we understand the situation better. At the same time, we go about calming the hysterical people on all sides while staying on a path to solutions.

  15. Robert Dashiell Says:

    Is there also a “land tilt” component to this seawater story?

    I am under the impression that the South end of Puget Sound (around Olympia) is tend to move downward, and the Northwestern portion is tending to move upward. I suspect these are very small changes, but does Kitsap County have any land tilt considerations?

    Think that information came from a U/W lecture on climate change, but I can’t find the lecture notes.

    Anyone know?

  16. cynic Says:

    It is understandable that your experience as a journalist was different than that of a programmer who actually worked on the problem. Your focus is on selling advertising, the more hysterical the story, the better, my focus is on providing the maximum functionality to the customer for his money. I note that even John Koskinen who was trying to justify the billions of dollars that he was responsible for spending did not state that any catastrophes had been prevented, on the other hand Bruce Schneier, currently chief security technology officer at enterprise security provider BT Global Services as well as a noted author of books on risk and security.said “If it was really bad, you would think in some cases something would have gone wrong somewhere. But nothing went wrong,” says Schneier, who has chronicled the ways in which people overreact to some risks while ignoring others. With Y2K, he asserts, the level of risk was overstated. Stuart McGill was VP of Y2K business at programming tools vendor Micro Focus, where he is now chief technology officer. He’s not sure that the risks were accurately presented to management in all cases. “The most likely consequence [of not fixing Y2K issues] would have been irritation rather than disaster,” he contends. I suspect that the same type of hysterical reporting is responsible for the global warming scare. After all, an estimated 70 mm (less than 3 inches) of sealevel change in 17 years does not seem like the end of the world.

  17. Cameron Says:

    Cynic, here are two links to the scientific literature that examine sea-level rise.

    http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch5s5-5.html

    http://www.copenhagendiagnosis.com/executive_summary.html

    A recent study has also determined how much sea level changed during the last interglacial, 125,000 years ago, when temps were 3-5 degrees celsius higher. Gives you some idea of what potentially could happen within the next 100 years or so.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v462/n7275/full/nature08686.html

  18. MAM Says:

    Good info and advice for waterfront property owners–thanks Chris! Taking the time to be aware, educated and prepared is a prudent thing to do.

  19. cdunagan Says:

    Cynic,

    I realize it is difficult to understand people’s motives, but I can assure you that most local reporters are focused on providing their readers news that is as accurate as possible, given their deadlines.

    To conclude our discussion about Y2K, I’d like to know, given your expertise, if you really believe it would have been better to just ignore the problem until January 2000 and then fix the software that experienced difficulties. We’re talking about computers that run the stock market, banking networks, transportation systems, nuclear power plants, electrical and other utilities and so on.

    Cameron,
    I especially like the IPCC report you mention, because it includes the scientific citations within the body of the paper.

  20. cynic Says:

    Yes it would have been better to wait and fix problems as they happened. There are no documented cases of a catastrophic failure being averted by the Y2K effort. Everyone involved was trying to justify the huge cost of the effort, if any serious problems had been found, they would have been in the headlines for weeks. The best possible scenario would have been to check a few critical systems, and then deal with non-critical systems as they failed.
    As for journalistic motives, watch KING TV news tonight and try to assess the priority they place on accuracy vs selling cars. I understand that the criteria on selecting stories is “If it doesn’t bleed, it doesn’t lead”.

  21. cdunagan Says:

    Cynic,

    I am a little shocked by your answer, but I guess it explains your laissez faire attitude about climate change.

    I can’t leave this subject without recalling the discussion that took place in Computer World magazine under an article titled “Don’t Believe the Hype: The 21 Biggest Technology Flops.”

    The article never mentioned Y2K, but it prompted a few readers to say that Y2K was the most over-hyped issue of the century. That caused Computer World editor Don Tennant to write a column, saying that such an attitude disparages the IT community that worked tirelessly to solve the problem. Read Tennant’s column here.

    Tennant agreed with a reader who called Y2K “IT’s finest hour,” because the problem was recognized and solved:

    “I was one of those people who spent literally months plowing through thousands of lines of mainframe Cobol. Were it not for people like me all over the world who fixed the problems in the legacy code, Y2k would have been the financial disaster of the century.”

  22. cynic Says:

    It is obvious that Tennant is a journalist and not a programmer. The problem was solved, but the solution was worse then the problem. Leaving it alone would have caused a few headaches in January 2000, but the overall cost would have a fraction of the cost of the Y2K effort. I have yet to hear of any disaster that was averted. I was one of the people who spent months plowing through old code, I found one minor problem, and I was the only one in my team who found anything. I am afraid that with Global Warming the solution is also worse than the problem. Some people are growing rich by making windmills that can not produce enough energy in their projected service life to pay back the energy cost of building the windmill. Hybrid cars cost more energy than they will ever save, the list goes on and on.

  23. John Donne Says:

    Cynic, I haven’t a clue about the whole Y2K thing. I remember having a few drinks on NYE and dreading waking up on New Year’s morning. Then nothing happened. But I think you’re on to something when you say…

    “I am afraid that with Global Warming the solution is also worse than the problem. Some people are growing rich by making windmills that can not produce enough energy in their projected service life to pay back the energy cost of building the windmill. Hybrid cars cost more energy than they will ever save, the list goes on and on.”

    As an engineer (retired) I can’t expect absolute proof from the climate guys. They are predicting the results of complex systems a hundred years or more in the future. They will never know whether they were right; perhaps some of my great grandchildren will.

    However, I can look at the proposed “solutions.” Thus far, they are uniformly pathetic and, as you said, many are worse than the predicted problems. Biodiesel anyone?

    Unfortunately, many of the true believers have short memories and no technical or scientific education. That is certainly true of policy makers at every level.

    As a country, if we had undertaken R&D aimed the orderly replacement of fossil fuels 20 yers ago — something that clearly needs to be done — we wouldn’t have so much division and name calling, but we would have a solution.

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"In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist

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