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Event Details

Sea-level Rise event report

Category: Sea-level Rise
Observation: 16.11.2008
Continent: North-America
Country: USA
State: State of Washington
Area: Puget Sound area
Location:
Severity: Moderate
Event details
The natural features that make Washington uniquely beautiful also make the state especially vulnerable to climate change. Take the mighty Cascade mountains. They are home to glaciers and snowpack that feed many of the state's rivers, which, in turn, supply water to central Puget Sound cities, nourish Eastern Washington crops, sustain salmon runs and spin the turbines at hyrdroelectric dams that generate clean, inexpensive power — the backbone of the region's economy. But an increase of 1.5 degrees in the state's average daily temperature between 1900 and 2000 in Washington has contributed to a 30 percent decline in the spring snowpack in the lower Cascades and a similar decline in summer stream flows in several sensitive river basins. Global climate models suggest the average annual temperature in the state will continue to climb about 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit each decade over the next 50 years, leading to milder winters, hotter summers, less water, more wildfires and drought, loss of hydropower and diminished summer water supplies, according to a 2008 climate change report issued by the state Department of Ecology. "It's more than climate change; it's climate chaos," Janice Adair, an Ecology climate-change specialist, said. Take the iconic Puget Sound. Cities that have grown to the water's edge, including Olympia, will be susceptible to sea-level rise, which is predicted to be 6 inches by 2050 and 14 inches by 2100, according to a 2008 study by the University of Washington's Pacific Northwest Climate Impacts Group. Nowhere is the problem more acute than South Sound because the high tides are higher at the southern end of Puget Sound, noted Philip Mote, a UW research scientist. Previous studies by the city of Olympia predict that it would take a sea-level rise of 3 feet to flood most of downtown during the one or two extreme high tides each year. But the more likely 1-foot elevation in sea level would be enough during extreme high tides to create pools of water on some city streets and flood low-lying buildings on the Port of Olympia peninsula and other areas built on fill. The projected floods from sea-level rise almost mimic the original shoreline of the city before the filling occurred, city Public Works Director Michael Mucha said. Sea-level rise is starting to factor in to decision-making on city projects such as the reconstruction of Percival Landing and the new City Hall, Mucha said.
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