The tide is high: Coastlines to come?

Sunday’s rare astronomical event may cause more than a spectacle in the sky. The alignment of the sun, earth and moon associated with the super blood wolf moon will cause extraordinarily high tides and a glimpse into the future of local shorelines.

At 8:28 a.m. Friday at Flintstone Park, the University of Washington-based Washington Sea Grant will host a king tide viewing party.

A king tide is an informal term for a tide that goes well beyond normal daily high tides, according to Bridget Trosin, a coastal policy specialist for Washington Sea Grant.

Oak Harbor’s king tide levels will last three days, with the event happening on the final day of extreme levels.

On Friday, Trosin will describe the cause of these high tides as well as the insight they can provide about rising sea levels.

“There’s nothing quite like seeing something in person,” Trosin said. “It’s one thing to say this area will flood, it’s another thing to actually see an area flood.”

Sea Grant, in partnership with the Washington Coastal Resiliency Project, recently released a report that gave an updated model for sea level rise projections.

The report offered more localized numbers listed by varying degrees of probability based on different greenhouse-gas scenarios.

Friday’s high water won’t be a direct result of pollution, but she said it will give people an idea of what coastal areas will look like as glaciers continue to melt and raise the sea level.

Bob Hallahan, with the Whidbey Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, said he’s concerned about Whidbey Island’s waterfront properties. He said there’s already evidence of declining real estate value on coastal land in other areas due to sea level rise.

“This is a direct consequence of our society’s carbon pollution and the unforgiving laws of chemistry and physics,” Hallahan said in an email.

The report, released last summer, showed a high probability that Oak Harbor will experience one foot of sea level rise by the year 2050.

Island County Planning and Community Development staff members have said they will be looking at how to incorporate the sea level rise projections into the upcoming Shoreline Master Plan update.

Trosin said Washington Sea Grant encourages the public to aid its research by submitting photos of king tides through the app MyCoast. She said the photos can be used by planners and scientists to better understand the impact of future high water events.

On Friday, high tide will be just over 13 feet in Oak Harbor at the time of the viewing party. Hot coffee and snacks will be provided.

King tides can occur during a few different astronomical events, Trosin said. Friday’s will be caused by the sun, earth and moon becoming aligned and providing extra gravitational pull on the water.

The high-water events also happen when the moon is in its closest orbit to the earth and when the earth in its closest orbit to the sun, she said. She’ll give a demonstration Friday to explain the astronomy behind it as well as talk about the best available science in sea level rise.

The event provides a unique opportunity to show more than a series of numbers, she said, because “seeing is believing.”

• More information about king tides can be found at wsg.wash

• The report on sea level rise can be found at wacoastalnet