King Tides

U.S. Environmental Protection AgencyThis post was written by Michael Craghan, a geographer who works on coastal management and climate change adaptation for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

King Tides

I have always loved the ocean, and I am still awed by the natural forces that create the rise and fall of the sea. About a year and a half ago, I learned about “king tides,” the highest normally occurring tide of the year at a coastal location. King tides occur when the orbits and alignment of the Earth, moon and sun combine to produce the greatest tidal effects of the year. King tides often produce minor flooding in low-lying neighborhoods that are near the coast and tidal rivers.

Climate change is raising sea levels around the world. The normal tidal flooding that happens now just a few times a year at the annual peak will become a daily occurrence in the coming years and decades. In many places, sea level rise will make today’s king tides become the future’s everyday tides.

The idea of photographing the flooding caused by a king tide started in Australia. By taking a photograph of the king tide, others in the community would be able to see and understand the local effects of sea level rise. In January 2009, the world’s first organized king tide photography event was launched in New South Wales, Australia. From Australia, the idea spread to the west coast of North America. In 2010, people were taking photographs in Washington State and the Canadian province of British Columbia. In early 2011, photo contests were held in California, Oregon, and Washington.

Tidal flooding in Manasquan, New Jersey (USA)

Tidal flooding in Manasquan, New Jersey (USA)

I thought that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Ready Estuaries program could promote king tide photography to help raise public awareness about the effects of sea level rise. We began to spread the word about king tides to the National Estuary Program network of coastal watershed organizations that are found around the U.S. coast. In October 2011, 11 of the estuary partnerships on the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico held king tide events with their partners. Some held photo contests with prizes for the best pictures. Some held tide watch parties. It is great to see this idea take hold along the U.S. coast. Last spring, many of the National Estuary Programs held another round of contests. I hope this turns into an annual event. It is a great way to help people make a personal connection to the ocean.

In my work for the Climate Ready Estuaries program, I help coastal communities prepare for climate change impacts. Cities, people, and transportation infrastructure are found at the coast for many good reasons, but they are at risk from sea level rise. King tide photographs are a fantastic way to communicate this threat. Residents and local officials can see what sea level will be like in their own neighborhoods. They do not have to imagine how it will be. King tides provide a glimpse of the future.

This entry reflects the author’s personal judgments and does not represent the views of the United States Government or the Department of State.

Additional links to National Estuary Program King Tide Projects

http://www.flickr.com/photos/cascobayestuary/sets/72157627904882473/

http://www.flickr.com/groups/seacoastkingtidephotos/

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.261114437267650.62018.117541254958303&type=3

http://www.harborestuary.org/aboutestuary-climatechange-tides.htm

http://bbp.ocean.edu/pages/357.asp

http://www.flickr.com/groups/1692657@N23/

http://sarasotabay.org/2011/11/king-high-tides-photo-project/

http://www.tbep.org/climate/king_tides_photo_contest.html

This entry reflects the author’s personal judgments and does not represent the views of the United States Government or the Department of State.

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