King Tides Project Rose Again

King tide assaults the Hwy 101 seawall at Waldport.\Photo by Roy Lowe.

The King Tides Project has now completed its 12th year.  This citizen science effort, organized by CoastWatch and the Oregon Coastal Management Program, engaged exactly 100 volunteer photographers during the 2021-2022 season, who contributed 247 photos.  That is the largest number of participants yet.  The number of photos submitted is down from last year, but it appears that the photographers were more selective about sending their best work--the quality of the images was high.

We have now selected the dates for the 2022-2023 edition of the project:  Nov. 24-26, Dec. 22-24, and Jan. 20-22, 2023.

Through the King Tides Project, volunteers take photographs that depict the highest reach of the highest tides of the year, documenting current vulnerabilities to flooding while providing a preview of what could be typical high tides with sea level rise and global warming.  Each winter, the three highest tide sequences become the focus of this effort. But there are things that participants can do in the interim. The project is placing new emphasis on comparison shots--photos taken from the same spot at the high point of a comparatively normal high tide, to be contrasted with the same view at the high point of a king tide.  Volunteer photographers are encouraged to start now in finding good locations (or ones they've used before) and taking photos during typical tide sequences, anticipating the comparisons to be made with this year's coming peak tides.  (Note that the comparison is high tide to high tide, not low tide to high tide.)

This winter's photos can be seen on the project's special Flickr site, along with those from past years.  On the Flickr site you can also see aerial images of king tides and how they affect he landscape, taken by photographers Rena Olson and Alex Derr for Oregon Shores, and Briana Goodwin for Surfrider.  They were provided with a Lighthawk flight to photograph the effects of the king tide on the Coquille, Siuslaw, and Alsea drainages from the air, and we are sharing those photos as well.

For the past decade-plus, CoastWatch has collaborated with the state's Coastal Management Program (a branch of the Department of Land Conservation and Development) to sponsor Oregon’s contribution to this international citizen science initiative.  (The project originated in Australia, where these highest tides of the year are known as “king tides,” so this colloquial term is now used for the project around the world.) We helped to pioneer the concept; the Oregon project debuted in the same year as the international effort.  Through the King Tides Project, photographers trace the reach of the year’s highest tides, showing the intersection of the ocean with both human-built infrastructure (roads, seawalls, trails, bridges) and natural features such as cliffs and wetlands.  Anyone capable of wielding a camera can participate.

To see the work of the man dozens of volunteer photographers who have contributed to the work over the years, see this special Flickr site.

Documenting the highest annual reach of the tides tells us something about areas of the natural and built environments which are subject to erosion and flooding now. It tells us even more about what to expect as sea level rises. Photographs of any tidally affected area—outer shores, estuary, or lower river—are relevant.  The ideal would be to document the high-tide point everywhere on the coast.  However, photos of spots where the extreme tidal reach is particularly apparent, inundating built or natural features, are most striking, and most clearly depict the future effects of sea level rise.

For more information on the project and how to participate and post photos see the project’s website, http://www.oregonkingtides.net/.  Participants can post photographs online through this site. Be prepared to include the date, description and direction of the photo. An interactive map is available that will assist photographers in determining the exact latitude and longitude at which a photo was taken.   Photos can also be posted to social media (Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter) and tagged #orkingtides.

For information about the project and how to get involved, contact Jesse Jones, CoastWatch's volunteer coordinator, at (503) 989-7244, jesse@oregonshores.org.