king tide surf covering the whole beach at Seal Rock State Park

January King Tide at Seal Rock on Jan. 10-12.

The final round of the current winter’s King Tides Photo Project is coming up Feb. 8-10.

Volunteer photographers are invited to assist in this citizen science activity by taking photos that document the highest reach of the year’s highest tides, the last of which arrive on those dates. The Oregon King Tides Photo Project takes place throughout Oregon’s coastal region.

For the tenth year, Oregon is participating in this international citizen science effort. The Oregon branch of the project is sponsored by the CoastWatch Program of the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition and the Oregon Coastal Management Program of the Department of Land Conservation and Development, along with local partners.

The other two high-tide sequences this winter on which the project’s volunteers focused took place Nov. 25-27, 2019, and Jan. 10-12, 2020.

The international project began in Australia, where the highest tides of the year are known as “king tides,” hence the name of the project. These tides arrive when the sun, moon, and earth are in alignment, causing a stronger than usual gravitational pull.

Anyone with a camera can participate. At high tide on any of the three project days (the timing of which varies, depending on location), find a safe spot to observe the tide in relation to the land, snap photos, and post them online. More information on the project, a link to tide tables, instructions for posting photos, and a map of photo locations, can be found on the website, oregonkingtides.net.

King tide photos can be taken anywhere affected by tides, whether on the outer shoreline, in estuaries, or along lower river floodplains. Photos showing high water in relation to infrastructure (roads, bridges, seawalls, and the like) can be particularly striking, and reveal where flooding problems threaten. But shots of marshes or other habitats being inundated, or coastal shorelines subject to flooding and erosion, are also useful.

King_tide_floods_Coquille_River_valley_Alex_Derr.jpg

King Tide floods Coquille River Valley Jan. 10-12.

The goal of this long-term citizen science project is to document the highest reach of the tides on an ongoing basis, for comparative study over a period of many years. (Photographers who participated in past years are urged to return to the locations from which they took earlier King Tide photos so as to track the tides in that location over time. Photographers are also urged to return to the same locations to take comparison shots at ordinary high tide.)

While the King Tides Photo Project can help to identify areas that are currently threatened by flooding, the more important purpose is to gain a preview of sea level rise. The king tides, while extreme today, will become the “new normal” as sea level continues to rise, and storm surges increase, due to global warming. Gaining a glimpse of tidal inundation likely to become common decades into the future will benefit planners, resource agencies, conservationists, and coastal citizens in preparing for these changes.

Photographs from past years of the King Tides Photo Project can be viewed on the project’s Flickr site, https://www.flickr.com/groups/oregonkingtides/.

For more information about this event or the King Tides Project, contact Jesse Jones, CoastWatch volunteer coordinator, at 503-989-7244, jesse@oregonshores.org.

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