Flooded golf courses, damaged roads and swamped playgrounds are common sites along some low-lying areas of the Coast during major winter storm events. For scientists studying sea level rise, winter storms help shed light on the risks that many coastal communities will face in the future.

But coastal winter storms aren’t the only events that interest scientists studying the impacts of climate change. King tides, which occur in Oregon on certain days during the winter, are also reminders of the risks associated with sea level rise.

So, what are king tides? They are a naturally occurring phenomenon where high tides are higher than normal. They occur when the orbits and alignment of the Earth, moon and sun combine to produce the greatest tidal effects of the year.

“King tides are a reminder that the coast is a very dynamic environment,” says Meg Reed, coastal shores specialist of the Oregon Coastal Management Program. Even a small increase in sea levels could escalate the impacts of winter storms along the Oregon coast, intensify chronic hazards like erosion and flooding, and reduce the width of the public beach. All of these scenarios endanger houses, buildings, roads, utilities and other coastal infrastructure.

Documenting king tides is one way that scientists, engineers and planners can prove which areas will be especially vulnerable as sea levels rise. This is where residents and visitors can help — and all they need is a camera or smartphone to do it. Since 2010, the Oregon King Tides Photo Project has invited the public to share Oregon king tide photos through a simple online form. The photos are uploaded to a public, shared Flickr gallery, where they can be used by experts in presentations, grant proposals, social media and other channels to raise awareness about the impacts of sea level rise.

This winter, Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA) is working with Reed to help educate Coastal businesses and visitors about interesting and important fun citizen science project. Even more, OCVA has helped create attractive prize packages — including a paid stay at the Headlands Oceanfront Lodge Room and dinner for two at the Headlands Restaurant — to photographers who submit.

“OCVA is helping us reach an entirely new audience, and by turning our annual king tides event into a photo contest, is creating even more incentive for people to participate,” says Reed.

“The Oregon King Tides Photo Project is just one of dozens of citizen science projects along the Coast that needs the support of locals and visitors alike,” says Marcus Hinz, OCVA executive director. “Through the formation of our strategic advisory group of state and federal resource management agencies, OCVA hopes to help educate visitors about the environmental and safety issues facing the People’s Coast.”

The Oregon King Tides Photo Project is sponsored by the Oregon Coastal Management Program, CoastWatch, the Haystack Rock Awareness Program and the Oregon Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

Oregon has already experienced two king tides this winter — November 4-6, 2017 and December 3-5, 2017. The next and last one of this cycle is expected to occur January 2-4, 2018. Anyone along the entire Coast can participate. Help spread the word to your community, clients and guests by sharing the resources below.

Photo guidelines

Helpful king tide photos show water levels adjacent to a fixed feature like a piling, seawall or bridge abutment. Including fixed features allows actual water levels to be documented and tracked over time. Good photos also must include the location, the date and time of the photo, and the viewer’s direction for each picture. Two photos taken from the same spot, one during the king tide and the other at a typical high tide are also very effective in highlighting these high water events. 

How to submit

Upload your photo(s) via a simple online form. Or you can post a photo to Instagram, Twitter and/or Facebook using the hashtag #KingTides and #ORKingTides.
(Note that your account and/or posts must be tagged “public” in order for your photos to be seen.)

Contact: Meg Reed, orkingtide@gmail.com, 541-574-0811

Additional Citizen Science Projects

Audubon Christmas Bird Count

CoastWatch Adopt a Mile Program

Tillamook Estuaries Partnership Water Quality Monitoring Program

Hatfield Marine Science Center Citizen Science Programs

King tides photo by Jay Leipham