There are many ways to describe the annual Oregon King Tides project, which is now in its 12th year: a citizen science project, a visual documentation of sea level rise not only in Oregon but along the coasts of California and Washington, a call to action. But one thing it isn’t, says Jesse Jones, is “spectator sport.”
Jones, a volunteer CoastWatch coordinator who has been involved with the Oregon King Tides Project (coordinated by CoastWatch and the Oregon Coastal Management Program) for three years now, says photographers from all over Oregon come to the coast each year to help document how changing high tides – and ultra-high “royal tides” – affect coastal communities. Sometimes, she says, these good intentions meet with poor preparation.
“We’re asking people to take photos from a safe point,” Jones says. “This is the moment when we are made aware of these [king tides], the power of the ocean on our shores. Some of our places where we live and work are on the borderline. “
Warning aside, the project, according to Jones, is an exciting opportunity for Oregonians to collect important visual data to help coastal cities plan for sea level rise and changing tides, which are both exacerbated by climate change. “The high tides of today,” she said, “are the high tides of tomorrow. ”
So what exactly is a royal tide? Royal tides are an unscientific term referring to the highest winter tides that occur each year – and this year those highest tides are expected to occur from November 5-7, December 3-5, and December 1. as of January 3, 2022. occur when the earth, moon, and sun are aligned at their closest points. Their gravitational influences on each other create extreme tidal events known as perigee spring tides.
The Oregon King Tides project began in 2009, after a few members of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wanted to talk about climate change and sea level rise in a way that brought it down to the local level. Among those people was Marina Psaros, an expert in sustainability and one of the founders of the King Tides project. Psaros helped launch the King Tide projects in California, Oregon, Washington, and Australia. From the start, she says she knew the impact of the photographs would be stronger than the words.
“The idea was to put the photographer at the center of his own experience,” Psaros explains. “And it was really about social media. We wanted people to share what they saw and be able to talk about climate change in their own words and in their own communities.
In the 12 years since the founding of the King Tides Project, climate change has caused sea levels to rise globally. In Oregon, as sea levels rise, low-lying coastal lands and nearby communities have been affected and the estuary floodplains have increased. Documenting these changes not only helps vulnerable communities near the sea that are most affected by them, but also helps us to think about urban planning, design and construction in a way that is aware of the realities of climate change.
“Climate change affects us all. And what happens in our oceans affects us all ”, said Psaros. “Some 40% of the world’s population as a whole live within 50 miles of the sea. What happens to our coasts, cities and communities around the world will impact us all. “