Jacques Cousteau Reserve Enlists Citizens to Help Document King Tide

Sep 11, 2019

Aug. 28 began the five-day #CapturetheKing and #BeTheEyesOnTheRise photo crowd-sourcing initiative along the Jersey Coast, run by the Jacques Cousteau National Estuary Research Reserve.‎ Residents were enlisted to document the higher-than-normal tide heights and flooding during this “king tide” period, “illustrating what coastal locations will increasingly experience as sea levels rise,” the JCNERR explained.

Rutgers University, which administers the Reserve, explained that, as a result of a new moon, New Jersey would see abnormally high water levels through Labor Day. “Today’s king tides will be average tides in the future due to sea level rise from climate change,” the university stated. “Project participants will help document areas already experiencing nuisance flooding.”

Rutgers coastal expert Lisa Auermuller, assistant manager at the JCNERR, oversaw the “Capture the King Tide” effort on Facebook, which includes photos from Barnegat Light, Tuckerton, Manasquan and other coastal communities, with the designated hashtags.

In addition, on Aug. 31, a post on the page notes, “Tide gauges in Cape May, Atlantic City and Sandy Hook show the past 24 hours and future 24 hours of experienced and expected minor flood levels. Depending on your location, you could be seeing as much as about 1.5 ft. of water above the average highest of the high tides over the next few days.”

Also during the king tide period, volunteer pilots from LightHawk flew a plane to observe the king tide from above as part of a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study.

“Getting a bird’s eye view of the system we live in is invaluable intel for planning and education,” said Angela Andersen, Long Beach Township sustainability coordinator. “The marshes, shorelines and bay islands have obviously changed over the decades, as it is a living system. Putting a value on ecosystem services of coastal marsh habitat cannot be overemphasized.

“Sustaining them is challenging,” she added. “Finding cost-effective strategies to aid marsh survival is key. Seeing and comparing images and tracking changes in the water levels and sand movement is a great tool.”

“We think of king tides as a way for people to get a look at future flooding that will be caused by sea level rise,” Auermuller remarked. “A phrase I like to use is ‘today’s high tides are tomorrow’s everyday tides.’ The difference is that a king tide comes and goes, but in the future with sea level rise, the new water level heights will represent permanent inundation. The crowd-sourcing of data puts the power of citizen observations into everyone’s hands.”  —J.K.-H.


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