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King Tides and Sea Level Rise

2013 June 4

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By Michael Craghan

For years I lived in a little beach town at the Jersey Shore in Manasquan, N.J. I took these pictures of tidal flooding in 2007. I was interested in human/environmental interaction and found a great story right where I lived. Obviously people here live with water.

This gray house sits about one foot above the spring tide.  No worries for the tourists after a day at the beach

This gray house sits about one foot above the spring tide. No worries for the tourists after a day at the beach

The same house is at center.

The same house is at center.

Little did I realize that I would move to Washington, D.C., and be working with EPA’s Climate Ready Estuaries and the National Estuary programs at EPA and promoting “king tides” to raise awareness about sea level rise.

A king tide is simply the highest normally occurring tide of the year. What’s fascinating about king tides is that they provide a glimpse of the future. Potential sea level rise will make today’s king tides become the future’s everyday tides. You don’t have to imagine sea level rise because after about 1 foot of relative sea level rise, this neighborhood will flood like this almost every day.

When I was in New Jersey last December, I saw that this same house absorbed a lot of tidal flooding during Hurricane Sandy.

Flood height is shown by stains on the house and the helpful green line spray-painted on the window about five or six feet above the ground.

Flood height is shown by stains on the house and the helpful green line spray-painted on the window about five or six feet above the ground.

The flood line on the house shows how much water was here during Sandy.

The flood line on the house shows how much water was here during Sandy.

When I was back again last month, I found that the home had been demolished. I hope people take sea level rise into account as they redevelop, particularly since Fourth Avenue in Manasquan floods from the tides now.

On most of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico shorelines, 2013 king tides will be coming this month. See this website to learn when. If you are at the coast, I hope you get a chance to take photos at high tide and to think about what the future will be like when sea level is higher than it is now.

About the author: Michael Craghan is a geographer who works in EPA’s office of wetlands, oceans and watersheds. He manages the Climate Ready Estuaries program, which works to help coastal places plan for sustainable futures.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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