King Tides and Sea Level Rise, Part 3

By Paul Cough

Growing up near the Kennebec River in Maine, I could see the tide rise and fall every day. Today, as Director of EPA’s Oceans and Coastal Protection Division, the oceans, coasts and coastal communities are always on my mind.

More and more, coastal communities are becoming aware of the effects of  climate changeExit EPA Disclaimer such as sea level rise and its impacts on beaches, estuaries and infrastructure.

When people go outside and see how the “king tide” – the highest tide of the year is flooding their favorite places, they are getting a glimpse of future sea levels.

Because the sea is rising, flood levels that are reached now just once a year will eventually become the high tide level on a typical day.

We also put out a call for photos of king tides on EPA’s State of the Environment Photography Project to help people in government and your neighbors and friends see and think about what sea level rise will mean. If coastal places are
flooding just from high tide now, then the rising sea levels expected in the coming years and decades present even greater challenges.

At EPA, we have been urging people to plan for climate change impacts. We all want safe and sustainable places where social, economic, and environmental conditions are in harmony – now and in the future.

The photographs of tides flowing out of storm drains, flooded streets, and cars sitting in salt water show us that in many places, harmony is slipping away. Earlier this summer, we talked about how Hurricane Sandy pushed a storm surge into a place that already floods from tides and how evidence of sea level rise can be seen well over 100 miles inland from the ocean.

Planning for the impacts of climate change and sea level rise is essential if we are to preserve the coastal places we all know and love. For more information about climate change adaptation, please visit the Climate Ready Estuaries program

About the author: Paul Cough is the director of EPA’s Oceans and Coastal Protection Division in the Office of Water

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