General aviation pilots who volunteer for LightHawk, a flight-based conservation organization, recently caught a glimpse into the future of rising sea levels and impacts on both coasts from climate change.
The pilots joined forces with the Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of clean water and healthy beaches, on Jan. 22, 2019, to capture photos of king tides.
Twice a year, naturally-occurring king tides take place when the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun cause tides to significantly swell, flooding roads, houses, industrial sites, and communities. The nationwide flights were conducted to capture high-level views of rising tides to motivate elected officials and local communities to proactively improve coastal management for the future, according to officials with both organizations.
During the recent king tides event, the nationally-coordinated flight campaign covered key areas along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. More than 20 flights carried elected officials, photographers, experts, and reporters over coastal areas to witness extreme high tides and collect aerial images.
The collaborative flights provide local communities with information about where and how to implement adaptation strategies, according to conservation officials. These include potentially relocating vulnerable infrastructures, improving building codes, increasing zoning setbacks from the coast, installing green infrastructure, and implementing “living shorelines” to act as a buffer against sea level rise and help prevent coastal erosion, officials explain.
“Better understanding what future sea level rise might look like for coastal communities is imperative,” said Surfrider’s Coastal Preservation Manager Stefanie Sekich-Quinn. “Over the next 30 years, nearly 300,000 homes and commercial properties in the U.S., valued at over $136 billion, will be vulnerable to sea level rise. Unfortunately, more than half of coastal states nationwide have continued to build in risky, flood-prone areas over the past decade. We are hopeful our King Tide flights will inspire decision-makers and local communities to improve coastal management in light of future climate change impacts.”
LightHawk is a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating conservation success through the powerful perspective of flight. The organization mobilizes nearly 300 volunteer pilots, photographers, environmental experts, and storytellers to make images, collect data, inform the public, and share their experiences about some of our environment’s most critical issues, landscapes, and wildlife.