King tide a window to future, let’s document it!

King Tide to Raise Sea Level on Atlantic Coast –

A king tide will be running Wednesday and Thursday because gravitational forces of the sun, the moon and the earth will be lined up in a cue shot of fleeting geometry and rare power. It will raise the water level between one and two feet above normal high tides for many areas on the Atlantic coast. It’s an entirely natural phenomenon. This year, a network of scientists is asking members of the public to take pictures of the tides at their peak, and then again in a week, at their ordinary heights.

An extreme tide can give a telescopic view of a future with rising seas, when tides might routinely reach levels that they now get to only twice a year, said Kate Boicourt, an ecologist with the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program.

“What we’re seeing Wednesday and Thursday is probably what we normally will be seeing by 2080,” Ms. Boicourt said.

Looks like the highest tides will be occurring Thursday morning, so get out there with your camera and document the event.  It’s one thing to use computer rendering to visualize sea level rise and its effects on the coastline, but actual photographs of expected high water levels are much more powerful communication tools.

Check the tides for your area.  Take a photo of the king tide.  Take another photo from the same spot a week later at high tide to see the difference.

We are currently aware of the following organizations involved in regional king tide photo initiatives:

  • New York – New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program (email
  • Peconic Estuary Organization
  • Long Island Sound Study
  • Barnegat Bay Partnership
  • Partnership for the Delaware Estuary

In our region, Heather Goldstone of Climatide is collecting king tide photos.

Woods Hole Group will also collect any and all king tide photo sets and deliver them to the appropriate king tide photo initiative organizations.  Send your photos to and remember to note the location and time of each photograph.

flickr / brentbat (Brent Pearson)

Posted in beaches, climate change, coastal erosion, flooding, ocean, planning, sea-level rise, shoreline erosion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Competition photo reveals Europe’s worst coastal erosion

About a month ago, we concluded our “Favorite New England Beach” Photo Contest.  Many of the submissions highlighted the combined effects of storms, coastal erosion, and sea-level rise on our precious coastal resources.

We just came across this article on the Environmental Photographer of the Year competition run by The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), and were struck by the this image from Yorkshire, England:


At approximately 6.5 ft/yr average long-term annual erosion, this stretch of the British coast is disappearing fast, but not quite as fast as some of our beaches in Massachusetts.  Food for thought.

Posted in beaches, climate change, coastal erosion, favorite New England beaches photo contest, sea-level rise, sediment management, shoreline erosion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wetlands at a tipping point, coastal wetlands vulnerable

Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Conterminous United States 2004 to 2009.

courtesy of Lisa Brown

The latest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) report documenting the losses and gains in wetland acreage came out earlier this month.  Commenting on the study’s findings, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said:

“Wetlands are at a tipping point.  While we have made great strides in conserving and restoring wetlands since the 1950s…we remain on a downward trend that is alarming.  This report…should serve as a call to action to renew our focus on conservation and restoration efforts.”


Although the rate of total wetland gain (from restoration) increased 17% from the previous study (1998-2004), the rate of total wetland loss increased 140%.  This resulted in a net wetland loss of approximately 62,300 acres between 2004 and 2009.  Notable among the wetland types that experienced heavy losses in the conterminous U.S. recently were coastal wetlands, specifically estuarine intertidal emergent wetlands, which experienced a loss of 111,500 acres or 2.8%.  These wetlands underwent the highest percentage loss in the entire study, and the losses were three times greater than during the previous study period.  Interestingly, less than 1% of these estuarine losses are attributed to direct anthropogenic activity (Section 404 of the Clean Water Act in addition to state regulations protect them from being filled) while 99% are attributed to physical processes such as coastal storms, land subsidence, and sea-level rise.

These alarming trends highlight the importance of coastal wetlands restoration.

Woods Hole Group has been fortunate to have supported a number of salt marsh restoration projects, both large and small.  These restoration efforts provide important habitat for birds and fish, control invasive plant species, rebuild shellfish beds and restore natural flows of water throughout the system.  We are currently partnered with Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration to support wetlands restoration projects throughout the state.

A sampling of our wetlands restoration work:

  • 10,000 acres and counting for Delaware Bay Estuary Enhancement Program
  • 1,000 acres of salt marsh restoration in progress at Herring River in Welfleet, MA
  • 17 acres of wetland and historic herring run restoration completed on Stony Brook in Brewster, MA
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Stakeholder-driven ocean management

Source: Coastal Communities Conference

Creating A Blueprint For Our Coast

How can multiple, competing uses co-exist compatibly?

What’s often missing from planning is science-based information that evaluates the compatibility of conflicting uses and environmental impacts. New tools are available to help analyze current and anticipated uses of ocean and coastal areas to enable communities to achieve maximum economic and social benefits while ensuring that the ocean remains ecologically healthy.

There is a near term need to develop a regional response for our waterfront planning since the federal government is working towards a mandatory coastal waters management strategy which includes ecosystem protection.

via Living on the Edge Coastal Communities Conference: Conference.

The Coastal Communities Conference this year focused on Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP) – or, as Climatide’s Heather Goldstone might suggest, Cooperative Ocean Zoning (COZ?).  To start things off Stephanie Moura of the Massachusetts Ocean Partnership, John Weber of the Northeast Regional Ocean Council, and Grover Fugate of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council decribed the theory and practice of CMSP on the national, regional and state scale.  They were followed by a handful of panelists presenting tools and local case studies.

As anthropogenic uses of the ocean and coastal waters increasingly conflict with each other and with ecological processes, the need for accessible high quality data and  stakeholder engagement becomes more important.  The success stories noted at this conference are encouraging, especially when one really puts a pen to map to figure out which ocean uses can co-exist and which ones need to be separated (an exercise that conference attendees engaged in and found incredibly thought-provoking).

One of the presenters noted that in order to manage for healthy seafood, clean beaches, resilient economies, abundant wildlife, and cultural and recreational opportunities in vibrant coastal communities, CMSP incorporates the best available science.  This sort of adaptive management approach presents some exciting opportunities, especially as we learn more about processes and interactions above the ocean, on its surface, in the water column, and on the bottom.  The documentary Ocean Frontiers interviewed a WHOI scientist who was tracking the movements of right whales vertically through the water column.  As we learn more about how other marine organisms and processes utilize the various strata of the ocean, we can pair this with our knowledge of human uses of the depths.  In a future update to an ocean plan, might we be zoning the ocean in three dimensions instead of in plan-view?  Oceans change with time, too, so what about integrated temporal-spatial management?

For now, we’ll settle for cooperative ocean zoning in two dimensions, as it is a giant leap forward for balancing our needs with the health of our oceans.

Posted in environment, habitat, ocean, planning, renewable energy | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ocean Frontiers – A New Era in Ocean Stewardship

Ocean Frontiers.

“Ocean Frontiers: The Dawn of a New Era in Ocean Stewardship”, a documentary about marine spatial planning, was just premiered at the Living on the Edge Coastal Communities Conference.

The documentary showcases the processes and successes realized by multi-stakeholder engagement and ecosystem-based management in the development of marine spatial management plans for Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and Massachusetts Bay, coastal Oregon, the Florida Keys, and the Gulf of Mexico.

One noteworthy thread that developed through many of the storylines was that to protect their waters, people realized they needed to look to their lands.  Ocean management planning reached well up into the watersheds in order to resolve conflicting uses – from the Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve up to the coastal mountain streams of Oregon, from the fishing grounds of the Mississippi Delta up to the cornfields of Iowa.

Ocean Frontiers is definitely worth seeing.  Check here for screening information.

Posted in environment, habitat, ocean, planning, renewable energy | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Announcing the Winner – Favorite New England Beach Photo Contest

We had a number of high quality entries to our “Favorite New England Beach” photo contest, and we would like to thank all our participants for their submissions.  We received 53 photos that showcased the beauty of our beaches, documented the fragility of our shorelines, and told stories of beach memories or management issues.  Keep an eye on our website and blog, as we’ll be featuring many of these photos over the next year!

Our judges have picked a winner, and each commented how difficult the decision was with so many great photos.  We think the winner they chose simultaneously speaks to the inherent beauty and fragility of our beaches, and celebrates the variety of habitats in the coastal zone – from intertidal to beach to dune to salt marsh.

And the winner of the iPad is…

Chilmark Pond Land Bank Beach
by Martina Mastromonaco

Congratulations Martina!

The runner-up (and recipient of a $50 Amazon gift certificate) is:

Town Neck Beach by Richard Stowe

and tied for third place (and recipients of a $25 Amazon gift certificates) :

Moshup Beach by Brent Brown

Paines Creek Beach by Matthew Brown

Good Harbor Beach by Victoria Smith

Honorable Mention:

Lucy Vincent Beach by Martina Mastromonaco

Lucy Vincent Beach by Martina Mastromonaco

Chapin Beach by Richard Stowe

Chequessett Neck Beach by Jay Norton

Bourne, MA off Buttermilk Ave. by Victoria Smith

We hope you’ve all enjoyed our look at the beautiful beaches around New England that Woods Hole group works tirelessly to protect.  To stay current on coastal management issues and our projects, we encourage you to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and our blog.

Woods Hole Group is an international environmental, scientific, and engineering consulting organization with headquarters among some beautiful New England beaches in Falmouth, Massachusetts.  We conceived of this contest to raise awareness of beach management and the protection of valuable coastal resources.  For more information about our capabilities, please visit our Coastal Sciences, Engineering and Planning practice website.

Posted in beaches, coastal erosion, environment, favorite New England beaches photo contest, habitat, shoreline erosion | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

If a beach erodes on the Cape and someone is there to record it…

…it definitely makes a sound.

Here at Woods Hole Group, we routinely measure shoreline change from visual observations of the high water line position through time.  We are data-driven and visually-focused.  But in the age of distributed sensors and crowdsourcing, it’s always interesting to think about new ways to sense and monitor shoreline change.

Berklee College of Music professor Steve Wilkes started the Hear Cape Cod project, which aims to capture the indigenous sounds of Cape Cod in an “aural time capsule”, after the severe nor’easters of 2009 left a wake of erosion and property damage that got him thinking about what the Cape would sound like in 50 years.  Climatide’s Heather Goldstone makes an interesting connection to the field of coastal management:

Could sea level rise change the sounds of the shore? Certainly, waves sound different hitting sand or a hard rock wall. But what is the sound of waves lapping away at the footings of a cottage? Or pummeling a roadway?

Could a trained ear such as Steve Wilkes’ pick out (and even quantify?) the difference in wave energy and erosive force just by listening to the beach?  Fascinating to think about the less obvious ways in which we can perceive change in the environment.

Posted in coastal erosion, environment, habitat, ocean, sea-level rise, shoreline erosion | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment