Climate Change photo identifier

Climate Change

King Tides in Washington State

Did you know that some of the highest tides of the year occur in the winter? These tides, referred to as “King Tides”, occur naturally when the sun and the moon align, causing an increased gravitational pull on the Earth’s oceans. This winter king tides occur in December and January.

The Washington Department of Ecology is inviting residents and visitors to grab their cameras and head to the beaches to take photos of Washington’s king tides. Documenting how very high tides affect the natural environment and our coastal infrastructure will help us visualize what sea level rise might look like in the future.


(this Flickr slideshow uses Adobe Shockwave)

The Washington King Tide Photo Initiative

The Washington King Tide Photo Initiative is in its fourth year. Its purpose is to:

  1. Involve citizens in documenting high winter tides; and
  2. Gather photos that display potential impacts of rising water levels on coastal infrastructure along Washington’s shorelines and estuaries.

The King Tides Photo Initiative began in Australia in January 2009. In 2010, Washington and British Columbia began collecting king tide photos and in 2011 they were joined by Oregon and California. The Washington King Tide Photo Initiative is now part of a coordinated effort between British Columbia, Washington, California and Oregon. Organizations and governments in and outside the country are holding photo initiatives of their own.

Washington’s King Tides Photo Initiative gathered photos since 2010. You can see our photos at the Washington King Tides Photo Initiative’s Flickr Group,or view photos taken all along the West Coast on our partner’s Flickr groups: British Columbia, Oregon and several regions in California: San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Monica and San Diego.


Participate - 2013—2014!

Click to go to the King Tide Map & Schedule for Winter 2012-2013 Help Ecology collect photos of highest winter tides along Washington's shorelines, estuaries and coastal communities by following these steps:

  1. Use Ecology's King Tide Map and Schedule Winter 2013-14 to find the date and time of the highest daytime tides in your area.
  2. Check a tide table for exact times in your area.
  3. Check out Ecology’s Coastal Atlas to locate a public beach.
  4. Take photos during one of the identified high tides in your area.
    • To better illustrate the impacts of the high winter tides, we recommend taking photos in areas where the high water levels can be gauged against familiar landmarks such as sea walls, jetties, bridge supports, dikes, buildings, roads or other infrastructure.
    • Please do not include people in your photos
  5. Upload your photos to the Washington King Tide Photo Initiative Flickr Group.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are tides and how can I learn more about them?

A. Tides are very long-period waves that move through the ocean in response to the forces exerted by the moon and the sun.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a number of excellent educational resources on their Oceans and Coasts Education website.

Q. What causes sea level rise?

As global temperatures rise, the oceans warm slightly and expand, ice caps and glaciers melt, and more precipitation falls as rain instead of snow. This causes sea levels to rise.

Q. What will be the effect of sea level rise?

A. Rising sea levels are expected to:

  • Intensify flooding in coastal areas, especially during high tides and major storms.
  • Shift coastal beaches inland.
  • Threaten structures, roads and utilities, and other near-shore land uses.
  • Increase coastal bluff erosion, endangering houses and other structures built near the bluff edges.
  • Threaten coastal freshwater and coastal aquifers (underground water supplies).

Archive: 2010-2012 High Tides