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Empowering Coastal Communities to Prepare for Climate Change

In addition to raising awareness about the effects of climate change, king tide flights provide a window into the future for land managers to see what the “new normal” for wetlands in their charge may look like with sea level rise. Photo: Robert Siegel / San Francisco Baykeeper / LightHawk

Seeing is believing. 

It’s hard to show people the potential of how climate change will impact their daily lives.

But for the millions who make their home and livelihood on our nation’s shores, the world’s largest environmental threat is becoming real faster than ever with sea levels anticipated to rise up to three feet in the next 50 to 100 years.

LightHawk has flown 12 missions since 2014 to photograph king tides along the Pacific coast. These tides — the highest of the year when the sun, moon and Earth are aligned — can show us what our normal future tides may become.

These elevated water levels provide a snapshot of what’s at risk — crippling damage to infrastructure such as roads, bridges, homes and utilities. Sea level rise will also impact the wetland and tidal area ecosystems our partners are charged with managing and protecting. 

LightHawk flights help leaders understand how to prepare and adapt, spread the word, raise awareness and inform policy along coastal areas already under significant growth pressure.

“We learned a lot from our flights, including a better understanding of the efforts already underway to protect property from rising seas and the challenge we have ahead of us to ensure natural systems such as wetlands can adapt to rising sea levels,” said Ray Hiemstra, Associate Director of Programs for Orange County Coastkeeper.

We will continue working with our partners to document the impacts of rising sea levels and to raise climate change awareness.

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