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CSU Channel Islands king tide study seeks surfers

Flickr/Anita Ritenour
A surfer at the entrance to Morro Bay harbor.

A Central Coast professor is asking surfers to serve as citizen scientists on February 8 and 9, during the final king tide of this season.

King tides are an annual winter occurrence, when the combination of a full moon and Earth’s closer proximity to the sun cause tides that are both higher and lower than the normal tidal range.

Dan Reineman is an assistant professor of environmental science and resource management at California State University Channel Islands.

While waves are an important resource in California and across the globe, “we don't have a good sense of how they will be affected by climate change and rising sea levels,” Reineman said. “The goal of this project is to use king tide events as this amazing window into the future, when sea levels will be a little higher, to give us an indication of how waves might change.”

And to get data on waves, Reineman and his students are turning to surfers.

“Data from other studies we've conducted really support the idea that surfers are among the most dedicated and reliable observers of the coast and ocean,” Reineman said.

This weekend’s study is mainly focused on the Santa Barbara and Ventura county coastline, but Reineman says he hopes surfers further north will get involved in 2021.

“As a pilot project, we are hoping to use what we learned this year—both the data and the method—to expand to a much larger scale next year,” Reineman said.

The survey can be found on the website coastography.org/kingtides, and the researchers are asking surfers to sign in each time they get out of the water to complete a short online survey and share their observations.

And you don’t have to be a surfer to participate; anyone interested in closely observing waves and the shoreline during king tides in the future is welcome to contribute to the citizen scientist data-gathering program.

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