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Hampton Roads Residents Encouraged to Assist Researchers with King Tide Project

By Betsy Hnath

Most of us wish we could see into the future. On the morning of Nov. 5, Hampton Roads residents in low-lying areas will get that opportunity.

An astronomical high tide, also referred to as a "king tide," is the highest of the year. This year's king gets its crown on Nov. 5., and with it will come an idea of what flooding will likely be thirty years from now.

Given the steady, yearly rise in sea levels, scientists now use king tides as a predictor for daily sea levels of the future. This year they're calling on the public to help collect data — they're even offering an app to make it easy.

Catch the King is an effort spearheaded by Dave Mayfield of The Virginian-Pilot in partnership with the Daily Press, WHRO Public Media and WVEC-TV. Wetlands Watch and the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resilience, of which ODU is a part, are supporting organizations in the project that aims to gather information using the help of a community's most important resource: its citizens. By detailing flooding levels and locations, Hampton Roads residents will aid scientists with short-term storm prediction models, and long-term climate change estimates.

Mayfield credits Old Dominion with helping provide the foundation to establish an event like Catch the King.

"The oceanographers and other scientists at ODU have been among the folks who've helped me understand the issue more clearly," Mayfield said. "That's how Catch the King came about, and I'm grateful that so many people and organizations have expressed enthusiasm for the project."

To participate in Catch the King, download SeaLevelRise for iOS or Android beforehand; establish a free account to contribute GPS locations and photos; the app then uploads these data points to an online map that anyone can see — whether in the app or on the Sea Rising Solutions website. The data collected are particularly important when measuring a king tide because scientists believe this will likely represent normal water levels several decades from now.

"I'm hoping that people who worry about how our area will be affected by sea level rise and tidal flooding will look at this as an opportunity to help shape our understanding of the problem," Mayfield said.

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