With sea levels rising, Maine group seeks tide watchers

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At Kettle Cove in Cape Elizabeth, Bowness gave a group of volunteers tips for monitoring and documenting high tides.
Murray Carpenter

The recent Strawberry Supermoon did more than light up the summer sky, it also brought higher than normal tides. But with climate change causing sea levels to rise, higher tides are becoming the new normal. And one group is using volunteers to gather tidal data.

Gayle Bowness of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute says high tides are getting higher along the Maine coast, as climate change drives rising sea levels.
Murray Carpenter

Standing on a beach in Cape Elizabeth on Thursday, Gayle Bowness of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute shows a group of volunteers the recent high tide line, marked by seaweed pushed way up into the grasses and shrubs.

"When we are talking about sea level rise, it's not just something that's future pending, it is, it's also something that we are experiencing today, by having these tidal levels of 12 feet or more happening frequently throughout the year," Bowness says. "It's increasing at an increasing rate, over the past couple of decades, and happening much more frequently."

Because effects vary locally, Bowness is recruiting volunteers to document high tide levels along the coast near Portland. This will fill a data gap, because Maine has just five tidal gauges along 5,000 miles of coastline.

Bowness says this information is valuable, because Maine is planning for 1.5 feet of sea level rise by 2050, and 4 feet by 2100.

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Murray Carpenter is Maine Public’s climate reporter, covering climate change and other environmental news.