“Citizen Scientists” Needed to Photograph Flooding

Rhode Island Coastal Planners Ask Public to Use MyCoast App to Share Flood Photos

This MyCoast photo by Janet Freedman shows flooding in Warwick during a king tide.

With the last extreme high tides of the year arriving October 27-30 and November 26, Rhode Island coastal management planners are looking for help from the public in documenting flooding in low-lying areas.

Staff of Rhode Island Sea Grant, the Coastal Resources Center (CRC), and the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) are making a plea to local community members to join them as citizen scientists in photographing the impacts of coastal storms and flooding on their neighborhoods and sharing that information with them through the MyCoast app.

Rhode Island uses MyCoast photographs to communicate with community leaders and members of the public about the effects of extreme high tides, hurricanes, and nor’easters in coastal areas around the state, says Pam Rubinoff, coastal management extension specialist with CRC and Rhode Island Sea Grant.

Pam Rubinoff, center, and Janet Freedman, right, lead a tour along the Providence River to examine flooding risks.


“We use it when we do outreach to communities to show them what their problems are today,” she says.


“Climate change and flooding is not a future issue; we’re already seeing it. So, a 2-foot extreme tide today only happens a certain many times a year, but in the future, that will happen more—it will be more of a nuisance,” she says, and she adds that photographs documenting specific areas in neighborhoods where those high tides are flooding streets, sidewalks, playgrounds, back yards, and businesses can help community members and planners to understand and prioritize where they may be able to take measures to reduce vulnerability to flooding.

“As a researcher MyCoast provides local context to storm events and king tides, particularly in field locations that I am not able to get to easily,” says Bryan Oakley, associate professor of environmental geoscience at Eastern Connecticut State University and frequent collaborator with CRC, Sea Grant, CRMC, and colleagues at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography.


“This has been particularly helpful for Block Island, where, as a researcher, I rely on observations from citizen scientists to gauge impact of a storm event and decide if I am headed out to survey or not.”


Both Oakley and Janet Freedman, coastal geologist at CRMC, say that MyCoast also helps verify the accuracy of modeling applications like STORMTOOLS, which show users how different areas throughout coastal Rhode Island will be flooded under different storm and sea level rise scenarios.

The app, Rubinoff says, is easy to use—participants can install it on their phones, select Rhode Island as their state, register, and then easily upload their high tide, flooding, and storm photos to the app, which coastal planners like Rubinoff, Freedman, and others check frequently to see how various parts of the state are impacted by coastal hazards. They then use these photos in presentations to state and municipal leaders and other stakeholders to show them where problem spots in their communities may exist.

To assist this effort, you may install MyCoast from wherever you download apps. “King” tides, which are a foot or more above mean high high water, will occur October 27-30 and November 26. Information about the exact times can be found at https://mycoast.org/ri/king-tides/king-tides-schedule.

UPDATE 10/28: Here are some locations planners identified as needing to be photographed:

  • Barrington: Lathem Park, Willow Street, Barrington Beach, roads that end along the Palmer River
  • Bristol: Bike Path and Hope Street at Silver Creek, Poppasquash Road south of entrance to Colt State Park
  • Jamestown: North Road
  • Newport: Wellington Avenue
  • Portsmouth: Common Fence Point Blvd and Island Park
  • South Kingstown: Roads along the west side of the Narrow River, Matunuck around Point Judith or Potters Pond
  • Warren: Jamiel Park, Warren Town Beach, Palmer Ave.
  • Warwick: Anywhere and everywhere!
  • Westerly: Watch Hill, Fort Road, Weekapaug Road, Atlantic Avenue

To learn more about high-tide flooding, see https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/HighTideFlooding_AnnualOutlook.html.