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Fly to save the earth

LightHawk takes a look at the future of sea level rise

© by LightHawk

Source | LightHawk | 06 April 2024 2 minutes

Fly to save the earth – LightHawk and The Surfrider Foundation glimpse into future of sea level rise

LightHawk is a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating conservation success through the powerful perspective of flight. LightHawk mobilizes volunteer pilots, photographers, environmental experts, and storytellers to make images, collect data, inform the public and share their experiences about some of our environment’s most critical issues, landscapes and wildlife. LightHawk flight campaigns, powered by nearly 300 volunteer pilots and conservation professional staff, foster dialogue and build consensus, promote informed decision-making, and increase conservation project efficiency and effectiveness.

Now LightHawk and The Surfrider Foundation, a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of clean water and healthy beaches, joined forces to capture a glimpse of the future of sea level rise and climate change impacts. Twice a year, naturally-occurring ‘king tides’ take place when the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun cause tides to significantly swell, flooding roads, houses, industrial sites and communities. The nationwide flights were conducted to capture high-level views of rising tides to motivate elected officials and local communities to proactively improve coastal management for the future.

Homes and commercial properties are vulnerable to sea level rise (© by LightHawk)

During the recent king tides event, the nationally-coordinated flight campaign covered key areas along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Through the generosity of LightHawk’s network of nearly 300 volunteer pilots, more than 20 flights carried elected officials, photographers, subject experts and reporters over coastal areas to witness extreme high tides and collect aerial images. LightHawk staff helped plan these flights in some of the busiest coastal airways, including working in and under Class B airspace with extensive ATC coordination. LightHawk has high PIC hour requirements (1000+) for its volunteer pilots, and they expertly flew the king tide missions.

The collaborative flights provide local communities with information about where and how to implement adaptation strategies. These include potentially relocating vulnerable infrastructure, improving building codes, increasing zoning setbacks from the coast, installing green infrastructure and implementing ‘living shorelines’ to act as a buffer against sea level rise and help prevent coastal erosion.

“Better understanding what future sea level rise might look like for coastal communities is imperative,” said Surfrider’s Coastal Preservation Manager, Stefanie Sekich-Quinn. “Over the next 30 years, nearly 300,000 homes and commercial properties in the U.S., valued at over $136 billion, will be vulnerable to sea level rise. Unfortunately, more than half of coastal states nationwide have continued to build in risky, flood-prone areas over the past decade. We are hopeful our King Tide flights will inspire decision-makers and local communities to improve coastal management in light of future climate change impacts.”

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