El Niño Monitoring


This winter’s El Niño is having a significant impact on both natural ecosystems and human communities in California.  It may serve as a glimpse into the future, as climate change is likely to cause more frequent coastal flooding and inundation. Our objective is to use volunteers (aka citizen scientists) to document how these types of extreme events change our coast and impact ecosystems and people.


Use your phones and drones to take pictures!

We’re interested in descriptive imagery of the following:

Higher than normal water levels (e.g., waves overtopping dunes, water over salt marsh into uplands, lower reaches of rivers flooded, flooded roads and other infrastructure, estuary bars being breached)

Coastal landslides and other big erosional events

Property damage from floods and landslides


Help us by collecting and sharing geo-referenced pictures of storm events like high water or flooding, coastal erosion, and storm damage.  The best time to see stuff like that is during periods of high surf and tides.  Check the high surf advisories and tides in your area before you go. Please be safe.


Prepare your smartphone

Make sure your iPhone or Android phones have location services (GPS) enabled. Here are some instructions on how to enable GPS on Apple iOS and Android

Take a picture

Go to the highest wet water line (or wrack line), take two steps landward, and take a photo parallel to the shoreline – ideally with some structure or other recognizable context in the background. Also take pictures of coastal impacts – storm damage, erosional events, or flood events – with some recognizable context in the background.

Share your pictures with us

Share your photos with on Flickr and tag with #elninoca.  You can use the Flickr website or their iOS or Android mobile apps to submit your photos. It’s important that we get accurate location information (latitude and longitude) of where you took the photo.  In Flickr settings make sure you are not hiding EXIF data.

Be sure that the photo sharing option is public so we can see it! If you are a member you can submit your photos to the California King Tides Flickr Group

If you don’t want to use Flickr you can email it to us at elninoca@tnc.org or use our Box upload page.

Why aren’t we on Instagram of Facebook?

We get that question a lot. We love Instagram and Facebook, but we need accurate GPS data in the uploaded pictures, and they don’t give us access to that information.


Help us by collecting and share aerial imagery of storm events like high water or flooding, coastal erosion, and storm damage.  The best time to see stuff like that is during periods of high surf and tides.  Check for high surf advisories and tides in your area before you go. Please be safe!

UAV imagery of king tide event at Twin Lakes Beach, Santa Cruz, California


How to share your aerial drone images

There are 3 ways you can share your drone imagery with us:

 Share maps directly. If you are a veteran aerial mapper and have already created geo-rectified imagery, you can share it with us via our Box upload page, or by uploading to OpenAerialMap and sending us the share link.  By submitting imagery to this project, you agree to place your imagery into the Open Imagery Network

 Use DroneDeploy. If you have a drone and don’t have the software to stitch and geo-reference your images you can use the free web service and mobile app DroneDeploy to process and share your geo-rectified maps. DroneDeploy also has a mobile app for iOS and Android that can automatically pilot DJI drones to map a specified area.

To get started with DroneDeploy watch the following tutorial video or their online documentation can help you to get started with aerial mapping.

YouTube Preview Image

 Take reference images. If you don’t know what geo-rectified imagery is and just want to take beautiful and descriptive aerial landscape shots, post the original images from the camera to Flickr (to retain GPS location tags) and use the #elninoca and #drones tags.  If you are Flickr member, you can also help our pals at California King Tides by submitting to the California King Tides Flickr Group