Sunday, February 23, 2014

King Tides

Did you see the king tides last month or in December?  I was in bed at 11 on New Years so that I could get up the next morning and chase the king tide around San Francisco Bay (inundation over inebriation!)  Good times.

What are king tides?  They are the super high tides that occur a few times a year when the sun and the moon's gravitational pull on the earth is aligned.  Why do I find them interesting? Well, they present an example of what sea level rise will look like in the future.  Right now we see these really high tides a few times a year, so any flooding they cause is not usually a big deal.  If a storm hits during a king tide, things look ugly, but again, since the king tides only happen a few times a year, this is rare.  But in the future, these high tides will be the same as our daily high tides- we'll see these water levels every day! That means that when storms hit in the future on top of these really high water elevations, things are going to get wet. The California King Tides website does a great job capturing what this will look like, so check it out when you have a minute.

So on December 31st, my friend and coworker, Nena, and I headed down to the Embarcadero (I was in SF for the holidays) at the high and low tide for that day. These pictures were taken just south of the Ferry Building at high tide, which was about 7.2 ft NAVD that day. (If you're not familiar with San Francisco, this is on the bay side of the city.)  If our high emission rates continue, the sea level rise models predict that this will be our daily high tide somewhere between 2030 and 2050.


We came back at low tide after work with our other friend/coworker Barry.  We drank beer out of brown paper bags and were really confused about why they were blocking off the streets and setting up loud speakers.  We wondered if it was all for the king tides, then realized it was New Year's Eve.  You know who the cool kids are...  (tide was at -1.4 ft NAVD).

The next day we (Nena, Doug, James, and I) headed out to Pacifica to see some more action. This small city is just south of San Francisco and has built a huge sea wall to protect itself from flooding.  I plan to talk more later about why sea walls are horrible, but that's for another time.  You can see for yourself how at risk Pacifica is- check out the location of those homes! (high tide was around 7.3 ft NAVD)


My camera died after our stop in Pacifica, but check out Nena's blog for more of our adventures (like how we got chased by old men in a golf cart...)

At the end of January/beginning of February, I was back in San Diego and able to check out the king tides at some of my favorite lagoons and marshes down here.  To avoid a big photo dump post, I'll leave you hanging for now, and share those photos soon.