King Tides are naturally occurring phenomena that occur once or twice each year due to the gravitational alignment of the earth, moon, and sun.  The moon and the sun align while at the closest position relative to the earth, exerting an extreme gravitational pull. This results in the largest high and low tides of the year. In California, King Tides took place from November 15-16 and December 13-15, 2020 along the coast and there will be another particularly high tide north of the Point of Conception on January 11th and 12th. In California, scientists predict that our daily high tides will match those of our King Tidal events today within the coming decades. 

What is so incredible about these tides is that they can show how imperative climate adaptation planning is, and give real tangible examples of how these extreme tides are going to become our average daily tides with rising seas.  They can also give scientists, coastal community members, decision makers, and policy makers a glimpse as to what a future of sea level rise will look like. Visualizing a future of sea level rise can be difficult and determining specific areas that will be impacted by flooding or coastal erosion is a tough task.  King Tides allow for many people to witness first-hand what rising seas will do to coastal communities. 

King Tide in Sausalito, California
Photo Courtesy of the California Coastal Commission’s King Tides Project

Photos submitted to the King Tides Project for 2020-2021 have already shown the vast differences in how these King Tides have impacted California’s diverse shoreline. The photos show that seawalls and hard armoring of our coasts allows little space for rising tides, and sand dunes or open space can better accommodate for these unusually large tides. Scientists, government agencies, and decision makers can use these photos to better understand and prepare for a future of sea level rise. If you would like to participate in the project and you are located north of the Point of Conception on January 11th or 12th, snapping a photo and uploading it to the California King Tides Project Website can help California plan for a future of sea level rise. 

These tides show how imperative it is to start implementing adaptation strategies now, with precautions such as buffering shorelines with native vegetation, improving building codes, retrofitting or relocating vulnerable roads and buildings, and much more.  Californians can plan for climate change impacts today by getting involved in local programs and campaigns, such as the King Tides Project by the Coastal Commission, restoration and improvement of coastal wetlands that can be used as a buffer zone for sea level rise, and demanding action on climate change from elected officials.