A photographer gets splashed as a huge wave crashes over the stairs to Garbage Beach during a king tide on Tuesday, Dec. 5. / Photo by Thomas Melville
Ocean Beach resident Maddie Drinkward looks on as a huge wave heads toward her during the king tide on Tuesday morning. / PHOTO BY THOMAS MELVILLE
Some of the year's highest tides, known as “king tides,” hit the California shoreline this week, providing a glimpse of what the state can expect as sea levels rise in the coming years. This winter, the largest tides took place on Dec. 3, 4, and 5, and will take place again Jan. 1 and 2. The California King Tides Project is asking the public to go outside and photograph these ultra-high tides to illustrate how homes, harbors, beaches, wetlands, seawalls, and public access to the coast will be affected by future sea level rise. During king tides, nearly all of the Kendall Frost Marsh Reserve in Mission Bay is flooded with water, giving researchers insight into what the new normal will be for this remnant wetland under rising seas. Endangered Light-footed Ridgway's Rails live and nest in this 40-acre habitat, the only piece remaining of what was once 4,000 acres of wetlands in Mission Bay. The king tides push the birds to the margins of the salt marsh to stay out of the water and researchers use this opportunity to count this otherwise hard-to-spot secretive marsh bird.
Mission Bay’s wetlands supply habitat for hundreds of local wildlife species, protect San Diego from climate change impacts such as flooding, and improve water quality.
In addition to using the high tides as a chance to document the number of Ridgway’s Rails in Mission Bay, San Diego Audubon encourages residents to use this as a visual opportunity to understand why the region must ensure protection and restoration of its wetlands so that they can continue to create cleaner water, buffer communities from sea level rise, provide habitat for wildlife, and get people into nature.
State and local officials and climate change researchers use the images taken during the king tides season to validate sea level rise models and better assess local flood vulnerabilities for planning purposes.
Recent advances in the science of sea level rise and climate modeling have brought increased attention to the importance of these planning efforts. This includes the California Ocean Protection Council’s updated Sea Level Rice Guidance, which is open for public comment through Dec. 15.