King tides, known scientifically as a perigean spring tide, occur when the earth, moon and sun align to create the highest tides of the year, said Travis Pritchard, water-quality lab manager for San Diego Coastkeeper. What’s special about them, Pritchard said, is their ability to show us the future.
“The king tides allow us a chance to view what will become the new normal sea level,” Pritchard wrote in an email. “Add the effects of [normal] tides and storm surges — pulses of high water levels similar to those that affected New York during Hurricane Sandy — to this new sea level and San Diego’s infrastructure becomes vulnerable. We believe this gives us an opportunity to consider these impacts to ensure coastal communities like La Jolla build for the future.”
According to Pritchard and climate scientists, communities like La Jolla could experience a loss of beach habitat and an increase in coastal cliff erosion. The sea level in San Diego is expected to rise 12 to 18 inches by 2050, and the city could lose between 35 and 43 percent of its beaches over the next century.
For more information about king tides, visit the King Tides Initiative website, which encourages residents to take photos of the coastline during these tidal events, at www.californiakingtides.org.