Coastal Commission seeks king tides data to track sea level rise

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — The ocean water, Laurene Von Klan said, was mesmerizing. It was like watching the fingers of the ocean dancing higher and higher on the shore than she was used to seeing.

Von Klan, a co-chair of Climate Action Santa Monica, recalled the last time she checked out king tides in her city, the inspiration for an observation event that CASM will host this weekend.


What You Need To Know

  • The California Coastal Commission’s King Tides Project seeks photos and data from the public to track the growth of the highest tides
  • King tides are the highest of high tides — predictable and regular occurrences — but are often one to two feet higher than normal water rise
  • The California Coastal Commission is tracking king tides to estimate the impacts of sea level rise along coastal regions
  • The next king tide events in California are expected Dec. 4 and 5, and in early January

“It was at once peaceful and a reminder that this ocean is powerful, and it will continue no matter what we do,” she said.

High tides are a daily occurrence, the result of the simple water movement in accordance with gravitational exchanges of Earth, the moon and the sun. King tides are high tides taken to their extreme, often one to two feet higher than the typical high water mark.

They occur when gravitational alignments are just right — they’re regular, they’re expected, and they’re predictable.

And though king tides are not all that unusual, the California Coastal Commission notes that they can give researchers an idea of what we might experience because of sea-level rise driven by global warming.

On Dec. 4 and 5, during this month’s king tide events, the Coastal Commission is asking Californians — like Von Klan and CASM — to submit photos to its King Tides Project photo gallery for inclusion in an interactive online map.

Government agencies, like Los Angeles County, are contributing to the project this weekend; employees will go to county beaches within 30 minutes of the day’s high tide to take photos and share them both on social media and the King Tides Project website.

Climate change has been a point of increasing concern at county beaches; high surf has led to flooding at parking lots in Venice and Zuma beaches, and berms are regularly built to prevent that flooding and to protect facilities at narrower beaches.

For Von Klan, king tide days are as much about admiring the ocean as they are forewarning climate change.

“This is a way for us to bring people together so they feel connected ruing the climate crisis. The anxiety that people have, in some cases, makes them feel powerless,” Von Klan said. “Whey they connect with other people and they get grounded in their local environment, they don’t feel so powerless.” 


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The adage about attracting more flies with honey rather than vinegar comes to mind — but that doesn’t mean that inconvenient truths will be dodged. One potential concern, she said, is the combination of high tides and winter storm surges causing even greater damage.

“There are homes that might need to be moved, roads — even significant roads leading to highways — that could be intermittently flooded and closed,” Von Klan said. “When you look at sea level rise from that context, it’s pretty scary. But we’re doing this more to allow people to connect and enjoy the ocean, and find some community to discuss what we can do about climate change.”

For more information about the King Tides Project, including events this weekend and in January, visit coastal.ca.gov/kingtides.