SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — The highest tides of the year known as the “King Tides” are returning to the Bay Area this week.
That could cause some minor coastal flooding.
San Francisco saw tides as high was 7-feet last month.
The high tides are not only a natural phenomenon, they help scientists identify sea level rise vulnerabilities.
It’s not rain or wind causing water levels to rise — it’s gravity.
When the sun, moon and earth align creating the highest tides of the year known as King Tides and they reveal future problems.
Video from last month’s surge in San Francisco shows a glimpse of how normal tides will look like in the coming decades.
During a storm, the astronomical high tides can cause flooding.
Scientists look at the flood potential and plan for ways to beat it.
“There’s only a couple of ways you can really address sea level rise, one is by building a wall and try to keep the water out but the other way is you retreat,” Ron Hipschman said. “You move back from the edge of the water. there’s not many other ways you can do it.”
Hipschman is an educator at the Exploratorium Museum of Science.
He’s concerned about the city’s waterfront and the million dollar assets surrounding it.
“One of the key things that we have to think about is to what degree can we use natural infrastructure things like wetlands and beaches to protect us against sea level rise and to what degree do we need gray infrastructure like levees and sea walls,” David Behar said.
Behar is the climate program director at San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, part of his work includes tracking sea level rise in the most vulnerable communities.
“On the east side of the city we’re looking at Mission Creek and Islais Creek areas, we’re looking at the seawall that dates to the 1800s,” he said.
That seawall along the Embarcadero stretches from Fisherman’s Wharf down to Mission Creek.
It is managed by the Port of San Francisco.
“We have localized flooding and sometimes lane closures along the Embarcadero,” Brad Benson said. “Well, in the next 30 to 50 years that could be a daily event for the city.”
Benson is leading a city wide effort looking at coastal flood risk and sea level rise with the Army Corp of Engineers — an effort he hopes will lead to a billion dollars or more in federal funding over time.
Last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi passed a bill that will benefit funding for the city and the Bay Area shoreline from flooding.
“In San Francisco, we’re really trying to plan through the end of the century and beyond,” Behar said. “A lot of our assets that we’re building today, that we own today, they’re going to be around then so we want to know how those assets are going to be resilient to climate change.”
By the end of the century, scientists project sea levels on the California coast could rise as much as seven feet by the year 2100.
“What we found through our recent work is that the San Francisco water front has a very important tipping point between two and three feet of sea level rise where we’re going to see much more significant damage if we don’t build coastal flood protection to protect the city,” Benson said.
As planners look at long term solutions, anyone can help monitor data by submitting photos to the California King Tides project’s website – an organization that tracks sea level rise.
King Tides occur once or twice every year in coastal areas.
Tides at the Exploratorium Museum are forecasted to peak at about 7-feet high.
“King Tides that we see today are kind of like the normal tides of tomorrow,” Hipschman said.
Observers are urged to use caution when visiting the tides and in the age of COVID – wear your mask.
The next surge will be Monday and Tuesday. The tide in San Francisco is expected to peak around 9:14 Monday morning.