Earth, Moon, and Sun Align Causing Gargantuan Waves on California Coastline

by Jennifer Shea
George Rose/Getty Images

The California coastline is experiencing both the highest and lowest tides of the year due to the sun, moon and Earth’s recent alignment. The huge waves, or king tides, are prompting flood warnings in Northern California and beach hazard advisories in Southern California.

King tides are very high tides that occur when the sun, moon and Earth align. The resulting gravitational pull creates the highest tides of the year, roughly a foot or two higher than average high tides. They happen a few times a year, when the moon is at its closest to the Earth and the Earth is at its closest to the sun.

Thus, king tides are not caused by climate change. But as the King Tides Project points out, they give us a glimpse of what rising sea levels will look like over the next few decades. If you can imagine seeing king tides daily as opposed to occasionally, you have some idea of what will follow from increased levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.  

National Weather Service Issues Warnings Due to Waves

In the Bay Area, the National Weather Service warned of possible minor flooding through Sunday, CBS reports. The San Francisco Bay shoreline and Humboldt Bay on the north coast were under coastal flood advisories this weekend.

Meanwhile, Southern California’s coast along Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties was under a beach hazards advisory. While some surfers rejoiced at the forecast of nearly 7-foot waves, NBC4 forecaster Belen De Leon warned the waves would likely cause some beach erosion.   

The king tides, which happen in the mornings, are followed by unusually low tides in the afternoon. The King Tides Project is asking residents along the California coast to send in pictures of the king tides. They want people to get a better sense of what rising sea levels will look like.

California Faces Rising Sea Levels

The King Tides Project’s forecast for the future is not merely an academic concern. California could experience a sea-level rise of half a foot by 2030. And the waters along its coast could rise seven feet by 2100, The Sun reports. So higher water levels are a near-term concern for Californians.

A study by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office last August found that over the next 30 years, $6 to $10 billion worth of property in the state will be at risk during high tides. And $10 billion more will be underwater by 2050.

So while surfers may be having fun with this weekend’s king tides, for many Californians, they are a troubling reminder of what’s in store over the next few decades.