SAN DIEGO — As coastal communities get ready for king tides starting in January, many other groups are planning to work overtime tracking them.
The term king tide is generally used to describe the year's highest tides.
"King tide is a great community science project because it's so dramatic, and it's so easy to take a photo and say 'I know this place and it doesn't usually look like this,'" said Andrew Meyer, director of conservation for the San Diego Audubon Society.
Meyer said king tides provide an excellent opportunity to get a glimpse of what our coast might look like as sea levels rise. The water level reached by an extremely high tide will be the same water level of more frequent moderate tides in the future. Seeing what areas flood during these events can help plan for the future.
Meyer is one of many people along California's coast capturing photos on their cell phones whenever the king tide phenomenon happens. Scientists rely on citizen scientists to help them capture data on the big day.
"It's a very dramatic visual of what sea level rise will look like in the future because today's highest tides will become next decades' normal tides," Meyer said.
It's that kind of forecast that keeps Skyler McManus on his toes.
"It's kind of amazing," said McManus, who runs Hamel's surf shop in Mission Beach, a community staple that has seen the best and worst of king tides through the years since the building is just a few steps from the sea wall. "It's something to see."
"Water would hit that sea wall and literally shoot up," McManus said. "That's how crazy it can get and you'd just be drenched, you know, walking down. And then there'd be water kind of flowing down into like the lower part of Mission Boulevard. So yeah, it can get crazy."
"It is predicting the future," Meyer said. "It's showing us what sea level rise we'll look at and how it will change our coastlines and what issues we have to deal with as a city and as a community."
The king tides are expected to occur Jan. 1-3. To get involved in helping to capture them along the coast, visit the California King Tides Project website.